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New Release – Atone – J.C. Owens

Atone - J.S. Owens

QSFer J.C. Owens has a new MM fantasy romance out: Atone.

Tal finally had it all…until the man he loved abandoned him.

Once, Tal Oryan was an elite warrior, fighting for the kingdom at the side of the powerful general who loved him. Then Tal loses everything in a haze of pain and betrayal after his hand is severed in battle. Now labeled a “cripple” and cast out from the warrior life he’s known for so long, he has no choice but to return to his past, a place of horror and guilt. He can no longer stay in the capital after High General Ramidine Swal, the man who once claimed him, never shows up after Tal is wounded. Worst of all, the priceless sword Ramidine once gifted to Tal is gone. Now Tal struggles to find a new purpose as the traumatic events in his past demand the most brutal of sacrifices…

Ramidine Swal is known as The Golden General, feared, revered, and the right-hand man to the prince. But when he returns from a desperate victory to Tal, the wounded warrior he was forced to leave behind, he discovers that Tal has fled the capital. Ramidine soon learns of a twisted cover-up and a betrayal so dark it threatens not only the future peace but the very man he loves. Ramidine is not a man to be stolen from, and certainly not someone so precious as Tal. He is determined to find Tal and set things right, no matter the distance and no matter the cost. Tal will be his again.

Reader note: this gay fantasy romance contains intense emotional elements and male male love.

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Tal didn’t want to wake, didn’t want to face the dawn. He didn’t want to face anything at all.

Yet, the morning had come, and with it, the pain, a return to reality with nothing of dreams. He slowly, reluctantly opened his eyes only to find nothing had changed. No magic had taken away the nightmare he was living. The hospital tent was quiet this early, where only the cases that were less critical were housed.

He supposed that was something. He was no longer considered critical.

Pain throbbed along nerve endings, but he refused to look at his mutilation, where his arm ended in thick bandages, refused to acknowledge it, as if by denial he could go back in time and be whole and strong again.

His jaw clenched. Once again, there was nobody at his bedside. Yet again, none of his comrades had come to him since the battle that had cost Tal so much.

His lover, his general, had not come.

He squeezed his eyes shut, struggling to maintain a sliver of hope. Surely something had to have happened to keep them away. He knew Ramidine still lived, thank the gods. So why had he not come to see Tal? Surely the man he loved hadn’t forsaken him because he was a cripple…

No. Ramidine would never do that to him. He needed to be patient. They were in the middle of a war, for the gods’ sake. He couldn’t expect them to drop everything and make him their priority.

But surely someone could have…

Footsteps made him glance down the length of the massive tent. His eyes widened as he saw Lord Piertin approaching, two of his apprentices scurrying in his wake like anxious ducklings.

A cold shiver ran down Tal’s spine. Some instinct knew the man was here for him.

He had never liked the general’s steward. The man reminded him of a scarecrow—painfully thin, with a narrow, almost skeletal face and spidery hands that always made Tal shiver and discreetly murmur a protective prayer. Dark, sunken eyes watched everything with intensity that always felt hostile, suspicious.

His presence now could mean nothing good.

Piertin reached him, giving no greeting, and his blunt words were full of scorn. “You’re out of the Chitosos. We have no use for a cripple.”

To Tal, the words made no sense for long moments, then they managed to pierce the pain fog that muddled his thoughts, and those words utterly gutted him.

Piertin met his stunned stare with a curl of his lip. He seemed to be waiting for Tal to say something, but Tal had no words. Not one. Piertin had never liked him, had always taken the least opportunity to belittle him or make his life difficult, but never so that Ramidine noticed. Piertin was careful to keep his scorn hidden from the general. But things had only grown worse after Ramidine gave him the ring he’d carved.

And now this…betrayal. He knew full well this was not standard procedure. Many men had been wounded and kept within the ranks of the Chitosos, or at least given provision for other tasks. Why was this being done to him alone?

“If you believe the High General Ramidine Swal will intervene to keep you, then you are a greater fool than I thought. He was the one to give me these orders.” Piertin’s words were acid. “We are elite. You can no longer even hold a blade, and the general only keeps perfect lovers, as he should.”

The words and accompanying contempt made Tal flinch. Yes, he had believed, like a fool, that the warrior caste would look after their own. Look after him. Especially after the words Ramidine had whispered to him the night before the battle.

Piertin snorted, crossing his arms over his chest, seeming angered even more by Tal’s silence. “Go back to where you came from. I assume you have family that can help take care of a cripple. There is nothing for you here. The prince and general are gone with the rest of the Chitosos, and he left me to sort this out. Don’t look to them to fix this. You’re nothing more than an embarrassment to the general. You’re no longer useful to the kingdom, and we are at war.”

