HONE (Into the Fire #5)
Novella (21,000 wds) ⋅ Historical ⋅ LGBTQ ⋅ Erotic
When the time nears for Matthias to become an apprentice, Marcus tries to claim him for the fighting corps. Not to be outmaneuvered, Wolf demands the boy spend equal time in the blacksmith’s workshop. A heated argument becomes a tipsy reminiscence of their own training, and Wolf and Marc concoct exactly the sort of idea fueled by long winter nights and too much ale.
Inspired by the master-apprentice tradition, the two men embark on a private exchange of guidance and discipline, instruction and experimentation, and practice, practice, practice. But what begins as a playful sharpening of skills soon lays bare the core of their partnership: the strength, durability, and resilience that have bound them for years – qualities they’ll need if Marc is going to accept his son’s true calling, and Wolf acknowledge the unconventional apprentice he’s been training all along.
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“I can not put into words how much I loved this book.” – Dallas Mae, Goodreads
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“A great heartfelt story of growing up and keeping old relationships new. A must read.” – Kellie, Goodreads
“Marc and Wolf have quickly become my favorite book couple.” – Mary, Goodreads
“Exceptional … this series goes from strength to strength, and Hone is pure magic.” – Alp, Goodreads
Marc grinned at him. “Is there anything as infuriating as a young buck who thinks he knows everything?”
“You sound like an old man.”
“An old man who knows considerably more than he did at seventeen.”
“Considerably more, eh? There’s always room to learn.”
Marc shifted beside him, took a drink, then shifted further. Feeling his gaze on the side of his face, Wolf turned. Marc’s eyes held a glint that Wolf knew from experience held more danger than any blade.
“What’s working in there?” he asked and knocked a knuckle against Marc’s skull.
“Only what you just said. That there’s always room to learn more.” He held Wolf’s gaze a moment longer, before letting it travel down over his body. Wolf felt it trickle down his neck like a drop of sweat in the baths. His prick stirred.
“Mmm.” Marc took a swig and pursed his lips, speculative. “The master-apprentice tradition is a rich one.”
It seemed an innocuous statement, something Marc might just as readily have said in the Council meeting and caused no more than conciliatory nods from the other elders.
But he wouldn’t have delivered the sentiment to them with the expression he currently aimed at Wolf.
“One of our oldest traditions,” Wolf agreed.
“Why is that, do you suppose?”
Marc’s lips turned the O in suppose into something overtly seductive. “Because every young man needs to come under the influence of someone wiser than he is.”
“You have a way with words.”
“To learn a trade. To realize that he doesn’t, in fact, know everything.”
“Precisely.” Marc’s eyes dipped to Wolf’s throat before flashing back up. “And yet boys aren’t the only ones who need to learn things. You just said so. Always room to learn.”
“I could teach you a few things.”
Marc grinned, clearly delighted that Wolf had taken the bait. “Like what?”
Wolf scoffed. “A master doesn’t tell his apprentice what his training will entail. He adapts it to each student.”
Tension radiated from Marc’s body as if he were a bowstring pulled taut. “I have a proposal.”
“I wager you do.” But Wolf turned a fond gaze on his partner.
Marc’s eyes gleamed. “A celebration of the tradition. An exchange of knowledge. A private exchange,” he added, his voice pitched for Wolf alone.
Wolf’s blood fired as surely as if Marc held a bellows to it. “To what end?”
“To the end of learning more than we currently know. To honing our skills. Broadening our arsenal. Strengthening our prospects for survival.”
“Ah.” Wolf turned back to the fire, trying to contain his grin. “I thought you would say fucking.”
Marc growled. “That’s a given.”
Wolf smiled, then wiped it away to present a cool, impassive face. He almost succeeded. “The tradition has rules.”
Marc leaned toward him. “Top priority: increase the apprentice’s skills. The master exhibits patience. He models the preferred behavior. He demands diligent work. He doesn’t dole out unnecessary abuse.”
“Usually,” Wolf said and winked. “The apprentice also practices patience, because the master knows best. The apprentice works hard. He takes care to put his new knowledge to use consistently. He obeys the master.”
Marc’s eyes shone.
“And he practices.”
Marc licked his lips. “And how do the master and apprentice know when the teaching has come to an end?”
“It doesn’t. They only move more toward equals.”
Marc straightened and considered Wolf, and he didn’t need to speak to convey what he was thinking. They already stood as equals, had done for over a decade now. One or the other of them was more competent in any given situation, certainly, but they had continued to learn from one another over that time. And still they might learn more. “I propose we take advantage of these long, dark, quiet winter days.”
“And come spring, we can evaluate our progress.”
Something flashed across Marc’s expression then—that they also would need to evaluate Matthias’s progress when spring came around.
So they would.
But spring was months away.
Marc leaned close, his voice a pleasant scrape against Wolf’s ear. “I think I need to learn something tonight.”
They stood as one and edged to the nearest doorway. Tiro held everyone else in his thrall. Even so, just as they reached the door, Philip caught their movement. He gave Wolf a small smile before turning back to the storyteller.
They were fooling no one.