Stephen J. Wolf has a new MM fantasy romance out (gay/bi): Kershin the Fire Mage.
How do you control a power you hate?
Kershin’s attempts at a normal life have always been fruitless, but now he’s sure he’ll be cursed forever. After shunning his fire magic for years, he’s now forced to either tame it himself or be tamed by a persistent mage hunter. The harder he tries, the worse the situation gets, and as he’s hunted across the land, he leaves destruction in his wake.
Hessia has been scarred by a fire mage before, but she’s determined to never be helpless again. On her mission to tame the destructive fire mage, she faces trials that shake her to her core. Trials that test her mettle, threaten her beliefs, and decimate the villages she’s trying to protect. Will she fall prey to her own hunt?
The fire takes. The fire consumes. The fire kills.
These two know that very well. As they clash, they discover that the threats they face may be greater than either of them imagined.
Kershin turned in time to see a brown-haired man careening toward him, arms pinwheeling to keep himself upright. There was no time to react. The man crashed into him, and both went down. Kershin’s satchel of vegetables spilled over the road and greedy townspeople snatched them up.
Kershin groused. “What’s the big idea?”
“I’m so sorry,” the man said, untangling himself and rising to his feet. He reached a hand down and helped Kershin up. “Here, I’ll help you get back your stuff.” He scurried around, grabbing the vegetables that hadn’t been taken yet. He tucked them into Kershin’s satchel.
“Well, it’s not all of them, but at least I got some back for you.” He held out a hand. “I’m Rosh.”
Kershin rubbed his side, working out a pang from the fall. He should be mad, but he found he was more curious than anything. He returned the gesture, noting Rosh’s jawline that led to an easy smile. His vibrant blue eyes weren’t unlike his own. He had dark brown hair, cut short and brushed backward, begging for fingers to run through it. His chin was crooked, lifting slightly on one side. The imperfection made him more beautiful, not less. “I’m Kershin.”
Rosh grinned. “Kershin. Sorry we met like this, but I have to say, part of me isn’t sorry at all. You’re the best-looking guy here.”
Color rose to Kershin’s cheeks. “Okay, so you’ve got spunk. But can you dance?”
“Dance?” Rosh laughed. “Well, I think I have the ability to dance, but I’m not really into the dance scene. Are you?”
Kershin bit his lip. “Well, no. I’m not even sure why I asked that. Say, what happened to you that you came crashing into me?”
“Oh that? You could say I was pushed by someone trying to pick up your vegetables.”
His eyes narrowed. “They didn’t spill until after you hit me.”
It was Rosh’s turn to blush. “Well, you caught me. I wanted to meet you, and I wanted it to be unforgettable. Forgive me?”
He rubbed his arm. There would be a bruise there, for certain. To think, it had been an intentional crash. But he didn’t think Rosh meant to hurt him. There was little harm in letting the incident go.
He waited too long to respond. “So you don’t forgive me? I guess maybe I should be on my way.”
“No, wait.” He fumbled through his satchel. “Maybe you’d like a tomato?”
Rosh snorted. “A tomato?”
He didn’t know what he was saying. “I— Well, it’s not damaged.”
“And here I should be offering you something. After all, I ruined some of your stuff. Let’s see.” He patted himself down and reached into a pocket. “I have some coppers.”
“Keep it.” Kershin held out the tomato and Rosh eventually took it.
“Well, the least I can do for your kindness is help you out. The two of us working together, we could rake in the coins. I’ll take on the veggies and you get the rest.”
Kershin grabbed for his satchel. “I’m not handing this over to you.”
“That’s not what I meant. You’ll see.” He flashed a smile and Kershin filled with warmth. It was too much warmth, he noted, but he pushed the thought aside. Rosh took two steps away, adding his voice to the calls of the vendors.
It wouldn’t work, Kershin thought. There were too many others to compete against. He needed more tact. But as he watched Rosh in action, his heart fluttered. The man moved with the grace of a dancer; maybe his awkward question wasn’t so far from the mark.
It didn’t take long for Rosh to draw in customers. Kershin worked the sales, successful each time but one. It was better than he could have expected. What was Rosh saying to them? It didn’t matter right then. He could ask later. If there was a later.
“How was I?” Rosh asked as Kershin’s supply dwindled.
“Am I now?”
Kershin chuckled. “I meant to say you were amazing, but I guess it’s true the other way too.”
Rosh clapped him on the shoulder and squeezed tightly. “It’s a good thing I spotted you. I couldn’t turn away.”
Heat welled inside Kershin where Rosh’s hand was planted. It spiraled from the area, working its way through his body. He gritted his teeth, fighting the sensation. This wasn’t the time or the place for this, but he couldn’t deny the warmth of Rosh’s hand or the excitement he felt that the man had touched him.
The heat within him won the battle and raged through his body, centering on his hands. A dim glow came to his fingertips, and he clenched his hands to hide it. But the heat wasn’t done. Fire erupted from his fists, coating his skin for several moments. He slammed his eyes shut and tugged on the fire, desperate for it to stop.
Rosh pulled back, but he didn’t flee. “You’d better stop that before it’s too—”
“A mage!” someone shouted. “Call the Truists! Quick! A mage in our midst!”
Bells rang immediately, echoed by other bells further away. Kershin ignored them, struggling to subdue the flames.
Rosh looked around. “We have to get out of here. It’s not safe.”
“Don’t argue. Come on.”
Dazed, Kershin drew his hands close. Townspeople crowded around him, blocking the way, but Rosh pushed through them. When Kershin approached, his hands still aflame, the people scattered. But not all of them stayed behind. A few trailed after him.
Rosh picked up the pace and Kershin followed, turning this way and that, down one alley after the next. He had no idea where he was. He had never traveled far into the town proper, always stopping at the market to peddle his wares. It was up to Rosh to keep him safe now.
Why did he trust this stranger? Was he leading him to the Truists directly? No, that wouldn’t make sense. They wouldn’t be running.
Dashing through the alleys exhausted Kershin, and there wasn’t much stamina left in him. “Rosh, wait. I can’t.” His feet gave way and he crashed into the side of a small shed. He reached with his fiery hands for support. The wood drew in the flames, spiraling up to the top of the structure. Kershin’s eyes went wide, and he pulled back, but it was too late. The shed was aflame, and there was nothing he could do about it.
Rosh returned and gasped, reaching for Kershin’s elbow and hoisting him to his feet. “Come on!”
Kershin huffed, his hands on his knees, wondering if he could even walk. But Rosh’s persistence moved him. Yet before he fled, a woman rushed into the end of the alley. Their eyes locked, then Kershin pulled himself away.
Stephen J. Wolf is a science teacher with a PhD in science education and a penchant for fantasy books, movies, and video games. Growing up, he loved learning how things worked. When he saw Mr. Wizard’s World for the first time, he knew then that science was his place to be. From learning about how fireworks light up with different colors to understanding the mechanics of an acid-base reaction, chemistry and physics became his passion.
Stephen started writing in eighth grade when his English teacher challenged the class to craft three different scenes. One scene focused on a person. A second highlighted a location. And the third detailed an object. In the moment of the quick-fire writing prompts, Wolf linked all three tasks together and created his first short story. The following year he created his first novel, then expanded it to a trilogy, growing as a writer along the way.
Stephen lives in New York with his husband, Kevin, and their cats, Merlin and Monty.
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