Welcome to our second week of celebrations for the amazing
Today's post is all about the FREE MEN series, with excerpts, plus five little known things about Kate, and another chance to win!
Let's start with the first book, The Slave
At twenty-seven, Tamelik has been a slave more than half his life, having witnessed his family being murdered in front of him when he was just a child. Naturally submissive, although with a petulant streak, he can’t help but fall in love with the master who treats him kindly.Tam's dreams come true when his mistress walks out, leaving her husband behind. For six glorious months, he and his master get to be together. Then Tam is ordered to purchase another slave.
He wants to hate Kai for being unruly and ungrateful. For being of the same race as the men who murdered his family. For being his eventual replacement in their master’s bed. But it’s hard to hate a man who cries himself to sleep, flinches at the slightest touch, and blushes beautifully when he’s kissed.
Seducing Kai has suddenly become more challenge than chore, and with his master’s encouragement, Tam finds himself falling for his new companion. Except... nobody can be in love with two people at once, can they?
I looked with curiosity at Kai’s exposed skin. The impression of lean muscles and rude health I had garnered when he first stepped into the Cage had not been mistaken. His shoulders were broad for his frame, his waist narrow. His collar hung on a neck surprisingly delicate, vulnerable-looking as he bowed his head and simply let us stare.
I was suddenly overcome by a desperate urge to kiss the soft bump of his topmost vertebrate. Master restrained me when I made an unconscious move forward.
“What are those marks on him?”
The muscles in Kai’s back tensed, and his head inclined fractionally to hear my reply.
“The slavers whipped him.”
“And the others?”
We stared at the angry red line that neatly bisected the long groove of Kai’s spine, and the smaller scabs and cuts which flecked his nape and shoulders.
I gritted my teeth. “The collar.”
“Have you treated them?”
“He wouldn’t let me.”
“You must. I don’t want him scarred.”
We were speaking in Granthian, and I knew Kai could hear and understand us. There was defeat in his bowed head, in the faint tremors which shook him. I ached to comfort him. He was just a kid, thrust into the world barely past adulthood to fight, love, mourn, and at the last be captured, sold, and treated no better than a dumb animal or possession. He was a person, not livestock, and I suddenly felt queasy at the dispassionate way Master spoke of him. His body belied him: it was that of a powerful man, a warrior, but Kai was neither. He was a lost soul, a spirit bare inches from being broken, quivering on the brink of collapse.
Master’s touch recalled me to my position, and I gave him my full attention, my long hair cascading over us both as I looked down. He reached to tuck it behind my ear, a slow, sad smile on his face as he stroked my cheek. “Go to him,” he said in Thirskan. “Make this easier.”
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Second in the series, The Soldier:
Three months. That’s all it took for Kai to forsake freedom and learn to love his new life as pleasureslave to a wealthy Thirskan Underlord.
Finding himself surrounded by his own people once more, Kai should have been happy: relieved to be rescued from slavery, and out of the clutches of a man who was the sworn enemy of his people. Yet his people are not how he remembers them. Distrustful of Kai, and disgusted by his relationship with not one man but two, they make it abundantly clear he no longer fits in.
Beaten, starved, and tortured, when the chance comes to escape, Kai is barely strong enough to make the journey. Even if he succeeds, how could anybody ever love the thing he’s become in order to survive?
I swallowed the last of the beef, forcing it past the lump in my throat. I wasn’t going to cry again—I wasn’t. Perhaps I was destined to receive nothing but scraps from others’ tables. Perhaps I would never be satisfied. Once I would have walked the entire length of the Samatari wastes if I had hopes of a single kiss from Maal at the end of it. The thought of being his lover ate at me, a living thing twisting my insides into knots every time he gave me that lopsided grin of his, every time his green eyes caught the suns and shone. I had never believed such a thing possible, yet now I had two lovers, and still I was not satisfied. Instead of being grateful they’d allowed me into their bed at all, I wanted them to love me. Maybe not in the way they loved one another, but I had hoped, in my secret heart of hearts, they would have a little of that affection to spare for me.
