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Excerpt from WIP, “Soulbound” (The Republic #4) – #BiWeek 2016 #BiVisibilityDay

 

Happy Bi Visibility Day!
(AKA Celebrate Bisexuality Day)

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Earlier this week, I shared a personal post on being bisexual. But today is a different kind of sharing day. If we want to encourage the acknowledgement of bisexuals in society, we need to represent them in our literature. We need to tell their stories, whether they be fiction or non-fiction.

When I first started writing romances, I wanted to write LGBTQA characters in loving relationships. But as I’ve worked with different characters, I’ve realized my default seems to be bisexual characters, no matter my intention. To date, four of my published stories feature bisexual characters: Gren in Rule Breaker (actually pansexual), Mayr and Tash in Four, Elly in Heart, Lace, and Soul, and Jace and Roan in For the Clan. At the moment, I have at least ten other stories on the writing roster featuring bisexual or pansexual characters. Maybe it’s because it’s how I identify or maybe it’s because, like with most things, I love the middle ground. Either way, these characters are making their way into existence.

Today, I’m sharing a bit of my current WIP, Soulbound. Not only is it the fourth book in The Republic series, it features the main couple in Four. The journey with Mayr and Tash is not yet over — especially as the Shar-denn exacts revenge. Soulbound reveals the second phase of their relationship: the struggle to merge two lives, facing the consequences of Tash’s past, and working with their bisexuality to have the life they want. It also involves another bisexual character, Arieve, whose heart is torn between the life she wants and a girlfriend who keeps breaking things off. This is what happens when they realize they can help each other — and still be committed to the one they love.

{Note: This is raw material and subject to change. It’s also on the long side because I couldn’t decide between one excerpt and another, so I took the combined whole.}

 

 

 

Excerpt:

In two words, Arieve slew his heart.

In an instant, she changed the world.

Tash gripped Mayr’s wrist hard. Out of shock, Mayr suspected, though perhaps it was to keep Mayr from running out the door and hollering for mercy.

He needed to flee. He needed to hide. He needed something safer than standing in the same room with his heart’s other half and the woman he had given up on.

This was not all right.

This made no sense.

And he was cold, so cold. Lost, spinning out of calm thought and drowning in the realization that her words had been spoken with sincerity. Her features were drawn and pinched as she looked away. This was not a joke at his expense. This was a truth she had thrown at them, simple and liable to tear into the friendship they had enjoyed for so long.

He snatched Tash’s hand in both of his faster than he could take a breath and held on.

“You’re not the only ones who want kids,” Arieve said gently, circling the toe of her boot over the floor. “I have for years now. But Coye doesn’t, so I’ve never gotten any further than wishing. And since I never wanted to give her up, it’s always been a choice. I’ve always chosen her. Now I’m starting to see it’s not enough. I’d rather choose me than a relationship that keeps failing. I want a future that’s more than me. I’d drop everything to have a child with you than have none at all.” Her next smile was lopsided. “And considering I’ve had a mad crush on you longer than I’ve known most people, it’s not a sacrifice in the least. I could finally work out all these feelings I have.” A frown killed her smile. “If you’d ever let me in that much.”

Mayr choked on the first breath he could manage. He sputtered and stumbled, fragments of words flying out of his mouth in a mess of noise. “Arieve,” was the only thing he said with certainty.

Arms wrapped around him, drawing him close to Tash before his knees could buckle.

“Breathe,” Tash whispered against his temple. “Hold onto me and breathe.”

Arieve pushed off the desk and rushed forward three steps, reaching out. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you this bad.” Her arm lowered. “I don’t know how to say any of this. I never have.”

