QSFer Tami Veldura has a new MM fairy tale book out:
Kaleb is under pressure from his closest adviser. Either choose a husband and take the throne of his people, the shifters of the world, or one will be chosen for him. But Kaleb doesn’t want just any husband. He wants to find his mate, the one man that the gods put in this world specifically for him. Richard thinks Kaleb is a fool to trust in myths, but Kaleb insists he’s looking for a forever love and he’s determined to find it.
Parker is a lowborn wolf shifter and not interested in bowing to any tiger, that is, until Kaleb parades by and their eyes lock. For a second nothing else exists, just the two of them and the knowledge that they are meant to be together. It’s fate. But the advisor pushes Kaleb on, and it’s up to Parker to find a way to reach his true mate.
Wolves have been oppressed by the tiger royalty for generations, but it’s Kaleb who fears the bond he and Parker share. Something or someone is scaring Parker’s mate into an arranged marriage he doesn’t want. Parker knows that Kaleb is his, but unless Kaleb can make a stand, they’ll be apart forever.
“Kaleb,” Richard hissed under the cheers of the crowd. “You can’t keep going on like this. The kingdom has indulged you for far too long. Keep pushing this matter and a husband will be chosen for you.”
They marched in lines of five and Kaleb was surrounded by the latest batch of eligible men, his advisor Richard notwithstanding. This latest city in his tour of the kingdom was much like every other city he’d seen, a wealthy upper class of tigers, a poverty-stricken lower class of wolves, and not much in between. His retinue kept him largely away from anything less than shiny and clean, which he appreciated, but now and then he did wonder how the wolves lived their lives.
“How will the court decide on a husband for me?” Kaleb asked. “Will he be handsome? Wealthy?” Richard and his team had been pestering Kaleb about choosing a husband for months now. He still shivered with the thought of marrying someone based on their placement in a book for him to review.
“Of course. The court would select a loyal duke’s son or an influential family to strengthen your political ties to the people.”
Kaleb followed the retinue as everyone turned down a new street in the city. The buildings here were set back from the road, allowing citizens to crowd in close for a glimpse of him. Kaleb raised his hand and acknowledged their attention. To his advisor he asked, “Would he be intelligent?”
“Every one of the men you can pick from has been privately tutored and mentored. They’re familiar with the current laws and treaties. We want you to have a partner, Kaleb. Someone you can rule with, not over.”
“It seems you’ve thought of everything then.” Keleb knew his next question wouldn’t be welcome. “Would we love each other?”
“Love is not necessary for a king.”
Kaleb stopped walking. The retinue paused with him in the middle of the road, surrounded by common citizens straining to get a good look at him. “Richard, I must disagree. Without love, what is the point?”
“Love will blind you, my prince. A good match for the kingdom requires compatibility of mind, nothing more–“
“This is why I haven’t looked at your binders of men,” Kaleb said, dismissing Richard’s words with a wave of his hand. He could get away with that in public and did so as often as possible. “You can provide me with dossiers and photos all you want, but I can’t find a true mate without meeting him in person, without taking in his scent and knowing in my heart that he is the one for me.” Kaleb swung his arm out to encompass the crowd beyond his retinue. “Why do you think I walk the streets of every city we visit? For the exercise? No. I’m searching for my mate. The one man who was made for me and I for him. And he will be the one I marry.”
“You search for a myth, my prince.” Kaleb started forward again, triggering the lead and following mass of solider and staff to continue their walk. His advisor scurried to catch up. “A true mate had never been found for anyone. It’s a fairy tale for children.” His voice was hard, clipped. The voice Richard used when Kaleb had gone too far and was toeing the line.
He couldn’t help but push his luck. Richard wouldn’t do anything in public, he was brutal, but consistent. “I don’t believe that, Richard. I will find my true mate among the people. You won’t dissuade me on this.”
Richard huffed. “What if your true mate is unsuitable for the position?”
Kaleb shook his head. “No one made by the gods for me and me alone could be unsuitable.”
“Then you have more faith than I, my prince.” Richard’s voice darkened with challenge, “What if he’s a wolf?”
Kaleb shot a wide-eyed look at his adviser, then quickly turned his head away. That hadn’t occurred to him. The wolves were low-born, uneducated, and prone to lives of crime. He’d seen the jails full of wolves with only a few tigers scattered among them. Kaleb knew his kind were not perfect, but it was obvious that the wolves were unable to control their baser instincts.
