Author: Aleksandr Voinov & LA Witt
Publisher: 44 Raccoons
Release Date: 12 April 2019
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Genre: Romance, contemporary, friends to lovers, may/December
Anthony Rawson is screwed. Fans, producers, and his agent are all chomping at the bit for the next book in his wildly popular Triple Moon series, but he’s got epic writer’s block and is way behind deadline. Then he reads Axis Mundi, a fanfic novel by his online friend “SirMarrok.” It isn’t just a great story—it’s exactly what the series needs.
Samir Daoud is thrilled when “Ulfhedinn” wants to meet up after reading Axis Mundi. When Ulfhedinn turns out to be Anthony Rawson himself, Samir is starstruck. When Anthony tells him he wants to add Axis Mundi to the Triple Moon series, Samir is sure he’s being pranked. And when their online chemistry carries over—big-time—into real life, Samir is convinced it’s all too good to be true.
The problem is … it might be. The book deal, the sex, the money—everything is amazing. But fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and Samir is left wondering if Anthony really loves him, or just loves his book.
Grimacing, he stood and went back into the kitchen to plug in his phone. While it charged, he poured himself a cup of reheated half-day-old coffee, and as he drank it, he stared at his darkened phone. Axis Mundi was amazing. No two ways about it. He wondered what SirMarrok would think if he knew who he’d sent it to. He was probably shy and socially awkward—what writer wasn’t?—and thought he was sending this book to some other Triple Moon fan. Not the author himself.
I need to know the face behind this book.
Anthony tapped his fingers on the counter beside his phone. The two of them had chatted and emailed, even flirted a bit—okay, a lot—but they’d never exchanged photos or real names. According to SirMarrok’s administrator profile, he lived in a suburb of Seattle, so just a few hours away.
Anthony opened his email and quickly wrote out a message.
This book is fucking amazing. Would you be interested in discussing it over coffee?
Before he could think twice, he hit Send.
Even though he reloaded the page a few times, SirMarrok didn’t respond immediately.
His stomach grumbled again, and he opened the fridge to check for edibles, but nothing appealed to him. There was one lone pomegranate in the crisper, but that didn’t count for a full meal, especially after Ryan had warned him about not eating enough protein right after training. Nobody delivered pizza out here, and he might have been able to throw something together based on the two vine tomatoes, the half jar of pesto, and the red onion he’d spotted, but what he really wanted to do was sit down and read the rest of the story, even though he should probably do his fucking job and at least go up to the office to bang his head against the half novel that was mocking him from the twenty-four inch screen.
Just then, the intercom buzzed—one long, two short. Thank God, it was Chastity. He padded to the door and opened it. She held a pile of letters and a cookie tin. “Hey, do you have time?”
Code for, “You’re not writing, are you?”
“Come on in.” He stood aside and waved her into the house. “You know you don’t have to buzz me, right?”
“I know, but God forbid I let myself in while you’re in the zone.”
“Much appreciated. Fortunately, I’m not.” He started toward the kitchen. “I was reading. Checking something in the chronology.”
“So how’s the book going?” she asked.
“It’s not really going, but I’m working on it.” He resisted checking whether SirMarrok had responded. He knew stalkers and obsessives, and he wouldn’t turn into either of those. “How’re you?”
“Jesse’s off to his grandparents, so …” She shrugged. “Kind of bored, I guess.” Between being Anthony’s bodyguard, part-time PA, and the mom of a very active eight-year-old, Chas had the patience of a Swiss glacier. Bored or not, she deserved a break.
“Have you eaten yet?”
“I have. And I brought you muffins, in case you’re interested.” She put the tin down. “Jesse didn’t manage to eat all of them, though he gave it a good try.”
“Thank you, St. Jesse, patron saint of starving artists.” He opened the tin and found one of the banana-and-chocolate ones that he loved. Beat cooking for one person while feeling guilty about not writing. “Coffee?”
“I’m too wired. I’ll make tea?”
“Sure.” He offered her the kitchen with a sweeping gesture, “Mi casa es su casa.”
She gave him an ironic glance, considering she lived on the property as part of her package (and because her last house had been torched by her crazy ex). While she went through the cupboards to assemble a teapot and hot water, Anthony demolished the muffin in a few bites, and then set up the coffee machine again.
