QSFer Patricia Correll has a new MM romance/alt history book out: Peony Lanterns. And there’s a giveaway!
Mitsu has been Shiro’s personal servant and best friend since they were both six years old, and he’s been in love with him for nearly that long. While Shiro takes lovers of both sexes, the gulf between their social classes is so vast that Mitsu has never spoken his feelings aloud.
When Shiro meets the beautiful Lady Keiko, he’s instantly infatuated. His affection soon turns to obsession, and Mitsu resigns himself to a life of unrequited love.
But as Mitsu looks deeper into Keiko and her motives, he realizes that Shiro is in grave danger. He will need all his courage– and some help from a master of the occult– to save the life of the man he loves.
Patricia is offering an ebook copy of her previous M/M novella collection, Late Summer, Early Spring, from DSPP. Comment below for a chance to win.
“I am loyal to you! Not Makie. Not Lady Keiko.”
Shiro rose and turned to him. His face was still pale and tired, but his eyes were narrowed in fury. “You will give Lady Keiko the same loyalty you owe me.” His tone was cold and final. “I don’t give a damn how much money she does or doesn’t have. She’s going to be my wife. I don’t know why you never liked her, but she’ll be your mistress soon enough. If you don’t like that, you’re welcome to seek service elsewhere.”
Mitsu’s mouth gaped open. “But…her situation, with money-“
Shiro barked a derisive laugh. “Why do you think I care, Mitsu? I’m the youngest son of a daimyo, but my father pays me well for my service. I don’t need any money Keiko may or may not have. I possess my own. You’ve seen her. She’s as elegant as any empress. My father won’t object.” He broke into a gasping cough.
Mitsu stepped forward to help, but Shiro snarled, “Leave me alone. I’ll dismiss you now. Is that what you want?”
“No,” Mitsu whispered around the lump in his throat.
But Shiro wasn’t pacified. “Since you dislike my choice of bride so much, I’ll let you stay here and sleep tonight. One of the pages will accompany me to Lady Keiko’s house.” Shiro stalked to the door.
“Shiro…” Mitsu said to his retreating back. But his master didn’t pause. He stormed down the corridor and turned a corner. Mitsu heard him coughing, but didn’t dare follow. Shiro had always been quick to anger, but equally quick to calm himself, like a flame that sprang into being and burned itself out right away. But then his swift anger had never been directed at Mitsu before.
He crossed to Shiro’s sleeping mat. His hands trembled so fiercely that it took him far too long to fold the crumpled blanket. Shiro’s discarded robe was damp with sweat. He held it to his face, breathing in his master’s scent. Finally he put it in the closet and cleared away the breakfast dishes.
He waited for Shiro to call him, but his master ignored Mitsu for the rest of the day. When night had fallen and no summons came, he realized Shiro had made good on his threat and crawled unhappily into bed.
He’d expected to lie awake, tormented by Shiro’s anger, but all the late nights piled upon him so he slept right away.
Mitsu dreamed again of his master, not behind him this time, but holding him, their bare skin slick with sweat, his tongue urging Mitsu’s lips apart. His neatly trimmed beard scraped Mitsu’s chin, and Mitsu parted his lips eagerly, allowing him in.
He woke with a shudder. His body ached with desire, every inch of his skin tingling. Someone was touching him. Mitsu blinked in the dark and rolled over, bewildered and half-asleep. A hunched figure sat beside his mat. Its hand rested on Mitsu’s shoulder.
He recognized the figure. “Shiro?”
His master’s breath sounded raspy. When he spoke, Mitsu smelled sake. Had the page who replaced him carried it or had Lady Keiko scrounged up the funds to buy some? “Shiro, are you all right?”
“I’m sorry, Mitsu.” Shiro slurred his words just a bit. “You were only concerned for my reputation, like any good friend.”
He lifted his hand from Mitsu’s shoulder. The sudden absence of his touch brought a lump to Mitsu’s throat. “I…I had no right-“
“I shouldn’t have lost my temper. But I love her, Mitsu. Keiko is amazing. And we’re going to be married. My father is coming to visit in a week, so I’ll tell him then. We can make arrangements for the wedding quickly.” He coughed.
Mitsu sat up. “You’re ill. Come, I’ll help you to bed.”
Shiro didn’t protest as Mitsu helped him up. Slowly they made their way back Shiro’s bedchamber. With the door closed behind him he unknotted Shiro’s sash and slid the kimono off his arms. He noticed with alarm that despite the cool evening, Shiro’s under-robe was soaked with sweat.
He retrieved his master’s sleeping clothes. Shiro swayed slightly on his feet. As Mitsu helped him dress he was close enough to feel heat radiating from his master’s body. Truly worried now, he lay a hand on Shiro’s forehead. Heat scorched his skin and sent tendrils of warmth into his wrist. “You’re feverish. I’ll send for the physician.”
“No, Mitsu. Just let me sleep a while. I’ll be fine.” He lay down and rolled on his side. He held out a hand to Mitsu. “Stay with me?”
Mitsu smiled despite his concern. Shiro had always wanted Mitsu to sit with him when he was ill. He claimed because it was boring to be alone, but Mitsu thought he secretly found comfort in his friend’s presence. Mitsu had never been sick in all their long acquaintance, but he would have wanted Shiro by his side as well.
He tucked Shiro’s blanket around him and knelt by his mat, listening to his master shift and mutter in his feverish sleep
Patricia Correll lives in Alabama with her family and two elderly cats. She is the author of the novella collection Late Summer, Early Spring from DSP Publucations, as well as the indie novel The Unseen World and the novella “The Corpse-Eater”, all available on Amazon.