As an elite Sacrati fighter in the mighty Torian military, Theos is blessed with a city full of women who want to bear his children, and a barracks full of men proud to fight at his side and share his bed. He has everything he needs—until he captures Finnvid on a raid.
Finnvid is on a secret mission to prevent the Torian invasion of his homeland Elkat. Being enslaved by Torian soldiers wasn’t in his plans. Neither is his horrified fascination with the casual promiscuity of the Sacrati warriors. Men should not lie with other men—and he should not be so intrigued when they do. He definitely should not be most intrigued by the leader of the soldiers who captured him and plan to invade his home.
For Theos, everything would have been easier if the infuriating, lying, bewildering Elkati had never come into his life, but he can’t stay away. When betrayal and treachery threaten both their nations, they must work together to stop a war that could destroy their homes forever—even as they begin to question everything they’re fighting for.
Theos checked his map one more time, then looked at Andros, his second-in-command. It all seemed clear, but this was Theos’s first time as iyatis and he needed to be careful. Fighting came naturally to him, but this situation called for caution—not his strong point.
“They’re well over the border,” Andros confirmed. Then he grinned, and Theos pulled his own lips back, half-smile, half-snarl. It was time for battle.
Which meant all room for doubt or questions was gone.
Both sides had already noticed the other’s presence, and both sides had found cover in the dense forest on opposite banks of a small stream. Theos had seen about twenty of the enemy, and there were sixteen in Theos’s patrol, so the odds were good. At two-to-one Theos might have begun to consider withdrawal, but even then it wouldn’t have been likely, not when he was fighting with the Sacrati, the elite of the Torian army. No, twenty men was not nearly enough to make Theos hesitate.
But it was never good to be careless. He gave the orders for his team to spread out, four circling around to cut off any possible escape. And then, with a battle song singing from his heart to every fiber of his body, Theos led the charge.
The battle was short. The Elkati fought back, but not well. Theos bloodied his sword on one and elbowed another in the face for a satisfying crunch of bone, but there was no real challenge in a fight like this. It was disappointing, but not surprising.
Four of the Elkati died before Theos knocked away the weapon of the one he supposed was their leader, an older man with some sort of decorative plume on his helmet. Theos held his sword to the old man’s throat and spoke one of the few Elkati words he’d bothered to learn. “Surrender.”
But the old man surprised him, dodging Theos’s sword and pulling a dagger. He lunged upward and Theos stepped to the side, then kicked him in the face. The man was flipped over and landed hard on the ground. Theos stomped down on his enemy’s arm, then brought the tip of his sword to the man’s throat again. He pressed in enough for a little blood to flow, and in a more exasperated tone, as if speaking to a child struggling with a simple lesson, he repeated, “Surrender.”
The old man’s only answer was a glare. But a younger, lighter voice rang out through the forest. Theos didn’t understand the words, but he saw their effect as the Elkati disengaged and stood with heads bowed.
Theos’s men knew the drill. The enemy soldiers were quickly disarmed and their hands tied tightly together. Their feet were bound with only a little slack in the rope; they could walk, but not lengthen their stride into a run. Then their weapons were inspected and their packs plundered while Theos sat back and supervised it all, ensuring that no one was careless.
He wasn’t sure which of the Elkati had ordered the surrender, and he watched them now, trying to understand their structure. They certainly seemed concerned about the old man. Maybe too concerned; they were more protective than deferential. Was he their leader, or their mascot?
It didn’t really matter. The men had no leader now, other than Theos. Whatever their structure had been, whatever their lives had been, it’d all been lost to them as soon as they’d had the bad luck to be discovered on their illicit trip into Torian lands.
No one in Theos’s squad spoke sufficient Elkati to interrogate the prisoners, so there was no point in further delay. His men loaded the Elkati down with whatever had seemed worth scavenging from their packs and added a few of the heavier items from the Torian kits, then they started off. They’d been on the last leg of their moon-long patrol as it was, so they didn’t have to divert from their original course in order to head for home.
Theos pushed a little harder than he might have without the prisoners, making sure they were sufficiently far away from the border to make rescue attempts unlikely, before giving the order to make camp for the night. He also set out an extra sentry, further back along their trail, to give advance warning if anyone was tracking them. They were in the mountains, with most of the land impassible, so there weren’t many directions from which they could be attacked. Having done his job, he allowed himself to relax just a little.
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Kate Sherwood started writing about the same time she got back on a horse after almost twenty years away from riding. She’d like to think she was too young for it to be a midlife crisis, but apparently she was ready for some changes!
Kate grew up near Toronto, Ontario (Canada) and went to school in Montreal, then Vancouver. But for the last decade or so she’s been a country girl. Sure, she misses some of the conveniences of the city, but living close to nature makes up for those lacks. She’s living in Ontario’s “cottage country”–other people save up their time and come to spend their vacations in her neighborhood, but she gets to live there all year round!
Since her first book was published in 2010, she’s kept herself busy with novels, novellas, and short stories in almost all the sub-genres of m/m romance. Contemporary, suspense, scifi or fantasy–the settings are just the backdrop for her characters to answer the important questions. How much can they share, and what do they need to keep? Can they bring themselves to trust someone, after being disappointed so many times? Are they brave enough to take a chance on love?
Kate’s books balance drama with humor, angst with optimism. They feature strong, damaged men who fight themselves harder than they fight anyone else. And, wherever possible, there are animals: horses, dogs, cats ferrets, squirrels… sometimes it’s easier to bond with a non-human, and most of Kate’s men need all the help they can get.
After five years of writing, Kate is still learning, still stretching herself, and still enjoying what she does. She’s looking forward to sharing a lot more stories in the future.