QSFer Maz Maddox has a new MM fantasy tale out, book three in her Stallion Ridge series: Suspects & Scales.
Deputy Cody Moore is shattered.
The murder of someone dear to him has pushed him to a breaking point and awakened the monster sleeping inside him. While the young man is no stranger to tragedy and death, having someone slaughtered under his watch has left him rattled with heartache.
In the wake of the devastation, a mysterious shadow of a man is dispatched to Stallion Ridge to track down the murderer. Even with his heart in pieces and a coiling monster inside him, Cody refuses to leave the investigation to this mystifying man.
Cody knew his life was forever changed after what happened at the river, but he never expected the powerful current that is the dark and charismatic Quellin.
Suspects & Scales is the third installment to the Stallion Ridge series. While the romance is self contained to this story, there is an overarching plot that starts in Heartache & Hoofbeats. It is recommended to read the series in order before starting with the third book.
“You were trying to save me back at the river.”
Quellin smiled, unable to help himself. A warm, sneaky snake tail of warmth wrapped around his senses at the notion. “I thought you were in danger.”
Cody glanced over at him and added quickly, “It’s my job. To protect people. That’s why.”
“Still. It was very sweet.”
“It’s my job,” Cody insisted, smoothing his wet hair back with both hands and scowling at him. “Not that you really needed help, since you’re an assassin and all.”
“Maybe not, no,” Quellin eased over to him, smiling at how Cody didn’t shy back as much as he expected. “But it was the first time anyone has ever gotten my back.”
Cody’s blue eyes danced over his face, as if trying to read a hint of sarcasm or lies to his words. Since there wasn’t an ounce of either in Quellin’s statement, there was only truth to be found. “You’re welcome,” Cody uttered after a moment, not knowing what else to say.
“Widows work alone and are devoted to their Matrons. I’ve never had the pleasure of having someone look out for me. To be honest, I’m envious of what you have with your team. They seem like they’d take a bullet for you.”
“They would. We all would. That’s…the whole point.”
“What do they think of this?” Quellin nodded to Cody’s tail, which curled up around itself like he was trying to hide.
“No one knows what to think. Sky’s trying to help me control it but…I can’t.” His shoulder slumped as he scanned the area, a look of defeat settling over him. “I’m gonna be stuck in this damn spring forever.”
“You just need to relax. You’re so clenched on this form you can’t slip out of it.”
Cody snorted bitterly. “How the fuck am I supposed to relax?”
“Give me your hand,” Quellin offered up his own, palm up, in front of the wary deputy.
Cody eyed his hand like it might bite him before placing his hand in his.
Quellin took Cody’s hand and rotated it so he could begin to massage it with both of his. “We just need to get your mind off things a while. Tell me what you’ve learned from the shifter book you’ve been reading.” Quellin began rubbing circles over his palm, and down his wrist.
“You know about that?”
“I saw it on your bed.”
“Why were you in my room?” Cody snapped, scowling slightly.
“You left it on the table, sweet. I wasn’t spying on you.” He smirked as Cody blushed fiercely. “Go ahead. I’m sure you’ve learned something remarkable by now.”
“I learned about the Nafine and Iara uniting kingdoms. I read the whole love story between the two queens and how they basically told the world to fuck off because they loved each other. It’s a really good story.”
“It is. We take love very seriously back home,” Quellin explained, kneading Cody’s forearm with his hands. “What else?”
“You have to battle a family member to propose to a centaur.”
“Really?” Quellin laughed as he moved up Cody’s arm, enjoying how Cody was melting to his touch. A smile tugged at Cody’s lips and made him look so much more his age.
“Yeah. I really hope Jesse asks Cal so he has to fight someone.”
“Is Jesse a good fighter?”
“I hope not,” Cody laughed, biting his lip some.
When Quellin’s hand moved up to the nape of his neck to try and massage out some stress, Cody shut his eyes. For the first time since Quellin had met the young man, he didn’t look like the weight of the world was pressing him down. He looked youthful, and beautiful and sweet. Dark circles bruised his eyes slightly from bad sleep, and the lines around his brows were deep for someone so young. He was strong and stunning.
Quellin trailed his fingers from his nape to his jaw, mesmerized as Cody’s lips parted just slightly under the touch. When Cody’s eyes opened again, they were darker and watching him with that brilliant mixture of want and trepidation.
“Goddesses, you are beautiful,” Quellin whispered and Cody’s throat jumped. “May I kiss you?”
“W-what?” Cody winced before gasping in pain, his face pinching as he clenched his jaw.
Quellin had never seen anything but a shifter move between forms. This was something terribly different and apparently painful. When Quellin shifted, it was as natural and easy as flexing a muscle. When Cody shifted, his bones audibly broke and moved, his muscles quivered and reshaped. “Holy hell, Cody,” Quellin breathed as he caught the young man’s shoulders to steady him afterwards. Cody was breathing like he had just sprinted laps around the town and his hands were shaking as he held onto Quellin’s arms.
“I’m ok,” Cody chanted, nodding vigorously. “I’m ok. I’m…I might puke.”
“Me too,” Quellin said honestly. “Is it always like that?”
“I dunno. I usually black out I think.”
“You impressive bastard. Can you stand?”
Cody shook his head, eyes wrung shut. “Just…gemme a minute. The spring helps.” There was a long pause as Cody recovered more of his senses and began chewing on his lip. “I…just realized that I’m naked.”
“Yes, your clothing didn’t survive the first shift, I’m afraid.”
Despite the fact that Cody was technically no longer human and had just gone through a bone crushingly painful shift, his human side was bright red with extreme embarrassment. “What…do I do?”
“Darling, I’ve seen cock before, you’re not going to offend me.”
“That ain’t the damn point! You ain’t seen mine and I–…Well….I…it ain’t decent!”
“Oh, for the love of…listen, if I swear to you that I won’t look, will you calm down?” Quellin sighed, raising his eyebrows to let Cody know how completely human he was being.
“Of course I swear. Not even a glance.”Cody nodded after a moment, realizing he didn’t have much else in the way of options. It was either trust Quellin and get home, or stay in the hot springs forever naked. Eventually, Cody had enough strength to climb out of the springs and head back home with Quellin’s help.
Quellin was not disappointed with what he saw.
Maz is an m/m romance fanatic, dabbles in yaoi, adores dinosaurs and writes romance stories with a healthy heaping of adventure mixed in.
When she’s not pairing up Centaurs with bank robbers, she’s plotting new stories and sending inappropriate texts to her friends.