If his mate was a wolf…? No. His mate had been made by the gods specifically for him. And Kaleb had been made for his one true mate. The gods would not make a mistake of that magnitude. His mate would be a tiger, as he was, and they would be compatible in all ways. That was how the mating worked. Kaleb simply had to find the one and only man made for him and all would be well.
Parker growled softly as another pretentious tiger shouldered him to the side for a better view of the crown prince. He didn’t actually want to be here, he’d had every intention on spending the day happily drunk at his favorite watering hole, but the damn place had been closed. Thanks to this… parade. Parker ducked under a gesturing arm and popped up again in front. He shoved his hands into his pockets and stood his ground. No, he didn’t want to be here, but if being here was the only option for the afternoon he would damn well have a good view of what the fuss was all about.
He almost decided it wasn’t worth it. The parade was an army of tiger soldiers in useless gold plate armor worth more than Parker’s entire life to date. The glinting soldiers were followed by a retinue of plushily-dressed tigers with various bars of rank on their shoulders and breasts. Parker wasn’t familiar with the details. He tended to avoid the upper class whenever possible for the sake of his own hide. They could toss him in jail for any imagined slight. Who was going to argue about it? His friends? Family? They were wolves like him, just proof that they all were in league to steal the kingdom’s riches. Or something stupid like that. Like they weren’t all scrambling just to survive. No, it was better to be scarce.
And Parker was going to follow his own advice when the retinue passed and the crown prince himself made an appearance. He was stunning. A tall, dark man in red and gold robes with a simple rapier at his side and bright white gloves on both hands. There were strings of gold in his hair, studs of gold in his ears, and tiger stripes of gold painted on his high cheekbones. He glittered in the sunlight. Parker wanted to touch him.
He made a fist with both hands to resist the notion, calling himself twice the fool for staring anyway. The prince was in some conversation with another man, his adviser perhaps, and only acknowledged the crowd occasionally. He was a peak example of privilege. He had even less of a clue about his kingdom than the upper class who lived in it. So what if he was beautiful? Beauty didn’t mean shit for a wolf like Parker and now that he’d gathered the full measure of the man, Parker was going to spend the rest of his afternoon curled up at home in front of the fire.
Then the prince turned toward him, blinked his golden eyes open, and they landed squarely on Parker. Something both hot and cold speared through Parker’s body at once. His heart raced and he was suddenly flush with energy and heat. He breathed hard through his nose, trying to catch a hint of the prince’s scent, and thought he might have found it when something tantalizing and spicy hit his palette. He growled, fiercely, and took a step forward when the prince came level to his position.
The guards moved between them immediately. Parker was pleased to see a crease of confusion on the prince’s face. He wanted Parker to come closer. why had the guards stepped in the way? They needed to be together.
Parker tried. He shoved two guards to either side and lunged. He saw the prince reach for him, hold up his white-gloved hand and call like a siren. Parker was coming. He’d do anything for his liege.
Then the adviser yanked the prince away and dozens of gold-armored men surrounded Parker with swords drawn. The plate might have been useless, but the swords were steel and sharp when they pierced into Parker’s arms and chest. He growled but didn’t resist. The guards were not his focus, the prince was. And his prince was being dragged away by the adviser, a man Parker hated with every ounce of his being. Any threat to his mate would die swiftly and without mercy.
Yes. Parker had no doubt. The prince himself was his mate. That he was tiger and Parker was wolf would pose an inconvenience. And no doubt that was the reason the guards stood between them now. A random wolf lunging toward their prince probably looked like a threat. But Parker wasn’t a random wolf, he was the prince’s mate and he was being detained.
Parker’s interruption had canceled the parade. His mate, dragged along by the adviser and entire retinue, was leaving without him. The prince shot a longing glance back over his shoulder and Parker reached over the shoulders of the guards in front of him. This was only a temporary delay. They would be together. It was destined.
Tami Veldura is an enby/aro/ace author of queer fiction. Hir pronouns are sie/hir/Mx. Sie loves romance, fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal stories that push genre limits. Sie lives in California where sie writes full-time, which means procrastinating as often as possible with video games. Dragons fascinate hir, a consistent schedule eludes hir, and sie makes a terrible housewife, just ask Mr. Veldura.
As S.T.Lynn, sie writes uplifting, sweet, and tropey fantasy fiction, featuring women front and center. Including fairy tales, elves, magic, and happy endings for young adults and young-at-heart.