Posted in Books, Teasers

Candle Two

Candle Two

Cacophony had never been Mark’s friend. Floating on his back, cradled by the Gulf of Mexico, that was his heaven. Publix, with its crowded aisles, screaming babies, rude employees, and misleading signs matched hell more closely than any of Dante’s seven levels. Although, to be fair, if he wasn’t starting the second week of his shedding cycle, he might not be quite this tense.

It’s not even eleven on a Wednesday morning. How can there be so many people? He stared at the miso soup recipe. The library book weighed heavy in his hand.

A woman shoved past him with an overflowing cart (complete with yowling toddler; Yaweh spare him) and the dragon swallowed his natural growl. She couldn’t know his state of mind.

“All right. Step one: dashi.” He frowned at the shelves of the International aisle, scanning cans, boxes, and jars. “What is dashi, anyway?” With a sigh, he flipped to the back of the book. At least he’d been vouchsafed an excellent glossary. “Here we go. Dashi: bonito tuna flakes.” Mark groaned. “Bonito? Like the Spanish word for pretty?” He grinned. “Wait. Tuna flakes. This is talking about a fish stock, like for fish stew. If I can’t find it in this aisle, I know right where there’s a good alternative.”

Nodding, he flipped back to the recipe. Tofu. Okay, that’s easier. At least I know what that is. He found the soy product. A whole shelf of it. Silken tofu, soft tofu, medium tofu, firm tofu… “Why me? If it wouldn’t blow the whole surprise, I’d call Luke and ask at least three questions.”

Mark crossed his arms, holding his place in the book with one finger. Well, since I’m making soup I probably want something on the softer side that will cook quickly. He scooped up a box of silken tofu.

There was only one more item on the recipe: seaweed.

Maybe I could just go down to the beach and… He snorted. Who knows what’s in the water around here? Besides, this is supposed to be some kind of special seaweed, I’ll bet.

   Wakame seaweed… But there’s only konbu seaweed.” As long as it had been cleaned and purified, wasn’t one seaweed like any other? He’d swallowed enough of it while in his water dragon form. And if it all tastes the same to me…

Mark glanced at his watch. “Holy — ” He looked around, expecting to see a mother with her children right behind him. He was safe. “But how can it be almost eleven-thirty?” He’d only convinced Luke to stay out of the house until one. He needed to get going.

I can do this if I hurry. What’s next? There’s always rice with a Japanese meal, right? I wonder if Luke will mind if it’s instant rice.


An hour later, Mark gaped at the disgusting soup. He’d given up the burned insto-rice for lost.

He itched both arms, growling at the continued shedding. It was easier this time, but taking two weeks out of his life to shed his scales was not his idea of convenience.

His stomach rumbled and he licked his lips, chasing the last of the salt. “At least some of this tasted good.” He scowled at the empty can of Russian caviar. The fish eggs had been meant for the sushi, but the fish had given up the ghost almost before he’d started. When he’d opened the caviar, the strong aroma had called to his dragon nature. Moments later, he’d swallowed the can’s entire contents.

Speaking of fish… I don’t think dashi’s anything like fish stock. The boiling soup stank so heavily of fish that Mark had opened all the windows and even lit a few of Luke’s scented candles. Lavender, autumn leaves, and fish didn’t combine well.

He stirred the glop, wincing when a large seaweed leaf stuck to the spoon thanks to the silken tofu. The soy product had turned gelatinous. “Are we really supposed to eat this?”

“What is it?”

Mark jumped, dropping the spoon; it vanished into the bubbling liquid. “Oh great.”

Luke reached past him and turned off the burner. “Do you want me to move that off the heat?”

“Please.” If Luke didn’t recognize the soup, this Hanukkah gift was in big trouble. “It’s miso soup, but I can’t figure out why it’s the wrong color.”

“Did you add the miso paste?”

The dragon groaned.

Luke conjured two oven mitts out of thin air and carried the pot to the table. He poofed a trivet into place and set the pot down. “It’s… all right. This is your first time with Japanese cooking.” He returned to Mark’s side and lifted the lid on the rice.

“Don’t bother. It’s burned.”

Luke kissed his lover’s cheek. “How did you know I like it that way?”

“You’re kidding.”

The genie’s eyes twinkled. “Prove it.” He carried the rice to the table as well. “Is there more?”

“There was supposed to be sushi, but…” Mark held up the can of caviar. “It… I…” He studied the floor between his feet as heat climbed his cheeks. “It tasted really good.”

Luke took his hands. “I don’t mind. Let’s eat before the soup gets cold.”

Two minutes later, their bowls full, Mark watched his lover take a sip. And wince.

And smile. “It’s fine without the miso paste. Maybe you’ve created a new dish.”

He can’t mean that. Mark sipped a little of the reeking broth, repressing the need to gag. “Luke, you don’t have to eat this,” he said when he could breathe.

“It’s fine.” Luke took another sip, managing not to wince this time, though his smile was less convincing.

Discretion may be the better part of valor, but I refuse to poison him. Mark stood, picked up both bowls, and carried them to the sink.

Luke followed, wrapping his arms around his lover from behind. “Mark, it’s your first time. I don’t mind. And it’s really not that bad.”

