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ANNOUNCEMENT: Home Within Skin – Jem Zero

Home Within Skin - Jem Zero

QSFer Jem Zero has a new MM sci-fi romance book out (bi, gay, trans FTM): Home Within Skin.

A homeless trans man and an alien sex worker ruin each other’s nights, film a porno, and fall in love.

Jax, a disabled trans man with more hangups than belongings, has survived two years of homelessness by keeping his head down and refusing to trust. The intergalactic Rrhi immigration reshaping life on Earth seems irrelevant until Jax sneaks into a hotel hoping for a respite from the cold and accidentally barges in on a Rrhi sex worker.

Sei-vész is stunning, but his defensiveness almost scares Jax away. Almost. Jax sees his vulnerabilities mirrored in Sei-vész, so he accepts the other man’s reluctant offer of a truce. What starts as a one-time experiment spirals into an unexpected deep affection that draws them into each other’s arms again and again.

When Sei-vész tries to protect Jax from his own stubbornness, though, Jax digs in his heels. Love isn’t a guarantee, and relying on others is what landed him on the streets in the first place.

If Jax wants a future with Sei-vész, he’ll need to challenge himself… and open up to trust. Otherwise he might be left out in the cold once again.

Jax, a disabled trans man with more hangups than belongings, has survived two years of homelessness by keeping his head down and refusing to trust. The intergalactic Rrhi immigration reshaping life on Earth seems irrelevant until Jax sneaks into a hotel hoping for a respite from the cold and accidentally barges in on a Rrhi sex worker.

Sei-vész is stunning, but his defensiveness almost scares Jax away. Almost. Jax sees his vulnerabilities mirrored in Sei-vész, so he accepts the other man’s reluctant offer of a truce. What starts as a one-time experiment spirals into an unexpected deep affection that draws them into each other’s arms again and again.

When Sei-vész tries to protect Jax from his own stubbornness, though, Jax digs in his heels. Love isn’t a guarantee, and relying on others is what landed him on the streets in the first place.

If Jax wants a future with Sei-vész, he’ll need to challenge himself… and open up to trust. Otherwise he might be left out in the cold once again.

Get It At Amazon


Excerpt

God, you’re hungry. You didn’t think this part through. You have money, but it’s too late to order delivery and you can’t afford room service, even though it’s available 24/7 at this hotel. Fuck. Starvation it is.

You don’t bother taking your hat off or muting the TV when you close your eyes and roll over, trying to smother yourself in the pillows, willing your body to be tired.

…nope.

You thrash. Someone gets kicked off the show. Commercial break. Knock at your door. You roll back over—

Wait.

The knock comes again. It could be Natalia. It could be hotel security. You swallow hard, then inch out of bed and toward the door. Natalia would have texted, wouldn’t she? Keeping your steps as light as possible, you creep down the hall to peer through the door’s tiny viewer. The figure on the other side is warped, but you recognize, with some surprise, the fierce little Rrhi.

You swallow, then open the door. “Hey, Seth. Did you, uh. Forget something?”

“No,” he says, then pauses. “Did Natalia tell you my name was Seth?”

“Yeah. Is it not?” He opens his mouth, then closes it. You ask again: “Is it not?”

After a moment of contemplation he says, “It’s Sei-vész.”

You repeat the sounds slowly: “Sayvess?”

“Sei-vész,” he repeats. When you don’t get it immediately, his voice goes flat. “Don’t worry about it. You can call me Seth.”

“I can say it,” you say more forcefully than you mean to. Names are a big deal, and you don’t enjoy being treated like you’re stupid. “I’ll get it. Just say it again.”

He gives you a skeptical look, then a small shadow of a smile dimples the corner of his mouth. “Fine.”

Clearing your throat, you lead with, “Sei…”

“V-é-sz,” he finishes, enunciating slowly.

You mumble it to yourself twice, then nod. “Got it.” Sei-vész doesn’t look convinced, but also doesn’t argue. “Anyway. Did you want anything, or…?”

Sei-vész squints at you, nose wrinkling. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll go.”

“Did I say something wrong?”

