Competition to win a copy of "Stitch" - Gothika 1, at the bottom of this post.
It was a little over a year ago that my skype buddy, Jamie Fessenden, and I realized how much we both loved horror and gothic fiction. We decided to start a gothic anthology and invite a few other m/m romance authors to join us. Thus was the “gothika” series born.
The first volume was called “stitch” and featured Frankenstein-themed stories written by myself, Jamie, Kim Fielding, and Sue Brown. I loved all the stories in it, and thought it turned out pretty darn well. (Is it weird that I find the idea of sex with manmade beings hot? Nevermind. It is.) The second volume, “bones”, releases for this Halloween on October 27th.
The “bones” volume contains four novellas—from me, Jamie Fessenden, Kim Fielding, and BG Thomas. Each novella features a m/m romance and with a voodoo theme. So if you like some chills with your erotica, check it out!
My “bones” story is called “The Bird”. It’s set on an English plantation in Jamaica in 1870. Lovely Colin, the third son of an English Earl, is sent to Jamaica to salvage the family’s sugarcane plantation. Like a true Edwardian gentleman, he’s curious about the local floral and fauna—and about the practice of Obeah, the native form of voodoo. When he does a service for a powerful Obeah woman, he gets a gift in return—one that brings out desires he’d long denied. I hope this story conveys the sense of swampy, tropical heat, and pounding voodoo drums I felt when I wrote it!
Vodou. Obeah. Santeria. These religions seem mysterious and dark to the uninitiated, but the truth is often very different. Still, while they hold the potential for great power, they can be dangerous to those who don’t take appropriate precautions. Interfering with the spirits is best left to those who know what they’re doing, for when the proper respect isn’t shown, trouble can follow. In these four novellas, steamy nights of possession and exotic ritual will trigger forbidden passion and love. You cannot hide your desires from the loa, or from the maddening spell of the drums. Four acclaimed m/m authors imagine homoerotic love under the spell of Voodoo.
And the blurb for my novella in this volume, "The Bird":
Colin Hastings is sent to Jamaica in 1870 to save his father’s sugar cane plantation. If he succeeds, he can marry his fiancée back in London and take his place in proper English society. But Colin finds more than he bargained for on the island. His curiosity about Obeah, the native folk magic, leads him to agree to a dangerous ritual where he is offered his heart’s most secret desire—one he’s kept deeply buried all his life. What happens when a proper English gentleman has his true sensual nature revealed and freed by the Obeah spirits?
(pre-order. Releases Oct 27, 2014)
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Tiyah came to me the next day after I dismissed the laborers from their work. It was late afternoon, and the sun was like a fat egg yolk sitting on top of the tall, sickeningly green palm trees. We’d cleared another field that Tuttle had allowed to go fallow, and I was staring over the land, thinking about how best to measure out for the young banana tree saplings I’d purchased. I felt a chill, then realized Tiyah was standing by my side.
I only just managed not to startle. Her attitude was subservient, with her eyes lowered, but nevertheless I felt a twinge of the fear I’d had in the nightmare. I pushed it away with determination. I absolutely refused to fear Tiyah.
“What can I do for you?” I asked coolly.
“It is what I can do for you.” She raised her eyes. Her face had an expression somewhere between smugness and satisfaction, as if she knew something I did not.
“Missah Hastings, Erzulie tell me de gift she offer you for saving Lily. It very special ting, a great honor.”
“Yes?” I asked, as if it meant nothing to me, but I could not help swallowing convulsively.
“She offer you a life of passion, Missah. De desire of your heart, dis she give to you.”
“What?” A stupid little laugh escaped me. I could feel my face burning.
Tiyah spoke with disgust. “I see de English marrieds. Man and wife like two cold fish. He spark quick only to make baby. And she not at all. Dis no life, Missah.”
My face had no idea what to do with itself. I had no doubt it was frozen in some ghastly rictus. I could not believe this woman stood there and spoke to me of such private matters. “Er, I-I don’t think—”
“No! Do not insult her, Missah. You tink well on it. Your heart’s desire. Love. Great passion! Dis what Erzulie offer you. I know many who would kill for de same, but Erzulie, she offer it to you.”
I shut my mouth and thought about it.
The nightmare had been so real, the feeling of the snake between my legs, the way it had bit into my chest, as if sucking out my heart’s blood.
I stared at Tiyah. “My heart’s desire?”
“H-how does Erzulie know what my heart desires?”
“She taste it. Do you not remember?” Tiyah tapped my chest.
There was something sly in her face, like she knew damn well about the nightmare. Had Philip mentioned it? I wouldn’t put it past the servants to gossip over my night terrors. But then it occurred to me that I’d never mentioned the snake biting my heart to Philip or to anyone else. And when Tiyah had put the idea in my mind, that Erzulie might come to my dreams, she’d never said anything about my heart either. So how had she planted that particular suggestion in my mind? How could she possibly know?
