Cover by Shovanna Appavu. Published this morning, by Loose Id.
On the solstice, their lovemaking must shake the fabric of time…
Simon’s holiday season is looking grim. His boyfriend’s dumped him, and his self-esteem is rock bottom. Stuck in the UK where nobody celebrates Thanksgiving, the shy, geeky student drowns his sorrows at an ancient stone circle. When a gorgeous stranger, Aubrey, shows up and attempts to seduce him, Simon is flattered but also freaked—especially when Aubrey claims to be from an historic sex cult who’d uncovered the true powers of the circle. It’s a time machine. Aubrey intended to travel back three hundred and sixty-five days, but an error propelled him forward three hundred and sixty-five years into a world alien to him.
Simon reluctantly takes the lost time traveler under his wing, and Aubrey teaches Simon the ways of sex, love, and magic. Simon’s never felt so alive, but as their bond grows, Aubrey remains determined to perform a dangerous ritual and return home at the winter solstice. Fearing he’s no more to Aubrey than a sexual sacrifice, Simon must discover the dark secrets of Aubrey’s pagan past. Only then can Simon choose between risking all for the man he loves or a lonely Christmas without him.
They crumpled to the shower floor, Simon boneless in Aubrey’s arms. They panted as one. “Sweet heavens,” murmured Aubrey at length. “I have never known such fire. I don’t quite know what possessed me.” He planted a kiss on the top of Simon’s head. “Apart from you.”
“Mmmmm.” His afterglow fading, Simon clung to the pleasant feel of Aubrey holding him. For a few minutes it satisfied.
But then all that blood rushed back from his cock to his brain, and he tensed.
“Are you well?” asked Aubrey. Gently he touched Simon’s chin, urging him to look up. “Was I too rough?”
“No, I’m fine.” Simon’s headache came thundering back, though he couldn’t bring himself to be angry with Aubrey. The man had given him nothing he hadn’t wanted, but now a certain question begged harder than ever. He forced it out.
“Aubrey, I need to know. Were you trying to travel back in time to save a lover?”
“No.” Simon sagged into him with guilty relief. “A little before the last harvest, some soldiers came to our farm. I was away, fighting for the very same side, but they accused our people, who’d never harmed a soul, of witchcraft. Of devil worship.”
Simon’s jealousy felt suddenly wrong. He extracted himself and rose, wrapping himself tightly in a towel. “I’m so sorry.”
“So am I. They took away many of my friends. I must warn them. You see why I have to go home?”
Aubrey’s words ripped into him, raw and real, leaving him bewildered. He could only start to imagine what awful fate Aubrey’s companions had met. Torture, a stripping to search for the mark of Satan, or maybe a lashing. Possibly they were bound, then plunged into a cold, icy river, and the end result had probably been a slow, lingering death by hanging. Simon might not want to live as the Gildskipe had, but he doubted they deserved such a fate.
No wonder Aubrey had taken the risk of going back. So much for the frightened puppy Simon had rescued this morning. The man was a bloody hero.
A horrible feeling of inadequacy rose within. “I better get the food. Come down when you’re ready. We need to talk about the winter solstice, right?”
After drying himself and dressing in his room, Simon rushed downstairs. He located a bottle of decent Bordeaux, two old-fashioned pewter goblets, which he reckoned would make Aubrey feel at home, and some tall red candles in white pottery candlesticks. His actions did nothing to stop the bedlam restarting in his brain. What on earth had he just allowed to happen? He’d learned only one thing for certain. Aubrey had plenty of other people he cared about, including numerous lovers, and would never be for keeps.
Fuck it. What does that matter? I enjoyed it. He seemed to enjoy it too. Maybe I’m not quite as useless a lover as Pete made out.
But it didn’t make things any easier. What might he not be able to refuse this man next?
All the same he found himself keener than ever to please. He divided the turkey meal onto two plates, with the additional vegetables and some quick-cook Yorkshire puddings, only slightly charred, and arranged all of it neatly on a large tray. He carried the dinner to the coffee table in the lounge. Aubrey had dressed and sat waiting on the sofa, his long legs stretched out beneath the table.
Well, it wasn’t the Thanksgiving Simon had anticipated, but hey, he wasn’t alone. He just hoped Gran would forgive him his choice of predinner entertainment.