QSFer Mason Thomas has a new fantasy book out:
Scoundrel by nature and master thief by trade, Mouse is the best there is. Sure, his methods may not make him many friends, but he works best alone anyway. And he has never failed a job.
But that could change.
When a stranger with a hefty bag of gold seduces him to take on a task, Mouse knows he’ll regret it. The job? Free Lord Garron, the son of a powerful duke arrested on trumped up charges in a rival duchy. Mouse doesn’t do rescue missions. He’s no altruistic hero, and something about the job reeks. But he cannot turn his back on that much coin—enough to buy a king’s pardon for the murder charge hanging over his head.
Getting Garron out of his tower prison is the easy part. Now, they must escape an army of guardsmen, a walled keep and a city on lockdown, and a ruthless mage using her power to track them. Making matters worse, Mouse is distracted by Garron’s charm and unyielding integrity. Falling for a client can lead to mistakes. Falling for a nobleman can lead to disaster. But Mouse is unprepared for the dangers behind the plot to make Lord Garron disappear.
THE MAN who had taken the chair across from Mouse stared back with skepticism and no small measure of wide-eyed surprise. “So, you’re him, then?”
Mouse allowed the corner of his mouth to lift a fraction. He was accustomed to such reactions, of course. Not that it didn’t needle him still, but he had learned to accept it. They all came around eventually. Once they saw what he was capable of, they always came around.
He encircled his fingers around the hard leather mug in front of him, considered the contents a moment, then brought it to his lips. He allowed a swig of ale to enter his mouth, but left the mug tilted against his face longer to give the impression that he was taking a much bigger swallow than he had. A stalling tactic. Plus, it sometimes helped to let a client think he was drinking more than he actually was. If it came to negotiating a price, it was best to let the client think he had the upper hand.
He set the mug down again, exhaled, and wiped his chin with his sleeve. “And the nature of this job?” he asked.
The client leaned back and considered him a moment with narrow eyes. The expression revealed everything—Mouse could read the man’s thoughts as if they were his own. He was trying to decide if this was a prank of some kind and if he should proceed or just push up from the table and leave the tavern. The man had assumed, as many had before him, that Mouse was merely an intermediary, someone to pass on the message. Not the one he would actually be hiring.
But in all such cases, time was an issue, and it had taken plenty of it to hunt down someone for the job in question. Desperation and hope would keep the man rooted to his seat.
While the client deliberated, chewing the inside of his cheek as he weighed his options, it gave Mouse the opportunity to study him in return. He was a wealthy sot, certainly—though he tried to disguise it with a ratty cloak. But the shiny buttons on his jerkin beneath it didn’t come cheap. He had all his teeth and didn’t reek like the rest of the lot in this shabby little hole. And his inflection virtually sang of nobility and privilege. No one outside of the aristocracy had that kind of diction.
At least he had the good sense not to have any recognizable livery showing.
The noble dandy’s lips tightened. “Perhaps I was misinformed, Master…?” The man lifted a single brow, waiting for Mouse to provide a name.
Mouse didn’t fill in the blank for him.
When the silence between them grew unbearable, the dandy pressed on. “I am sorry to have wasted your time. Seems you are not what I require after all. My informant assured me—”
“Not what you expected, eh?” Mouse interjected. He raked back his dark hair with his fingers and leaned in closer. “Not the hulking bruiser you thought you were hiring?”
“No shiny armor or a conspicuous sword at my belt.”
The dandy was showing signs of true unease now. His superior breeding had provided him none of the qualities necessary for this sort of dark business. The slightest challenge had unraveled his resolve. Good.
“I mean no disrespect, good sir,” he stammered. “I only meant—”
Good sir? Mouse almost laughed. “Do not let appearances fool you. Whoever sent you to me knows my skills.” He paused and leaned in with a wider sly smile. “And knows what I can accomplish if amply motivated. If I was brought up in conversation, it was for good reason, I assure you.” This dithering was tediously predictable. Mouse knew he didn’t fit the conventional adventuring figure. His size alone was often enough to give potential clients pause. In dim lighting, he could easily be mistaken for a youth. But Mouse wished just once a client would let reputation govern over appearance.
The dandy in the shabby cloak was losing his nerve. He put his hands on the arms of the chair and prepared to push back from the small table. A tiny bead of sweat appeared at his hairline, and his flawless skin—the color of blond wood—grew ruby blotches around his neck.
Timing was everything. Mouse knew when to spring the trap. This scared little rabbit wasn’t going anywhere.
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Mason Thomas began his writing journey at the age of thirteen when his personal hero, Isaac Asimov, took the time to respond to a letter he wrote him. He’s been writing stories every since. Today, he is ecstatic and grateful that there is a place at the speculative table for stories with strong gay protagonists.
Mason, by all accounts, is still a nerdy teenager, although his hairline and waistline indicate otherwise. When his fingers are not pounding furiously at a keyboard, they can usually be found holding a video game controller, plucking away at an electric guitar, or shaking a twenty-sided die during a role playing game. Mason will take any opportunity to play dress up, whether through cosplay, Halloween or a visit to a Renaissance Faire. He pays the bills by daring middle school students to actually like school and encouraging them to make a mess in his science classroom. He lives in Chicago with his endlessly patient husband, who has tolerated his geeky nonsense for eighteen years, and two unruly cats who graciously allow Mason and his husband to share the same space with them.
Mason’s DSP Author Page: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/AuthorArcade/mason-thomas