Ah the holidays.
The time for family and loved ones.
Since I’m rolling out Tutus and Tinsel (a holiday short story where I take you back to Half Moon Bay and see what Deacon, Lang and Zig are up to), I wanted to also stop in on a few of my favourite couples on this tour. So, I invite you to join me as we catch up with Rook and Dante, Miki and Kane, Kai and Ryder as well as Cole and Jae over the next few days.
AND because it wouldn’t be the holiday season without a gift, I’m giving away a $25 gift certificate to the online store of the winner’s choice at EACH stop.
So sit back, grab some hot chocolate, tea or coffee and let’s catch up with some of our guys.
Much love and I hope you all have a great holiday…and be sure to stop by and see how Zig learns what family really means in Tutus and Tinsel. Release Day is December 21st and brought to you by Dreamspinner Press!
Tutus and Tinsel by Rhys Ford
Out on Dec 21 by Dreamspinner Press
Zig Reid-Harris has everything an eleven-year-old girl could ever want: a great home, two fantastic fathers named Deacon Reid and Lang Harris, and all the books she could possible read.
When a school assignment about holiday traditions unexpectedly broadsides her, she discovers burying the past isn’t as easy as it looks, and the stark reality of her life before her adoption sinks in. Ashamed of the bleakness and poverty she came from, Zig struggles with the assignment until an epiphany strikes the whole family—it’s time to start their own traditions.
Zig and her fathers plunge into the insanity of holiday joy, exploring everything the season has to offer and learning how precious family truly is along the way.
“Kai, tell me about Christmas,” Ryder suddenly popped up by my right elbow. “How do you celebrate it?”
I was used to the Sidhe lordling shoving himself into my life at the weirdest moments but never when I was arm deep into the skin of a black dog I’d just brought in from Otay. Sure, I should have expected him, especially since I was using the Southern Rise’s lower basins to detach the monster’s pelt from its flesh but skinning an ainmhi dubh takes concentration. It’s kind of an intimate thing between the victor and the vanquished, a personal rite of passage each Stalker goes through every time they take one of the Wild Hunt down.
I’d heard him approach. It was hard not to. The High Lord of the Southern Rise was by no means a stealthy tracker. If anything, he made more noise walking down a sidewalk than a rabid panda did going through thick underbrush, while dragging a broken tractor behind it. Sure, if I were human, I’d probably not hear him stomping down the path like a drunken toddler with a pair of tambourines but I’m not. Sadly for Ryder, I am as pointy-eared as he is, a chimera of both races, the Sidhe and the Unsidhe.
Luckily for him I recognized his footsteps and didn’t grab one of my knives and plunge it through his chest. I don’t like being walked up on, especially while trying to wrangle seven hundred pounds of acidic flesh and magic-wrought bones free of a skin worth more to me than him breathing at the moment.
“First, I don’t celebrate Christmas.” I gritted my teeth, working my bare fingers around the monster’s upper right leg. Whichever Hunt Master cobbled together this particular black dog had a serious fetish for knees. It seemed like the creature’s limbs each had at least three and they’d used ghost pepper hot sauce for its blood because my skin felt like it was on fire. “Secondly, I’m assuming you’re talking about all of the extraneous stuff instead of religion because you should know by now, religion and I aren’t exactly best friends.”
“You answered my questions backwards,” Ryder commented, coming around my side to stand in front of me. “And how can you not celebrate Christmas? Or any of the holidays? You were raised by humans.”
As Sidhe went, Ryder was fairly okay looking. His eyes were a rainbow of greens and golds, facets of everything from leaf green to brilliant sunrise and his face was mostly symmetrical. He wore his hair long-ish, often pulling its metallic long strands back away from that mostly symmetrical face. He was of average height, a little bit taller than me but it was never anything I admitted to and he brushed his teeth regularly. so his breath never stank.
But he was Sidhe and by human standards, he was the kind of beautiful that made men and women go to war. There was also something about him that made my heart race and my blood sing, some genetic pull laid down by sublimated instincts meant to draw together elfin for some inexplicable reason.
It was something that was just there. We both felt it and never truly acknowledged it but it sure as fuck was there. I’d been reassured it was something most elfin experienced a few times during their lives which sometimes were as long as the span of a star’s birth until its death.
I hated him on sight. I hated him even more as he manipulated me into being his liaison between human society and the elfin court he brought to San Diego. Over time, he grew on me. Now, I would say I even possibly tolerate him most of the time.
Still, he got under my skin something fierce and not all of it was irritation.
“Dempsey doesn’t do holidays,” I informed him, grinning as I finally got the third leg loose. Pulling my hands out, I thrust them into the buckets of ice water I had next the table I’d set up on the rotunda, cleansing the black dog’s acidic fluids from my skin. “You’ve met him. Does he look like someone who would hang stockings by the chimney with care?”