Cold, dark eyes watched his reaction with a hint of vindictive satisfaction.

Shock and pain kept Tal silent for long moments. “But there are others who have been injured. They remain…”

Piertin sneered. “You’re a special case. The general doesn’t want you in his sight.”

That cut deep. To have been so close to Ramidine and now to find out the general’s words were mere whispers of sound with nothing of substance to them was a hurt that drowned all else.

“How long do I have?” Tal managed to say at last. His voice was ragged, barely above a whisper.

“You’ll be released today. Get your possessions out of the barracks. They’ll be choosing a new prospect to take your place within the day.”

The tall, thin figure turned and swept out of the hospital tent without a backward glance, two of his apprentices in his wake.

Tal watched him go, numb, unable to completely understand why this had happened to him, only that his general had lied. Ramidine’s promises had been so much glitter, washed away by the accident, by Tal’s new deformity. He should have known. He shouldn’t have trusted the general’s honeyed words.

But like a fool blinded by his attraction and overcome by the wonder that such a man would take him into his bed, show him favor above others, Tal had ignored the warnings his mind had tried to give.

Someone like General Ramidine was not one to keep a small-town farmer’s son as his permanent lover. And Tal had always wanted something more than temporary. The carved ring had made it seem possible, but it had meant nothing, and this wound hurt more than his injury. The ring on his left hand seemed to burn, but he couldn’t bring himself to remove it. Not yet.

Later that day, Tal left the hospital, walking slowly and stiffly, working past the waves of pulsing agony that clawed at him now that the pain medicine had worn off. The healers had given him some precious shivrest, a painkiller, before he left. But he needed to hoard it for the worst of the pain until he could buy more.

It seemed forever before he reached the barracks. They were silent and still, with not a soul in sight. He stared at the buildings, his chest tight. He had thought he had finally found a home. Found those who cared about him.

His footsteps echoed in the emptiness. He reached where his bed and possessions were, tucked away in a corner, where he could have a little distance. A boy from the country, he’d had a difficult time when he first arrived here, unused to the hustle and bustle and the lack of privacy.

Tal gave a single, forlorn glance at the other beds, as neatly made as his own. Awkwardly, he sank to his knees and managed to pull out the wooden locker beneath his bed.

Something was very wrong. His first clue was that his locker felt shockingly light.

Tal’s heart froze. Slowly, he raised the lid.

It was empty. Soundlessly, he sat back on his heels in utter shock.

All his clothing, even his cloak, along with his weapons and armor, all vanished… The small leather purse that contained the money he had saved diligently to send home was simply gone.

That wasn’t the worst, either. Like a slap in the face, the sword Ramidine had gifted him for bravery in a battle just four months ago was gone.

There could be no greater sign than that. Piertin had been speaking truth. For Ramidine to take back such a gift meant that it was over. This was all over.

The sheer cruelty of this theft, the intent to send him back out into the world as little more than a beggar, tore his soul to shreds. He had never suspected that his brothers-in-arms hated him that much. They had always seemed fond of him, laughing and joking together. Yet they had taken everything that he owned of value, seized it all with a sense of spite that seemed to linger within the room.

Cold sweat washed over him, and he thought he might be sick.

Without money, without support, there was no mercy in the great royal city. He must return home to survive. Home…the last place in the world he wished to ever see again.

Author Bio

Writing has always been of the utmost importance to me, often a means of expressing frustration, anger and grief during terrible times in my life. It was also there for the joys and triumphs, a faithful companion through it all that never failed me. I do indeed love to write and have over twenty books sitting idle in my computer, waiting. I started off writing under the name of J.C. McGuire, My Name is Aelida, a 4 part series, (a novel of Arthurian Briton and the strength of a woman in a world where men rule and her ancient bloodline is more important than her happiness), and Shadow of the Sun, a very emotional novel of Alexander the Great and his lover Hephaistion. Done from Hephaistion’s viewpoint, (we all know that he dies in the end) it was the hardest thing I have ever written. I still get tears when I read it. I still love all of those books and actually read them as if someone else wrote them!!

“Shadow of the Sun” got me into the male/male genre and I began to write under J.C.Owens. I enjoy writing of the beauty of men loving men, plus the conflict in what a person thinks they want, versus what they truly need to become themselves.

I love to hear from my readers and always appreciate suggestions and comments for future books. Sharing a love of reading and good, hot sensuality between men is always a cause for celebration!

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