Clamping both hands around Tash’s arm, Mayr was at war with himself, his emotions and rational thought clashing in a painful raid. “You’re going to have to spell this out, Arieve, because everything you’re saying… I have to be hearing it wrong. You and me, we’ve only ever been—and you said—you called me family—and we’ve always been separate, always at the wrong time—”

“I know.” Arieve chewed on her bottom lip. “There’s been a lot of dancing around the truth. We’re never quite right at the best times, but so perfect at the worst. You’ve always been my look-but-don’t-touch. Mine to fix when you were hurt and mine to lose when the world offered you better. Now I feel bad for even looking.” She motioned to Tash with one hand. “Though I can’t lie and say it hurts seeing you two together. Out of all the men you could’ve had, the one you chose does all the right things…” Clearing her throat, she backed towards the desk. “Let’s just say I’d be happy to help.”

“And while that’s flattering,” Tash started softly, “I’m trying to understand what you understand and what I’m missing.” He pressed his forehead to Mayr’s temple. “Because I feel like I’m standing in something that should be private—a moment that’s not mine to have.”

Mayr stilled. Alternating between focused and unfocused, his gaze clung to the paintings on the wall behind the desk: portraits of Orae’s first husband and their children next to the portrait of her second husband and the rest of her children. Smiling families, happy to be together in the time life afforded them.

And in the top corner, the portrait of a young Arieve, no older than sixteen, with a smile that could light someone’s entire world for the whole of their life.

A life he had been certain they would never share. A life he had committed to the man at his side.

A life that could spiral into misery quicker than he could collapse to his knees in apology.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, holding Tash tighter. “So sorry.”

Tash’s breath skipped across Mayr’s cheek. “For what?”

“For not being honest when I should have told you everything,” Mayr mumbled. “For never owning up to what I really think. For never being able to lose these stupid feelings. I owe you better, and I’ve been a complete ass.” He flushed beneath the scrutiny of Tash’s gaze. “I can’t even say it now, even though you’re here and she’s here and this would be a really good time to stop being an idiot.”

Silent moments past, weighted with his struggle to string words together. He felt the fluttering caress of Tash’s eyelashes against his skin.

“Mayr,” Tash murmured into his ear, “say it.”

“I don’t—”

“Let it go. Release the truth from wherever you’ve stashed it and let it breathe. If you can tell yourself what this really is, you can tell me.” Gentle fingertips glided over his jaw and down the back of his neck. “Say you have feelings for her and set yourself free.”

A chill raced down Mayr’s spine, small bumps rising across the skin where Tash’s fingers rested. Loosened by a touch that always made him want more, words tumbled from his lips, slow and stiff. “I’ve had a… thing… for her. Since we were kids. But we’ve never—” He turned his head, catching Tash’s lips on his. “We’ve never done anything. I’ve never done anything. I never could. There was a line—a really good line—and—”

A kiss silenced him, soft and smooth, without tongue, without command, without heat. A gentle kiss he never tired of receiving. Compassion and hope in the embrace of restrained passion.

“Thank you,” Tash whispered, pulling back. “You can stop fretting now. You don’t need to apologize.” He cupped Mayr’s cheek. “And you needn’t hide. I’ve got you.”

“But—”

“You’d challenge a servant of Emeraliss?” One of Tash’s brows arched. “I’m the last one to scold the inconvenience of love. Or strong like, whatever this is.” He glanced at Arieve.

Arieve hunched her shoulders. “I don’t know. It might be. Since I was sixteen, I figured if I ended up committing my life to a man, they’d have to be like him,” she admitted, pointing at Mayr. “But I never said anything. And with my grandmother’s connection to his family—us growing up with them, in a way—it seemed like something we shouldn’t overstep. But when he married Betta…” She let out a long sigh. “I was so disappointed. And when she left him, I was pleased. Pleased, like I was full of myself and happy to be cruel. Then I found out why she’d left and I wanted to find the bitch so I could rip her apart. I wanted to tell him then what I felt, but I never had the courage to flirt with him enough to make it obvious. Never had the words.”

“And I put it out of my thoughts.” Mayr leaned into Tash. “After Betta, I hurt too much to do anything. It wasn’t worth ruining our friendship.”