Pathetic, to be so wrapped up in my own petty miseries after all we had been through. The household guards and the other slaves had lost their lives—Master and Tam remained in that horrible cell, at the mercy of unfeeling bandits and the psychotic Andor. I had been tortured, burnt with hot oil, and burnt again. I’d almost died in the desert, and I’d come home to find it destroyed, and all the people I had known dead. I had experienced misery enough for a dozen lifetimes in less than a week, and here I was moping about my feelings. Yet I clung to it: embraced my pain and let my heart crack open and weep for all the things I wanted and could not have. The ache and the tears reminded me I was human, alive, still capable of feeling something.
I cried for what I could not have because if I allowed myself to cry for all the things I had lost, I feared I would never stop.
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And third in the series, The Master:
Being rescued was only the start.
Otiz lies in ruins. As underlord of the region, Lysander knows where his responsibilities lie. He has an obligation to the survivors to rebuild their homes and their lives. But what about his home, his life?
Kai needs help. The damage inflicted on him goes beyond the marks left when he was tortured, but healing him might require more from Lysander than he’s capable of giving. Of one thing he’s certain: Tam and Kai will never be endangered again because of who he is, even if saving them means setting them free.
All Lysander wants is to be left in peace. To recover from the horrors of his experience at the hands of his enemies. But with pressure piling up from every angle, peace is the last thing he’s likely to find. Suffocated by guilt, Lysander begins to spiral. How can he hold everything together, when inside he’s falling apart?
I crossed the room to the chair beside the window and sat. Kai pulled a robe about his shoulders and settled on his haunches beside me. I ran my hand absently over his head, tangling my fingers in his short curls. The contact soothed me. If only I could sit in silence with him like this, sharing gentle touches, and give him the peace he needed to find without having to show him the mess I was inside. Kai thought me a strong man, a master he could look up to. He had only ever seen me in my own house, in control. He had no idea how out of control I truly felt.
He hadn’t been there when I was younger, when Neemah and I were newly-wed, and I had been drowning. He hadn’t been the young adolescent who had given himself to me with such trust in his wide eyes, so much love and adoration spilling out. Tam had shown me I could feel something other than frustration with myself, resentment for the world at large. Shame. Perhaps because he was so young himself at the time, or perhaps because his love for me came without conditions, he forgave me the mistakes of youth. He let me grow into a man who gave every appearance of being in command.
Kai was a man already, older than I’d been when I purchased Tammy. We didn’t have a shared history which would give him reasons to forgive me. If I didn’t get this right, I’d lose him forever, just as we were on the cusp of finding each other.
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Five little known facts about Kate:
1. I hate the texture of anything too soft. I can’t even think about cotton wool balls without a full-body shudder.
2. I used to live in a haunted house. Every night I’d be woken by the sound of somebody falling down the stairs, and my friends refused to stay over because they were so scared by the things that happened while they were there.
3. I can speed read. Before I started writing full-time, I’d get through a novel a day.
4. Farming is in my blood, and I’d love to have a smallholding and rear my own animals for food. The farm Walter Evans owns in the Puddledown books, “Maggot’s Nook,” is named for a farm my ancestors used to own about 200 years ago.
5. I’ve cried maybe twice in the last ten years. As a rule, I don’t get emotional.
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Kate Aaron lives in Cheshire, England with two dogs, a parrot, and a bearded dragon named Elvis.
She has the best of friends, the worst of enemies, and a mischievous muse with a passion for storytelling that doesn't know the difference between fact and fiction.
She holds a BA (Hons) in English Language and Literature, and an MA in Gender, Sexuality and Culture, and is an outspoken advocate for equal rights. When not hitting the campaign trail or doting slavishly on Elvis, she does what she does best – writes about men in love.
Thanks for joining us today. Come back next week for more of Kate's books, a personal story she's chosen to share with our readers, plus another chance to win!
Until then, happy reading!!