Please welcome Lexi Ander with
Surrounded By Crimson
Tristan has agreed to bond with Ushna but there is still much to do and returning to Tribe Enkidu puts everyone on edge. Tristan is being stalked like prey all the while fighting depression as he mourns the loss of Nikita and enduring a battle of wills with the Elder Council over his birthright. The pleading of his adoptive daughter only adds still more stress to the situation.
Stumbling onto a secret prison while searching for Ushna leads Tristan to risk everything to free a lost God. But breaking the tie to his Flame has more repercussions than Tristan knew and the assistance of a forgotten Goddess and a centuries old lover may not be enough to save him.
Ushna was out of the car and greeting his parents before I unbuckled the seatbelt. Hami wasn't as tall as his son but he was wide, very wide, barrel-chested with a set of deltoids on him the size of small children. His dark hair was cut above the ears and I'd never seen the man without at least three days growth of facial hair. It looked good on him. That kind of scruff made me resemble a bum.
Donya was tall and lean, one of those women who had a natural sway when she walked. Her blue-black hair fell to her waist in thick glossy waves. Her skin was a deep almond, darker than her husband's or son's, and her bright, emerald-green eyes were large and expressive.
They both greeted Ushna with festive exuberance, and why not? I'd kept him away from them for a very long time. I observed them for a moment over the hood of the SUV. Hami picked his son up in a bear hug, laughing loud and boisterous. Donya took his face between her palms as she gazed deeply into his bi-colored eyes—eyes that were forever changed by me. At that thought, I wondered how they truly perceived me. My stomach rolled with anxiety-induced queasiness.
With all the grace of someone my size, I made my way into the house, leaving Ushna to his family reunion. I had hoped we wouldn't see them until after the children were born. I'd entered the home stretch of my pregnancy. Even with the ring of illusion, I had a hard time hiding my condition. Early in my pregnancy, Gregori had fashioned a ring of magic, creating the illusion that hid my continually growing stomach and constructed a normal appearance.
A pregnant male wasn't something we wanted to explain to humans. With the looming threat of assassination, if my identity was discovered, we thought it best to continue to keep my birthright a secret until after the children were born. So I'd continue to wear the illusion even though the ring wasn't much help now. The giveaway was in the walk and the way I stood. People could see there was something different by how I held my body and it couldn't be helped. I was able to hurry, in spurts, and then I lumbered like an elephant—very National Geographic.
Neesie followed me into the kitchen. She was dressed differently than what I'd become accustomed to. Gone were the combat boots, black jeans, and white tees. She wore a pale blue silk blouse, a pinstriped pencil skirt, and knee-high black stiletto boots. She appeared fierce in a whole new way.
"Why didn't you wait and greet Ushna's parents?" she asked.
With a plate in hand, I inspected the cold cuts tray that sat on the kitchen counter. I was starved and wanted something quick to eat before everyone came in. When I didn't answer Neesie, she took the plate from me and started placing fresh vegetables on it.
"I thought I'd give them some time to catch up," I finally replied. It wasn't a complete lie. "They haven't had their son to themselves in quite some time. They don't need me hanging out in the background."
Neesie pinned me with her golden-brown gaze. "That is such bullshit and you know it. What's the real issue?"
I quirked a smile at her. "You know I love ya?"
"Yes, and you're the one who called me for dating advice because you suck at subtle. Your 'hey moron, get your hands off my sister' ranked right up there."
"I can't help it if Mr. Octopus Arms was oblivious to his audience."
"Go ahead and keep playing that song because I know you still refer to him as Lonnie Fucking-Fowler. Before you walked into the house, your face turned green and you practically sprinted in here."
"Ahh, stampede!" I gave mock crowd screams. Neesie was not impressed.
"Spill, jackass." She shoved a full plate into my hands and a chair under my ass. Neesie glared at me but her expression was filled with concern.
"Fine, you tyrant. I wanted to make a good impression. I wanted to be able to show them that I am a strong partner and worthy of their son's love and devotion. But right now I'm huge, and miserable, and swollen, and hungry. Why did you give me carrots? You know I hate carrots. You're trying to torture me, aren't you? I'm an elephant, not a rabbit. I get like peanuts or something, not Bugs Bunny hand-me-downs." I threw the carrot at my cackling sister. The woman was not remorseful.
I threw another carrot at Neesie before turning to see who called for me. I swallowed a curse as I faced Donya. She stood in the doorway, her large green eyes soft and liquid as she searched my expression.
"Ma'am?" Embarrassingly, my voice cracked like I was fourteen years old.
"How can we not be proud of you, son?" Donya crossed the room in a smooth glide and gently took me in her arms. "We've always been proud of you, Tristan, don't ever believe differently." Tentatively I embraced her in return and ignored Neesie's sniffles.
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We got to ask Lexi a question...
Hi Lexi, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about ten moments that stayed with you from any book.
Thank you for having me by today! Wow, okay, I can’t guarantee that these will be life changing moments. I have always been an avid reader and certain things stick with me. Sometimes I can’t explain the why of it. Sometimes it’s simply the Pick-Me-Up that I desperately need. Let’s see if I can get ten off the top of my head.