“I don’t understand what any of that meant, but I do know you have Jonas and Sparky so don’t tell me there weren’t any other influences in your life other than the drunk curmudgeon who raised you.” Ryder of course responded with logic. Ryder was good at that. I was good at flipping him my middle finger and telling him to fuck off. I proceeded to do so, and he laughed at me. “I don’t want to get involved in any religious aspect. We have our own religions and beliefs as elfin, but I feel that in order for us to truly understand the human society, we should embrace and explore some of their customs.”
“So you came to me to ask me about Christmas? Sparky’s Jewish and Jonas belongs to a multi-denominational marriage. I can’t even begin to describe what they do during December. I still haven’t figured it out. I just show up when they tell me to, drink the magical sparkling juice, open a couple pairs of socks that they wrapped up in really ugly paper and give the kids toys.” I snapped the ball of the monster’s remaining leg from its socket with a sharp crack, giving me better access to maneuver around its muscle flank. Ryder flinched, and I gave him a sour look, judging his squeamishness. “You’re going to want to stand back. I don’t want to get any of this on you.”
“Yes, I came to you ask about the holidays in general.” He stepped back, somehow unconsciously choosing a spot where he would be framed elegantly by the forest trees behind him.
I’d purposely chosen this part of the court because it once had been an outdoors grandstand, its columns and stonework thick with patches of moss and fallen leaves but its stage had been built at a slight tilt, nearly imperceptible but it was enough of an incline to carry off any fluids into the makeshift steel gutter I’d set into an outer groove. What I hadn’t done was planned on the Court’s Lord coming down to grill me on gingerbread houses and tinsel.
“Why?” I asked.
“Why what?” He did that head tilt thing that infuriated me, mostly because I caught myself doing it as well. “Why am I asking you?”
“Yeah. You have entire libraries at your fingertips and hordes of humans who would trip over themselves to get you a glass of water, but you come at me while I’m trying to work on this thing before the Post closes so I’m going to ask you why me.”
“Because you are the most human of us,” Ryder whispered but I heard the gilded softness strong enough in his voice. “Because you are part of us. And these holidays are a part of who you are. They are something of your world that none of us know and I think it’s important to share these things with the whole Court. This is something you can give your nieces — our nieces — because it is uniquely you.
“These holidays — no matter who or how they are celebrated — are ultimately about family. You are right. I do have libraries and people at my fingertips to answer these questions, but they are not you.” Ryder violated my space once again, edging up against me, close enough to slide his hand across my shoulder which he did slowly enough to make me want to lean back into him. “Family and kinship are important to the elfin. As they are to the humans. This is a way for us to bring our races together. To show our commonality. If we become familiar with each other’s joys, we can help heal each other’s sorrows. And that, my chimera, is why I need you. Because you can give us that. You can give us that part of you, so we can learn to celebrate in different ways, at the same time, celebrate you. Wouldn’t you want her nieces to have that sense of family?”
No, Ryder was not the best tracker or even a very good hunter. He’d learned over time to mostly hit a target using a gun and while he was skilled with a bow, he disliked spilling blood. He talked too much and ordered people around but that’s what he’d been raised to do. I was as much of a burr under his skin as he was to me. Not all is a welcome one and not always an irritation.
We fought as often as we got along but while I’d been raised by Dempsey to be a Stalker, a ruthless hunter of monsters both bestial and sentiment, Ryder had centuries of learning how to be a politician. Some people were born with a silver spoon in their mouths. He was born with a silver tongue.
And he knew my weaknesses. Or at least the ones he could use against me to get what he wanted — what he wanted right now was to celebrate the holidays like the humans did.
Sighing, I stripped the last of the pelt off of the ainmhi dubh’s leg and shook my head. “Well, first you have to get a tree. Preferably a big one so you can hang glass balls and sparkling lights on it. But most importantly, you’re going to have to get hot chocolate. Lots and lots of hot chocolate.”
Rhys Ford is an award-winning author with several long-running LGBT+ mystery, thriller, paranormal, and urban fantasy series and is a two-time LAMBDA finalist with her Murder and Mayhem novels. She is also a 2017 Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Florida Authors and Publishers President’s Book Awards for her novels Ink and Shadows and Hanging the Stars. She is published by Dreamspinner Press and DSP Publications.
She’s also quite skeptical about bios without a dash of something personal and really, who doesn’t mention their cats, dog and cars in a bio? She shares the house with Harley, a grey tuxedo with a flower on her face, Badger, a disgruntled alley cat who isn’t sure living inside is a step up the social ladder as well as a ginger cairn terrorist named Gus. Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep a 1979 Pontiac Firebird and enjoys murdering make-believe people.
Rhys can be found at the following locations:
Email: rhysford AT vitaenoir DOT com