“So, planning a long night?”
“There’s a full moon. I absolutely plan on a long night.” He had the most amazing view from the office, and he could happily spend a few hours gazing at the moon if the novel didn’t budge. The whole werewolf thing had started because some of his Army buddies had teased him about being a secret werewolf: nocturnal, “dark brooding charm,” a penchant for taking solo night hikes during full moons—all of that. And look where it had taken him.
“You getting anywhere with that book?”
Chas laughed. “Still?”
“Still.” His eyes darted toward his phone. “Of course, then one of my fans manages to figure out exactly where the story needs to go.”
“You’re letting fans beta read for you now?”
“No, no. I told you about SirMarrok, right?”
“Sir—” Her eyes lost focus. “Oh, right. From that fan site.”
“Yeah. He finished his book. And it’s …” Anthony sighed and threw up his hands. “It’s amazing.”
“So what are you going to do? Ask him if you can use it?”
Anthony straightened. “I’m not going to take his work.”
“No, but if it’s really that good for the series …”
“I don’t know. Leanne will probably blow a gasket if she even finds out I’ve been reading fanfic, never mind wanting to incorporate some of it into the series.”
“If the alternative is waiting another year for the eighth book, she might be flexible.”
Anthony laughed dryly. “Good point. Well, I emailed him to see if he wants to meet and talk about it.” His stomach clenched. Had that been too forward? Didn’t SirMarrok like meeting people in real life? Might think—
“Oh, Anthony.” Chas snickered. “You’re so adorable when you’re flustered.”
She rolled her eyes. “The second you mentioned meeting him, you got all tense and pink.” She gestured at her cheeks, and Anthony could suddenly feel the heat in his own.
“I’m just a little nervous. He has no idea who I am.”
Her eyebrow arched. “Is that the only reason you’re nervous? Because he’ll find out his biggest fan is Anthony Michael Rawson?”
Chas laughed again and patted his arm. “So adorable.”
“Is that any way to talk to the woman who keeps the stalkers away at cons?”
He groaned theatrically. “Fine. Sorry. And yes, it is the only reason I’m nervous about meeting him.”
“Bullshit it is.”
“What? What are you talking about?”
She ticked the points off on her fingers. “You blush whenever you mention him. You’re clearly more nervous about meeting him than you were about being on a panel with a bunch of your literary idols at Comic-Con. You actually think I’m going to believe for a second you’re nervous about meeting another writer who’s—”
“Okay, okay, I get it. But you’re still wrong. I’m just, okay, maybe a little intimidated by this kid.”
Chas blinked. “Intimidated? Why?”
He waved a hand at his phone. “Because he can write fucking circles around me with my own goddamned characters! What the hell am I supposed to say to him, anyway? ‘You clearly know my own world better than I do, so how much do you charge to save my ass?’” He shook his head. “Fuck, I shouldn’t have emailed him. It isn’t like I can use his book, and for all I know, he completely botches the ending anyway.”
“And how likely do you think that is?”
Anthony met her gaze, then sighed. “About as likely as me finishing book eight by tomorrow morning.”
“Sounds like he might save your ass, then.” She smirked and started to speak, but he gestured sharply at her.
“Don’t even say it.”
He glared, and she smothered a laugh.
“All right, I won’t say it. But has he responded to your email yet?”
“I don’t know.” He glanced at the phone again, eyeing it like it had morphed into a spider that was about to bite his hand. “I haven’t checked.”
“Well.” She nodded toward the spider-phone. “Check it.”
He hesitated, but figured there was no point in arguing with her—there never was—and picked up the phone. He refreshed his inbox, revealing several new emails. Most were notifications about posts on threads he’d been following on the fan site, but there it was:
Holding his breath, he tapped the message.
Are you serious? Coffee? That’d be great. When/where? — SM
Anthony was almost certain that if Chas hadn’t been standing there, he’d have made a very undignified sound. Only her presence and playful scrutiny saved him.
“He wants to meet.” And Anthony couldn’t help grinning like an idiot. Probably blushing again, if the heat in his cheeks was any indication.
“Aww.” Chas grinned. “So it’s a date?”
“It is not a date.”
“Besides the fact that he’s probably half my age?”
She snorted. “Or maybe twice your age?”
