Faire Fugitive is out! And an excerpt.

Faire Fugitive was just released through Loose Id! (You can find a copy here.) It’s about a guy who goes to the local Renaissance faire in order to pickpocket as much cash as possible, and the hot bartender he steals from.

It’s been my favorite book to write so far–especially because I got to go to the PA and Maryland Renaissance faires as many times as I wanted last summer and fall. I’m planning on writing a sequel, just so all my tickets can be tax write-offs. Too bad corsets and mead can’t be written off the same way…

Anyway, here’s an excerpt.

Devin woke to a spear of sunlight shining directly in his eyes. He turned his head away from the blinding glare and blinked the spots away. He found himself nose to nose with a black cat. Jade eyes watched him intently as he yawned. Then the creature reached up and batted at his nose.

“It’s not a button, kitty. I don’t produce food on command.” Devin grimaced. His voice was weak and crackling, and his mouth tasted like the floor of the subway stations he used to prowl.

The cat bent down and dragged a raspy tongue along Devin’s cheek.

“Oh no. That’s just gross.”

Devin struggled to push himself upright and get away from the unwanted cat love. He found himself in a room with bare stone walls on two sides and rough oak paneling on the others. Real wood. Not like the cheap stuff he could kick holes through that his apartment had. The room held a wooden-framed bed with a solid headboard and a reading lamp, a bedside table, a tall four-drawer dresser, and a brown-cushioned dish chair in one corner. It wasn’t a hospital and definitely wasn’t a police station, two facts Devin was more than a little grateful for. He didn’t need that kind of complication in his life, injured or not.

Faint aches drew his attention from the room to his arm, and he inspected the tightly wrapped dressing carefully. His shirt was missing, and his pants felt softer. Someone must have changed him when they bandaged him up. His mind still felt fuzzy, but he could think clearly enough to know he hadn’t been dreaming up those blue-green eyes.

The Faire. He’d driven twenty miles out of town to the goddamned Faire. What the hell had he been thinking?

He hadn’t been thinking at all. That had to be the only explanation for his actions. The pain and shock must have screwed up his common sense and sent him straight into the arms of people he’d stolen from.

“Good morning, sunshine. Barbarian, get down from there. You don’t need to be shedding fur all over our guest’s bandage.”

Devin tensed to run as the cat leaped dutifully off the bed. This man—Ezra—somehow knew everything. Devin had to escape, had to get out of here and move on. Mexico. That was right. He had to run to Mexico. He had to go immediately.

“Lay your ass back down, sweetheart. You aren’t going anywhere in that condition. Doc put several stitches in and had to give you some saline to get your fluids back up, and you need to rest for a while before you get out of bed.”

“But—”

“I don’t care if you don’t want to. I’ll sit on your legs if I must.” Ezra grinned and patted Devin’s foot. The black cat jumped right back up on the bed, stepped directly onto Devin’s ankle, and pushed her head under Ezra’s hand.

“Why are you keeping me here?”

“To heal you.” Ezra scratched the cat’s ears. He didn’t look old enough for the faint creases around his eyes.

Devin watched Ezra’s face intently. There had to be some sort of shady reason this man wanted to heal him up and keep him here. Money? They had to know he was poor, if they knew he’d been stealing from the Faire. Maybe they had a deal with Max and were waiting for him to come and finish the job.

No, that didn’t make sense. They’d bandaged him up. They didn’t have to do that if Max had been involved. They could have just let him bleed out in the parking lot for a few more hours.

What else could they want from him? Information? He didn’t know much about anything but running. Sex? That might be it. Maybe this Ezra guy ran a brothel somewhere in the depths of this fucked-up place and needed fresh meat. He might not look like a sleazy scumbag, but Devin had dodged sweeter-looking pimps in his life.

The cat moved from Devin’s feet to his chest and curled up against his side. Her purring vibrated all the way through him. Devin sank back into the pillow. The faintest scent of cedar wafted through the air, and he breathed in deeply. At least this place didn’t reek of the lemon cleaners the hotel always used.

He felt compelled to break the silence. He might as well be nice. Maybe they’d tell him what they planned to do with him, if he was nice.

“Your cat is very friendly.”

“Barbarian is a community cat, though she’s taken a liking to my house in the last few weeks. She’s a bit of an anomaly among cats. She likes to cuddle.”

“Cuddle?”

“She’s self-obsessed and incredibly needy. Just what all us Faire folk need to keep us company.” Ezra scratched her head for a minute before shooing her off the bed again. He sat down at the foot and turned to face Devin. “So who shot you?”

Devin closed his eyes again.

“Come on, sweetheart.”

“Don’t call me sweetheart,” Devin said as he tried to tug the blanket up over his face with his uninjured arm.

“Then what should I call you? I’m fairly certain Luke isn’t your real name, like you told Gail.” Ezra pulled the blanket down to Devin’s chest so he couldn’t hide. “Your car registration is for Estevan, but I’m pretty confident that isn’t right either.”

Devin wasn’t sure if it was the last of the pain medication or his blood loss or if he just didn’t care anymore. He sure as hell didn’t trust Ezra, but his mouth sort of moved on its own.

“My name’s Devin.”

“You sound so defeated when you say that.”

“Probably because I haven’t used it in years.” Devin turned back toward the window and let the sunshine glow red through his eyelids. It felt nice and warm.

“Keep talking. Gunshot. How’d you get it? Was he or she trying to kill you? Do we need to watch out for him or her?”

Ezra must not have known about Max. Well, that was promising.

“Him. Yeah, he’s trying to kill me. Has been for the last few years.”

“And he shot you last night.”

“I have to get away from here. I have to run. I probably led him straight here.” Devin opened his eyes again and willed Ezra to see his sheer desperation. If these people thought he’d brought danger with him, surely they’d send him on his way.

Ezra didn’t look fazed at all.

“And the stealing?”

“It’s the whole reason I came to the Faire last weekend. I needed cash quick so I could run. I can’t work without identification. I can’t use ID, or he’ll find me right away.”

“In that case, I’ll reimburse those who reported losses for you. No big deal, as long as it was for something you needed.”

“Fuck.” Devin definitely needed the cash for yet another cross-country trip, but he didn’t want to owe Ezra while he was in the man’s care either. The man might demand something from him in return. Something he didn’t want to do. Devin sighed. He’d have to give it all back. Until he ran again, anyway. “You don’t have to do that. The money’s in the front pocket of my backpack. I have a feeling I’m too hurt to run anyway. He’d just catch up to me and put a bullet in my brain that much sooner. Where did my bag go?”

“It’s down here,” Ezra said. He reached down beside the bed and hoisted up the distressed green bag. He set it on the bed next to Devin.

Devin pulled the cash from the front pocket. “I have something from one of the vendors too. It’s in my jeans pocket, wherever those went.”

Ezra walked over to a little laundry basket and picked out Devin’s worn-out jeans. He tossed them onto the bed. The whole top half of the pair looked like it was covered in rust because of all the dried blood. Devin dug into the pocket with his uninjured hand.

“I don’t know why I took it, but I did.” He pulled out the amulet. The broken leather strap was stiff with blood and still dangling from the loop at the top of the metal disk. He held it out to Ezra.

“You didn’t steal that.” Ezra pushed Devin’s hand back toward him.

“Yes, I did. It was in a glass case in front of a shop back on this little deserted path. Ezra’s Amulets— Oh. You’re Ezra.”

“And that was my shop. I make the amulets. But they aren’t for sale. They find their own owners. It pulled you to it, right? You felt it?”

Devin stared at the amulet in his hand. He’d felt it, but he wasn’t going to admit it. His whole life was getting way too weird.

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