“No.”

“Then why do you—”

“Can you not push me right now?” he snaps, and you stumble backward, your eyes wide.

“Sorry,” you say, because you always do. Because maybe if you’re sorry enough—

Sei-vész’s face crumples into a messy reconstruction of his features, and he lets out a heavy sigh. “Don’t apologize, I’m just. Frustrated. I know it’s not your fault.”

You don’t have any Rrhi acquaintances. There are homeless Rrhi, but most of them steer clear of areas where humans congregate. Too many rumors about them being unstable, which you, shamefully, bought into. It’s speciesist, but it’s not like you trust humans, either. You could slam the door in his face and hide, but guilt compels you to hear him out.

“I wanted to extend a peace offering,” Sei-vész says. Your brow crumples in confusion, but you don’t interrupt. “Natalia offered to cover room service, which I refuse to feel bad about because she just cost me eight hundred dollars. I was wondering if you wanted to get in on it.”

Your stomach feels hollow. The persistent ache suggests now would be the perfect time to confront your prejudices. “Sure.” You try not to sound too eager. “Let me just turn off the TV.”

Sei-vész floats in the doorway behind you, his tails— tentacles— whatevers lazily swishing behind him. He watches you fiddle with the remote. “I hate this show. The host wants this to be The Great British Bake-Off so bad it’s actively embarrassing to watch.”

“Yeah,” you agree, killing the screen mid-risotto crisis. “It was pretty fucking terrible.” You follow him out of 1068 and into 1069, the number inspiring a small hysterical chuckle. Then you look at the rumpled bed covers and freeze.

Sei-vész catches the direction of your stare, walks over, and rips the comforter off. “Don’t worry,” he says. “We—”

“I know,” you say hurriedly. You know. You’d been warned. It’s nice to be right once in a while. “I’m really sorry about… what happened. That had to suck.”

“I’ll get over it. I’ve already sent out messages to all the local tricks I know. Word’ll get out from there.” Sei-vész inspects his nails, which protrude from his fingertips like thick claws. His are filed down and polished to a glossy black sheen. “He can have fun trying to find a willing professional in this city after that bullshit.”

Uncomfortable and very out of your depth, you look down at the carpet. “You guys, uh… All keep in touch?”

“It’s not the fucking 1700’s, dork. Intracommunity info-sharing is how half of us survive.”

“What about the other half?”

Sei-vész tenses, then shrugs. “They don’t.”

Grim pain hits you low in your gut. Living on the streets has brought you into contact with plenty of sex workers, both homeless and not. You’d never do it yourself, but you feel the pain of people dying on the streets without a prayer. Unidentified bodies. No funerals.

It scares you sometimes. Most of the time.

You belatedly realize that Sei-vész has shoved himself back in his jeans, which you belatedly-belatedly realize does not make him look any less pornographic. He dumps himself unceremoniously in an armchair, long and elegant tentacles all tangled up with his short, muscular legs. You hover back until you see him grabbing the room service menu off the table. Okay, yeah.

You walk over and try to peek over his shoulder without touching him. Sei-vész twists languidly, reorienting himself in the chair so his back is facing you, allowing you full view of the menu. The ends of his black hairbrush his shoulders over the thin straps of the tank top. You can see the sharp angle of his collarbone, the sparkle of his dangling earrings, and some faint scarring on the back of his right arm.

Food. Right.


Author Bio

jem zero (ze/zir) is an autistic and disabled transmasculine person who lives in a house built by zir great-grandfather with zir family, two greyhounds, and three ornery bengals. Ze writes queer romance with strong social justice themes in Speculative, Paranormal, and Science Fiction genres.

Zir sci-fi erotic flash fic, “A Study In Circuits And Charcoal,” published in Erato by The New Smut Project, won the award for Best Feminist Sex from the Good Sex Awards hosted by Frolic. Ze has published fiction and creative nonfiction in the Thinx Blog, Limeoncello Mag, and Gertrude Press, among others.

Further eccentric nonsense can be found at https://jemzero.com

Author Twitterhttps://www.twitter.com/jem_zero
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