“Yet it’s come back around,” Tash said, his lips hinting at a small smile. “And maybe that’s the whole point.”

More silence, almost deafening in what it did not say.

Arieve approached, stopping two paces away. “As much as I’d like to continue this—as long as I’ve waited to hear it—I have to get back to work. But here’s the proposition: what you want and what I want are the same thing, so instead of waiting for someone else to fill the gap—someone who might never come or want what we want—we could try having it together.” Hesitant, she reached for Mayr and Tash, one hand finally settling on each of them. “I’m not involved with anyone. I want to get pregnant. And I really wouldn’t mind the fooling around it takes to get there. It wouldn’t have to be permanent. I’m not looking to destroy your marriage and take anyone’s place. You could consider it a favour if you want. Consider it one friend helping another, and we’ll leave your marriage intact. We’ll protect it.”

Before Mayr could answer, she withdrew her touch. “It’s ideal, too. I’ll still work at the estate, so I’ll be there. You’ll be around for the pregnancy, and after, I’ll be around to parent. It’s better than consigning ourselves to what we don’t want.”

“Why us?” Mayr swallowed hard, his mouth dry. “Why not someone else?”

“Other than the fact I’ve always wondered what it’d be like to kiss you?” Arieve drew her fingertips across her lips. “I trust you. I don’t sleep around; I choose my partners carefully. I don’t want to be with someone who’ll resent having a family or use a child against me or fight me for custody. I don’t mind being a single mother, but I also don’t want to use a guy to have a baby without their permission or without them understanding why.” She tapped the back of Mayr’s hand. “But from what you said to Aeley, it sounds like you want the same thing as me, and for the same reasons. You want a child of your own blood. Seeing as I’ve known you for most of my life and I know you’re a good man, I’m willing to try with you, if you’ll have me. I’m not asking to be married to you. I’m not expecting us to live in the same house. I’m not demanding anything. But I can’t ignore this. It’s like fate’s stepped right on in and hijacked opportunity.”

With a gentle smile, she moved to the door and opened it. “It’s just an offer. The two of you can think about it. I’ll keep thinking, too. And whenever you have your answer, whatever the answer is, you know where to find me.”

In Mayr’s mind, the quiet sound of the door closing behind her was more like a hammer striking down the wall. He blinked, unable to focus on anything but the floor.

All he had wanted was to take Tash to dinner and spend a quiet night worshipping Tash’s naked body.

This was more than he could take.

“We should go,” Tash suggested, tugging Mayr’s hand. He had his short coat on before Mayr moved from his spot.

Without words, they dressed in their winter long coats and cloaks, the brown-black fur capelet of Mayr’s cloak still damp. After wrapping their scarves around their necks and pulling on their gloves, they left the office together and wove their way around the tavern patrons to the front door.

Cold, dry gusts greeted them the moment they stepped outside. The snowfall had not let up since their arrival, descending upon the darkened village in large flakes. The dark figures of villagers shuffled down the road in a group, their voices carrying over the quiet as they sang wintertide carols off-tune and made their way through the foot of snow. The occasional ball of snow sailed through the air, resulting in pelted victims and peals of laughter.

Meanwhile, Mayr felt as though his world had turbulently flung itself into a stop and could not get started again.

In step with Tash as they trod up the flattened path left by the wheels of a wagon, Mayr dug his hands deep into his pockets. Snow crunched beneath their boots, echoing the grinding noise in his mind.

After all the years, after all the heartbreak, he could have told Arieve he loved her and that would have been enough.

I really know how to ruin things before they start. Mayr gaze at Tash from the corner of his eye, barely seeing Tash’s face around the thick, red hood of Tash’s cloak. And sabotage the things I have.

“I can read your worries from here,” Tash said, walking closer to grasp Mayr’s hand. “Talk to me.”

“This is where you’re supposed to be angry,” Mayr answered, barely louder than a mumble. “You should be disgusted, unsettled, lecturing me on disrespect.” He glanced down at their clasped hands. “Not treating me like you did before. Not being so perfect and loving and nice.”