Anthony rolled his eyes. “Point being, I want to meet him because I want to talk writing. Maybe I can hook him up with Leanne, get his career going.” Unless, of course, he was already a seasoned writer who’d been impersonating a newbie to get his kicks. But no. No. SirMarrok had seemed really fucking genuine about everything. Anthony didn’t know that much about him in real life—they’d mostly talked writing and wolves and fan stuff. He’d kept his own life under wraps so he could be himself. Which was ironic. This whole fame thing locked him into behaviors and reputation and expectations.
“Anthony.” She folded her arms and arched her eyebrow. “It is okay to get involved with someone. You know, if you click.”
“And it’s okay not to get involved with people.” He sipped his coffee. “I’ve done just fine this long.”
Chas studied him. “You get lonely sometimes.”
He shrugged. “Happily married people feel crowded sometimes. Doesn’t mean they want the other person to leave. In my case, yeah, I get lonely once in a while.” Another shrug. “Doesn’t mean I want someone else in my space.” They’d had this discussion before, and the thought of going through the whole thing again exhausted him, so before she could answer, he held up his phone. “You mind if I send him a quick reply?”
She waved a hand. “Sure.”
He typed out, You’re in the Seattle area? What about Saturday, around lunch? You choose the location. He knew SirMarrok was working in IT—he sometimes referred to a “job” and a “boss.” And if they hit it off, he wanted the option of spending a few hours rather than being constrained by schedules and such. Damn that need for a day job for most writers. A talent like SirMarrok should be raking it in and choosing his own hours.
“So what’re you going to wear, Casanova?”
“Uh. I was planning to go kind of low-key.” Thank God he’d only given in to that author photo-related pressure after the publisher had agreed that it didn’t necessarily have to resemble him; some atmospheric black-and-white shoots and Photoshop had made sure he didn’t really look like the guy on the jacket. However, if SirMarrok was the überfan he appeared to be, he’d have seen Anthony at conventions, or on Tumblr and YouTube. “Won’t be fooling him I guess. Damn.”
“Ah, the burden of fame.” Chas put a hand on her heart.
“Well, I could use a little break. Head out to Seattle on Friday, watch a movie or something, and come back on Sunday? You want to come along?”
“Movie sounds great.” She opened his fridge and made a face. “I have a nice ratatouille bake at the house.”
“No competition from the lone pomegranate.”
“I thought so. And while I go get that …” She pointed at the pile of letters. “A few nice ones this time.”
“That’s because you burn the nasty ones.” He finished off his coffee. “How bad were the bad ones?”
“Mostly threats over the next book not coming out.”
“Christ, every time I read one of those I want to kill a character.”
“Yeah, yeah, Mr. George R. R. Martin, we know.” She laughed. “I’ll go get that ratatouille.”
She left the kitchen, and Anthony’s gaze went back to his phone. So that was that. In a few days, he’d meet the guy who apparently knew his own stories better than he did. And much like the unfinished book upstairs, he had no idea how this weekend was going to play out.
Meet the Author
Aleksandr Voinov is an emigrant German author living near London, where he works as an financial editor, writing coach, and complementary therapist. At 43 years of age, Voinov has written more than two dozen novels and published five novels with German publishers. After many years working in the horror, science fiction, cyberpunk and fantasy genres, Voinov is now primarily writing queer fiction.
Described as a “workaholic speed-writing freak” by fellow writers, a “creative writing class drill sergeant” by his writing ‘padawans’, Voinov is a self-confessed geek and has enlarged his days by 12 secret hours in return for the sacrifice of ten albino virgin pygmy hippos.
Voinov’s style has been called “dynamic to the point of breathlessness” and “disturbingly poetic” by publishers and literary agents. A recurring theme in his fiction is “the triumph of the human spirit” or an individual rising to challenge the status quo in a world gone bad.
Intellectually, he is drawn to the dark side of human nature and history. As a trained historian, he is fascinated by wars, religion and the conflict between the individual and society.
Interests at the moment include WWII, medieval siege warfare, William Marshall, the Golden Age of Piracy, and whale-hunting. These interests are subject to change from one day to the other, and Voinov single-handedly sustains two bookshops in London.
Public Contact Email: email@example.com
Goodreads Author Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3074905.Aleksandr_Voinov
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