Saturday, January 22, 2011

New Release: Silver Wings edited by Leigh Ellwood

This February, Phaze Books will release an anthology of homoerotic steampunk stories, edited by yours truly. Silver Wings features stories by Mahalia Levey, Cari Z., Ross Baxter, and JT Whitehall, and I am pleased to have been a part of the project. As one of the acquiring editors at Phaze, I had hoped to see more steampunk romances, and thought an anthology would be a good way to better introduce the genre to the house. We already have one steampunk tale in one of the Phaze Fantasies books, but no GLBT until this book.

JT Whitehall has generous offered to submit an excerpt of his story, "Surface Tension," for today's blog. When a wayward United States submersible beaches on the shore of Southern Britain, Shel Winterbourne is intrigued...more so by it lone inhabitant. Geoffrey Sweeney is none the worse for wear, and definitely in no hurry to resume his life serving his country and participating in her "internal conflict." Surely Shel can offer good reason to stick around?

Enjoy, and keep an eye out at Phaze Books for the release of Silver Wings!


Seeing as how the Winterbournes came to Penzance only for the occasional and often abbreviated holiday, the countess kept the number of staff working in their holiday home to a minimum, bringing only a maid for each floor, one cook, and their valet Foster, who had loyally served the sixth Earl of Winterbourne. When Shel’s older brother assumed the title, Malcolm elected to hire his own men to serve independently of those Bridgid wished to keep. If anything, these respites from the manor offered Shel relief from any tensions caused when Malcolm’s people and their mother’s clashed.

With Foster occupied by errands commissioned by the countess, this left Shel the task of seeing to the needs of their guest. Not that he minded—as he helped Geoffrey undress and bathe he used the time wisely, studying the man’s every lean muscle and inch of smooth, milk-white skin. He took his time, too, in shaving away the young man’s beard—once he brought out his own kit and sharpened the blade he did not miss the apprehension clouding Geoffrey’s eyes.

“Mum has sent for a doctor to have a look at you, but I must warn you we are fairly remote,” Shel said. “It could be a day or so before somebody gets here to look at you.”

“I feel fine, just adjusting to land again.”

Shel watched the sailor fidget in the low back chair in the guest room, wrapped in Shel’s fine Turkish robe. That the soft, white cloth proved the only thing separating that long, sinewy and nude body from the air wasn’t lost on him. As he calculated ways to get Geoffrey out of the robe and into his bed, a sense of guilt panged in his heart. The man had certainly survived a harrowing and months-long wrong turn from a Philadelphia port—Geoffrey might not hold the right mind for seduction right now. For all Shel knew, though he had no wife perhaps a sweetheart expected him home once the Americans resolved their little internal conflict.
Why Geoffrey wouldn’t seek to contact her of his well-being…well, Shel resolved to learn as much as possible about his mystery guest.

Now that he had Geoffrey’s beard trimmed and lathered, and consequently at his mercy in this makeshift barber chair, Shel intended to ease into a gentle interrogation—about Geoffrey, the war, and that fascinating sea vessel.

“There’s no reason to look skittish, I assure you,” Shel said as he inspected the sharpness of his blade. “More than one occasion I’ve had to groom Malcolm when Foster took ill. I learned from watching him work on my father, actually, and I can attest to his skill as a teacher.”

Geoffrey swallowed audibly and leaned his neck back. Oh, but he looked delicious, even smothered in white foam. An image flashed in Shel’s mind of the young man nuzzling Shel’s face and neck, smearing the hot shaving solution over their skin as their tongues mated and twisted.

Control yourself, his conscience admonished. The last thing poor Geoffrey needed was an accidental slashing due to Shel’s inability to concentrate.

He set a small table beside Geoffrey’s chair, with the large porcelain bowl of boiling water brought in from the upstairs maid. Satisfied with everything in its place, Shel took position behind the chair and bade his victim to remain still.

Wishful thinking. Geoffrey wrinkled his brow as though to gain a better view of his barber from his position. “Is this Malcolm’s room?” he asked. “He seems important, the way you and the countess speak of him.”

“He seems to think so.” Shel offered a wry smile, wet the blade, and set the edge against Geoffrey’s throat. The top of the man’s head nearly pressed against Shel’s groin, encouraging Shel’s cock to life. “My brother is the seventh Earl of Winterbourne. He inherited the title and everything accompanying it on the death of my father. Thankfully, he has seen fit not to turn us all out.”

“I see, and he didn’t…holiday with you?”

Shel dipped the blade in the steaming water, watching for a moment as a hundred dark flecks swirled among the white bubbles. “Malcolm keeps apartments in London, where he tends to spend his time these days. He’s bucking for a seat in the House of Lords, and feels his time is better invested playing up to the people who can make that happen.”

Geoffrey moved his head again—luckily Shel caught it before bringing the blade down to shave up and over the man’s chin.

“I thought you had be to born into the House of Lords?” Geoffrey said. “My mother’s family is English. I could swear that’s how she explained it.”

“For the most part, that is true. Our father did not have a seat, however, and it’s not uncommon for nobles to win an appointment for one reason or another…primarily if a royal believes it may come to some personal benefit.” Shel smiled, thinking of how his brother—who’d beaten Shel to the earldom by a mere ten months, went to great lengths to curry the favor of the Prince of Wales. How the man must think Malcolm daft for all the attention.

The remainder of their conversation slowed the shaving process, but Shel found he enjoyed the pace and the continued pressure of Geoffrey’s head against his trousers. The two men talked of everything—from Geoffrey’s commission in his homeland war to Shel’s interest in machinery as a means for furthering industrial progress. Shel learned that only were they roughly the same age—two and twenty, with Geoffrey several weeks older—but the sailor definitely had no wife or woman waiting for his vessel’s return. Geoffrey’s earlier revelation indeed hadn’t come as a result of weariness.

Perhaps, too, Geoffrey might not see a need to hurry back himself.

Still…somebody surely missed him. “You haven’t mentioned,” he said, “if you wish to send notice to anyone back home, I can arrange to take you to London for that purpose. Or, at the very least, Plymouth is closer. There are mail ships that sail from the ports.” Heaven forbid, Shel realized, Geoffrey might wish to board one heading back to the Americas for another supply of sugar cane and barley.

He looked down into Geoffrey’s soft blue eyes, and his pulse quickened when the young man smiled. Only an errant patch of shaving cream remained near the corner of his mouth, and Shel bit his lip to resist the urge to bend down and kiss it away. Instead he took a deep breath to hold his composure and handed the man a short towel.

“I get the impression,” Geoffrey scrubbed the cloth over his face, “that you are more eager to return to civilization than I am.”

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