Mark’s throat tightened. He turned in the circle of Luke’s arms and smiled a little. “Can you magick us a real version of what I was trying to make? Please?”

A crease appeared between Luke’s golden eyebrows. “Will you at least tell me what prompted this? You’re not a bad cook, my Mark, but Japanese food is a little complicated, especially the first time you try it.”

I’m blushing again. “I didn’t know you were an expert with origami. But the body of the model you made was flawless and I thought if you know that Japanese art so well you might enjoy Japanese food. I didn’t think it would be half this hard.”

“You know all about the spirit of Hanukkah, my Mark.” His tender gaze changed, igniting the air. “Come on. I’ll magick us some miso and then we’ll enjoy a little holiday play.”

Posted in Books, Teasers, Uncategorized

Candle One

Candle One

04.07.12 The powers that be here at SearchLight Academy finally gave me permission to go home for Hanukkah. Huh, as my Mark is fond of saying. I’m over a thousand years old, it’s been nearly that long since I called any one place my home, and now only Mark’s house, Mark’s bed, anyplace where Mark lives, is my home.

I still don’t know what to give him for what he terms this “child’s holiday,” but I have until sunset. A few more hours. Maybe Mark will give me an idea.


Luke popped into existence in the kitchen of the company house. He sensed his lover nearby and turned a full circle, but Mark wasn’t in the room. He transported himself upstairs, and heard the soft splash and mumble of water in their bathtub. Silent as a shadow, Luke crept to the partially open bathroom door.

Mark’s dark tousled hair showed just above the water; Luke noted that his dragon lover was soaking in an oatmeal bath. Good. That would help his second-ever shedding.

“Mm,” Luke said. “It’s a little late for breakfast, but you’re making me hungry, Mawster.”

His lover splashed water over the side of the tub, went under, and came up spluttering. His eyes, bright sapphires, blazed at Luke as he wiped his face. A grin started at the corners of his mouth, and Luke laughed as his lover tried to glare despite the obvious joy radiating off him.

“What are you — ? No, don’t answer that.” Mark stood. Water cascaded off him. “Is this my Hanukkah present?”

“Maybe.” But only if I can’t think of a better one. He crossed to his lover, poofing a towel from his lamp and using his magic to warm it before wrapping it around Mark. “How’s the shedding?”

Mark scowled. “Itchy.”

Luke held out his arms. “May I?”

“Only because you enjoy it so much.” Mark licked his lips. “And because I’ll make you pay for it later.”

Maybe a sexual gift? With his lover safe in his arms, Luke strode into their bedroom.

He spotted the card on the dresser and magicked it over so he could read it as he settled on the bed with Mark still in his arms.

“It’s from my brother.”

The homophobic bastard. Although to give Jonathan Tavery credit, the few words he’d spoken to Luke over the last two months had lacked their previous malice.

Mark squirmed, and Luke let the water dragon off his lap. He poofed a tube of lotion into Mark’s hand. “I’ll help you in a second. I want to read this.”

“It’s your funeral.” But Mark’s lips twitched again.

Luke flipped open the card, seeing it was originally blank inside. Jonathan had penned a short note on top. On the bottom, he’d attached a picture of an old style Pontiac.

Not just any Pontiac. That’s Mark’s Pontiac back when it was brand new.


‘You’re going to have to give up my car eventually, but here’s a picture of her in her glory days.

‘Happy Hanukkah to you and Luke — Jon’

Luke dropped the bit of cardboard and paper and stared at Mark. “Your car was his car?”

Without looking up from his industrious application of lotion to both arms, Mark said, “I needed something of my family’s to take with me. When I left, I fully expected never to go back.”

   Luke magicked the card into his pocket, glad his lover wasn’t looking at him. “I’ll be back with your present in a few hours. It’s a special order.” Please let me be able to do this for him. He’d never tried something quite this complicated, and he’d definitely need magic to paint it, but the construction would be by hand.

Mark glanced up, and his disappointment was clear.

The genie leaned in and kissed him. “I promise it will be worth it.”

“How long are they letting you stay?”

“Until the sixteenth. But I’ll be back on the twentieth after I take the finals I missed, and then I don’t have to leave again until the New Year.”

His lover nodded. “Go on. I’ll actually make dinner instead of the take-out I was planning.”

Luke kissed him again, and then vanished.


“Be careful.”

“Is it fragile?” Mark lifted the box with both hands and settled it on his lap. “Like the clay dragon?”

“A little more delicate than that.” Luke bounced on the balls of his feet. The gift had exceeded his expectations, though he’d used more magic than he’d expected. Who knew making such a seemingly simple thing could be so difficult?

Mark opened the box, his fingers deft and quick. “Luke, what… Oh…” He drew the model out, his face full of the wonder of a child. “It’s… Where did you get this?” He held up the model of his late 80s Pontiac. The whole car was no larger than his two fists. “Did you make this?” He ran a finger lightly over the roof and down over the hood. “Is it made of paper?”

“Parts of it are. I’ve been studying origami for a long time.” Luke crouched in front of his lover. “Is it right?”

“Down to the tiniest detail.” Mark returned the model to its box and set the box on the coffee table. “Thank you.” He tugged Luke forward until their lips met.

Happy Hanukkah, my Mark.