“Tink on it, Missah. Tomorrow you answer. We must make de ritual dis Saturday when Erzulie’s power is full with de moon. Den or not at all.”
With that solemn warning, Tiyah strode away.
Good God. I thought about it.
This is the power of suggestion. Some part of my internal compass had spun off True North and down into the darkness. I didn’t believe Erzulie had come into my dreams and tasted the secrets of my heart. But I didn’t not believe it either.
I wished Richard were here so I could talk to him. I knew him so well that I often could hear his voice in my head even when he wasn’t there. But on this, my Richard was uncharacteristically silent.
Would he say, “What a lark! You must do this, old man, if only in the name of science! Think of the experience, seeing one of their rituals firsthand!” Or would he say, “Oh, Colin—stay far, far away! You’re too easily led, my friend. This is dangerous.” I could equally imagine Richard saying either, which was no help at all. As for my neighbors, the Pivots, I knew saintly Lester would advise me most strongly to steer clear of such “devil worship.” And Major Pivot, poor fellow, lived in a world of his own and would be no help at all.
What if Tiyah could really do what she said? What fool, when offered one chance to rub the genie’s lamp, refused? I was not that man. No, I was a different grade of fool altogether.
Tiyah was not wrong in her assessment of the English. I’d never seen my parents touch, not in my twenty years of life. There was no affectionate kiss on the cheek, as I’d seen the post master give his plump wife. There was no brush of a hand across the shoulders while passing, no warm look with promises for later.
I thought about Elizabeth, my darling girl. She was everything a man could want in a wife—cheerful, kind, beautiful, graceful, accomplished on the piano, and with a lovely singing voice. I was lucky to have found such an agreeable bride who also came with a dowry. Her family’s home, Robin’s End, was not palatial, but it was quite a tidy little estate, comfortable enough, and it would pass to me as Elizabeth’s husband. As an Earl’s third son, I’d inherit no property or title of my own, only a modest allowance. Elizabeth was my salvation in more ways than one.
I loved the girl. I did. I was thrilled when she accepted my proposal and admitted she loved me too. But passion? “Passionate” had never been a word I would use to describe our union.
I’d kissed Elizabeth three times, and I could recall each distinctly. There’d been novelty in the act, and fealty, and a desire to bind her to me. But it had not particularly stirred my blood. Then again, she was young, only seventeen, a sweet, innocent girl. It wouldn’t have been right to force myself on her, to play gross with her goodness.
But what if it was never there? What if Elizabeth and I ended up exactly like my mother and father? What if Elizabeth merely tolerated my attentions in bed? Lifted up the hem of a voluminous nightdress and turned her head away? Could I bear such an act?
I’d only been with one woman, at a house of prostitution the Cambridge fellows frequented. Richard and I had gone together for our first time, and afterward we’d agreed the experience had been over too quickly and was horribly underwhelming. We’d both decided we would rather wait for wives of our own. It was yet one more way in which Richard and I were in complete sympathy. But what if, after waiting for a wife, my bed with Elizabeth was cold?
And what if Tiyah could change that?
I drank scotch and paced in the sitting room. It was still so bloody hot, and the open windows and doors scared up but a ghost of a breeze. In the distance the drums had started again, damn agitating things. They made me feel restless in my own skin.
I’d been in Jamaica long enough to see things. I’d seen men and women pair up and walk off at the end of a work day, their shoulders touching, their eyes full of sin. I’d seen husbands grab their wives for a deep kiss, hands groping on the globes of the woman’s behind. One night, when I couldn’t sleep, I went to the kitchen for a glass of warm milk. I’d heard loud moans and the slam of a bed on the wall from the direction of Sally’s room. Philip, I knew, courted her, though they were not married. I’d said nothing, too embarrassed to bring it up with him.
My blood stirred thinking these thoughts, my groin tightening. Passion. It was like a miasma here in Jamaica. They were bloody shameless about it.
What if Tiyah’s gift could give me that? Make Elizabeth full of passion for me, and me for her? Could we be proper Englishfolk in the day and wild savages at night? Would I even want such a thing?
Yes, by God. I wanted it very bloody much. I wanted love, and lust, and passion, tangled bodies and sweaty sheets, at least once in my lifetime. Sometimes my very clothes seemed to choke me, as if the binding threads of civilization strangled the man in me, the flesh-and-blood man. I’d denied my urges for so long, pushing carnal thoughts down or stroking myself guiltily when I could no longer bear it.
I wanted to let myself feel it all, to touch and be touched. I wanted to breathe. I had to be insane for thinking Tiyah could give me that. Then again, this was a strange land, and strange things were possible, were they not?
My mind made up, I wrote a quick letter to Richard, telling him what I was going to do. He would sweat blood waiting for my next missive, telling him what had transpired.
I could hardly wait myself.