The Fair Automaton
The day the travelling fair rolls into town, North is determined to show his boyfriend Seith all he loves about it. But while Seith's reaction isn't what North hoped for, he finds something amazing to attract him instead: a speaking, smiling mechanical man — an automaton.
Despite Seith's disdain, North can't help returning time and again to discover more of the machine's personality — and uncover more of its secrets. It's not long before he finds himself becoming fond of it, but it's all perfectly harmless, right?
Until the machine breaks down, and North is blamed for it. Is discovery of the machine's ultimate secret worth the cost of the personality North has fallen in love with?
A faint smile teased at his lips. “Would you recognise me tomorrow?”
“I do not know. It is possible.”
His smile grew. “We’ll just have to see, won’t we?”
“You will be visiting me again tomorrow?”
Was that a note of hope in its tinny voice? Impossible. Wishful thinking at its worst; he shook his head, amused. “We’ll see.”
The machine’s face had fallen vacant again, but North fancied he could see a hint of sadness. A sudden feeling of guilt flooded him — and not one he felt with regard to Seith. Hastily, he shoved another coin into it and was gratified to see its face come to life again. “You have returned.”
He pulled a face. It was a machine, what did he expect? “I didn’t want to see you sad.” Not that he could believe he was actually saying this aloud...
“Thank you.” The faint smile had returned.
“Do you enjoy being here all day? I mean... doesn’t it get boring...?” He felt himself falter as he spoke. What a stupid question!
Thank God the automaton didn’t understand embarrassment. “It is a tolerable existence. However, it can become a little lonely.”
Unaccountably, a lump rose in North’s throat. It was the obvious answer for an unattended fairground attraction, but still... “Would it be less lonely if I visited again?”
“Yes,” the machine said softly, barely audible above the clacks and whirs. “I think that would be the case.”
As the spring buds emerge, Tallon's future disintegrates.
Only one thing will satisfy his father's debt to the powerful Baron Lagran: Tallon's indentured service, for one year, for the Baron's aloof son.
But Dorin Lagran never seems to notice his new servant. No matter what Tallon does, from serving up beautiful meals to kicking doors open, not one thing ruffles a hair on Dorin's perfect head.
It's only for one year. Tallon can do this. If it keeps his family safe, he can do it. And if he sometimes notices just how beautiful Dorin is, then he can dismiss it from his thoughts again just as easily.
Because every year contains a Solstice, the day that doesn't exist. The day for wishes. And this year, Tallon will be serving Dorin during it.
But can wishes truly become reality?
The fork clattered against the wood, almost skittering off onto the floor. At the same moment, silent against the metallic sound, the door opened.
Dorin Lagran peered around it, perfect dark eyebrows lifted. “Sorry. I didn’t know you were in here.”
“No, my lord.” Tallon gathered the errant fork, flicking it back onto the cloth before rolling it up. “I’m done here.”
If he finally noticed the informality, Dorin gave away nothing with his usual impassive expression. “If you’re sure?”
“Absolutely, my lord.” Damn but it grated every time he growled out the honorific. “It’s your house.”
No response, but then that was no surprise either. Any interactions with the young Lagran heir usually truncated in similar ways. Too high and mighty to deign to indulge in actual conversations with his sole staff member. Even when Tallon brushed past him, his hands full of red velvet-rolled cutlery and polishing kit, Dorin said nothing. Just letting his servant’s rudeness slip from his back like water from a duck; what else could Tallon expect of someone whose father made a hobby of ruining honourable businessmen? Even if people spat at Dorin in the street, Tallon was sure he’d ignore it and carry on with his day.
No doubt he was used to it.
|Contains:||Sex (graphic depiction), moderate profanity|
The Destruction of Kirill
Born in the workhouse and moulded into an obedient slave, Kirill expected life to be simple: serve his wealthy owners until they grew bored and sold him, repeating the process again and again until the day he died. He never wanted his master's precious only son to take an unhealthy interest in him, and he didn't expect one single horrifying summer's day to plunge his life into ruin.
Now he has to adjust to another kind of life: one with a man who never wanted to own a slave and has no use for the one he now possesses. But just when Kirill thinks he's finally found normality it all comes crashing down again—and worse, this time it's all his own fault.
Hauled into a world of chaos and destruction by a charming stranger, Kirill struggles to manoeuvre his way without letting both his past and his grief overwhelm him, but is his rescuer all that he seems, or has Kirill walked from one hell straight into another?
|Contains:||Violence, scenes of dubious consent|
The Reconstruction of Kirill
A year after the events of The Destruction of Kirill, Kirill and Niko have settled into their unorthodox home life. Kirill works as Niko's assistant, and in return Niko flings himself into teaching Kirill everything he thinks he should know, whether or not Kirill thinks it's appropriate to learn.
Their cosy life together is thrown into disarray when Army representatives scout Niko: the French have enslaved the free citizens of Gascony. Niko's reputation for reform—one he never sought—has preceded him and now his technical expertise is required.
Plans for the pair to remain together disintegrate as soon as they set foot in camp; separated and conscripted into the slave infantry, Kirill encounters dangerous strangers, new friends, and faces from both his and Niko's past he'd sooner avoid. Can he survive long enough to make it back to Niko, or will his past conspire to drag him down once more?
|Contains:||Violence, scenes of dubious consent|