“Hey.” Tash pulled Mayr to a stop, turning to face him, his brow furrowed. “What have I ever done to make you think I would react otherwise?”

Mayr shrunk back, huddling into the warmth of his coat. “I wasn’t honest with you. Of all things, you prefer honesty. I let you down. I wanted to tell you how I feel about her—how I’ve always felt—but something always stopped me. Then you found out like that. Considering…” His gaze dropped to the hand with his marriage ring. “The timing couldn’t be worse.”

With strong hands, Tash gripped Mayr’s arms. “Mayr, I encourage your honesty in all things, but I don’t demand it. Everyone has secrets—from themselves, from their loves, from the world. It’s in our nature to keep things to ourselves. Sometimes we don’t think about it or the truth is so far from our conscious, we can’t think of it. It’s how we were put together. And love is sneaky, you know this as well as I do,” he said softly. “It seeps into our hearts without invitation and sets things into motion without our command. When we deny it, when we try to lock it away, it yells and fights and bangs on the walls, devising plans and doing everything to have what it wants. When time and chance and circumstance get in the way, love might wait for a while, but it eventually comes to light.”

“But—”

Tash’s cold hands cupped Mayr’s cheeks. “You did nothing wrong. I have not been slighted. I don’t feel any less loved than before Arieve’s proposition.” A gentle smile softened his features, blue eyes gleaming in the faint moonlight. “Truth be told, I feel more loved.” He held Mayr’s hand in both of his and kissed the back of Mayr’s fingers. “You could have sought her. You could have waited. You could have turned me away. Instead, you allowed me into your heart, and for that I am yours, come all complicated matters and embarrassing moments that make you stammer and struggle.”

Heat swept across Mayr’s cheeks. “Now you’re just making fun of me.”

The grin in reply twisted knots in Mayr’s gut. “It does make me laugh a little, I’ll admit.” Tash brushed snow from the tip of Mayr’s nose. “You’re unspeakably ravishing when you’re flustered over love. When your emotions get too far ahead of your words and you can’t catch up,” he murmured, his fingers settling on Mayr’s lips. “It’s like falling in love with you again and again.”

Mayr swallowed hard, painfully aware of the effect Tash’s touch had on the rest of his body. Perhaps he could salvage the night after all. “Yeah?”

“Yes. Besides, she’s cute. I’m certainly getting to know your taste in women. Not entirely different from my own.”

“And that sounds like you’re trying to say something.”

“That I understand, for one. How you could feel something but not speak of it. How you can care for someone else and be too afraid to admit it. I can’t fault you for that, especially since what we have fell prey to the same choices,” Tash said quietly. “But even more than that, I don’t have a need to be angry, or the right. You’ve been so patient with my love for Inesta and the things that eat at my conscience with Naliss and Erithe. You don’t hold them against me. And I dare not complain about whatever you still feel for Betta because I understand it. Our hearts are as they are. Love lingers, even when the body is gone. You’re allowed to feel something. I never demanded you give any of that up.”

“I still feel like I should.”

“And miss the opportunity that’s thrown itself at us?” Tash clasped Mayr’s hands and swung them gently. “I can’t tell you how blessed I feel right now. It’s an unexpected gift. However it’s come to us, whatever the path, it’s a chance to have everything we want. And no one has to get hurt along the way. No one needs to be embarrassed or uncomfortable.”

Mayr held his breath, waiting for Tash to add a caveat. When none came, he breathed out long and slow. This was beyond him. Tash’s optimism and reason forged ahead faster than Mayr’s thoughts could make sense of why he was not standing alone at the side of the road, watching Tash walking away in disappointment. His heart had been sold on a hard fight, armed to his frozen back teeth with apologies and gifts to prove his love.

Instead, Tash bounced on his toes with a boyish smile, blowing away any hint of jealousy or disapproval Mayr had anticipated.

He was reading everyone wrong lately.

 

 

 

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