The first one that comes to mind is from Dune by Frank Herbert. It’s actually a quote from a scene and the quote has stayed with me. I can’t image another quote will ever take the number one spot.
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
The second one that comes to mind is Tymber Dalton’s Acquainted With The Night. Just thinking about the book puts me on the verge of tears. There are some very touching scenes and others that made me ugly cry. It is one of the few ugly cry books that I’ve reread several times. This the line that has stuck with me.
“They care not what we call the, as long as it’s done with love.”
The third one is from Internment by Freddy MacKay. The quote from the section is too long and it might give away spoilers so I’ll paraphrase. My all time favorite character, Berg, is in this story. Sometimes, all I have to do is say Berg’s name and I get all teary. Oh, and Kou the squirrel was fantastic, but the most poignant part was Tadashi trying to save Berg and Berg told Tadashi he loves him.
The fourth one is from a book that I didn’t finish. Charlotte’s Web. I was seven or eight years old when Mom gave it to me. It was supposed to be a great book, but I couldn’t get past the part where Avery was on his way to kill the runt pig. To this day, I haven’t read the book even knowing that the pig lived. My cousins loved the animated movie, but I didn’t watch it. My aversion was still so strong that I couldn’t make myself see past that one scene.
The fifth one is from the Odyssey. I read the book when I was in the 7th grade. In the beginning, it was a little hard to understand. But by a certain point I couldn’t get enough. Then towards the end, when Odysseus arrives home and sees how the suitors have harassed his family and been gluttons on his dime. I was on the edge of my seat knowing they would kill him if he announced he was home. The challenge that was set: Any man who could string Odysseus’ bow would have Penelope’s hand in wedlock. He totally demolishes all of them because only he knew the trick of stringing his bow. That was that scene when I knew action and adventure was my thing. My book report was an enthusiastic mini-reenactment of Odysseus killing all those greedy suitors. It was glorious.
The sixth moment from a book comes from Vanilla Ride by Joe R. Lansdale. This is the seventh book in the Hap and Leonard series but it was the first one that I read. I don’t think the impact would’ve been as great if I’d started the series from the beginning. I did go back and read the series after I finished this but this one will always remain my favorite. It was also the first book I read that had a gay protagonist. I adored Leonard. Up until that point, the LGBT characters had always been secondary characters. Afterwards, I tried finding more books like this but actually they were always depressing because they were all gay fiction without happy endings, or even likable endings. So I stuck with my slim pickings until I found gay romance. Even though this is not a romance, Hap and Leonard love each other in that bromance way. The series is about two best friends who always seem to find themselves in trouble, and even when the situation is dire I’m laughing my butt off. Here, they are in a car chase gone bad. Hap bit a nose off the dude attacking him. Leonard is walking down the street shooting people left and right like a gunslinger of old, and Hap’s girl, Brett, releases a string of profanity that was completely awesome followed by some fantastic ass kicking. Hap’s listening to Bret as she’s, “deep into her French.” And I realized I loved some dark humor with my action adventure.
The seventh one is from The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. It is about a porn star who was in an accident that resulted in most of his body being scarred by burns. When I started the book, I wasn’t sure that I would like it. Even though it had a dark humor that drew me, the flashback scenes mostly pissed me off until I got the gist of what they were being used for. It leaves you with this uncertainty of whether his love interest is either schizophrenic or she’s truly who and what she says she is. That they have lived all these different lives together and she’s there only temporarily to help him get through that difficult time. I didn’t know if I liked how the book ended until we saw how he coped with it. The image of him taking a chisel to the gargoyle has stayed with me.
The eighth choice is The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. This is told from Enzo’ POV. And yes, he is a dog. The book had several brilliant and inciteful moments but the scenes with the zebra is what stuck with me. In Enzo’s eye, the zebra represented evil, and how Enzo comes to have that belief and how he reacts to it in order to help Denny has stayed with me.
My ninth choice is One Small Thing by Piper Vaughn and MJ O’Shea. This story is adorable and funny. But there is one scene with Eric where he has a panic-attack-meltdown that I can relate to on so many levels. The total feels with him burying his head in his chair and just losing it is so sharp and crisp and makes me teary-eyed talking about it.
My final choice is Hell for the Company by Angel Martinez. This is a Sci-Fi comedy and I adore Shax. But surprisingly it was Ness who made an impression on me. The baddies feared him just for what he was. They had no idea he wouldn’t hurt a fly--normally. He was so soft and gentle, but I underestimated him. Later, I found myself in the middle of a restaurant flapping my arms like angel wings bellowing, “You will not harm my demon!” when talking to the book club about the story.
Thank you for stopping by and reading. I hope you enjoyed the post. Good luck with the giveaway!
Thank you, Lexi!
More about the author:
Lexi has always been an avid reader, and at a young age started reading (secretly) her mother’s romances (the ones she was told not to touch). She was the only teenager she knew of who would be grounded from reading. Later, with a pencil and a note book, she wrote her own stories and shared them with friends because she loved to see their reactions. A Texas transplant, Lexi now kicks her boots up in the Midwest with her Yankee husband and her eighty-pound puppies named after vacuum cleaners.
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