Belega by Dianne Hartsock [Book Spotlight – MM Fantasy Romance]April 13, 2020
The Karthagans have regained their ancient powers of manipulating nature, but at the price of madness. In their lust for control they’ve destroyed their island and most of their race. They come now to Belega where one of them, Camron, seeks domination over the known world.
The Mage has come from the northern continent of Sennia to bring peace, but finding his strength no match for the coming struggle, he passes his abilities on to Natan, who only desires a simple life. Now only Natan has the ability to stop Camron, but the personal cost is more than he imagines.
It is only with the combined strength of his friends, his Karthagan lover, Kavi, and his deep desire to bring peace to the earth, that he finds the courage to overcome Camron and restore balance to the world. The power of the mind is immense.
In this world, mankind has learned to gather the energies of creation to use at their whim. But absolute power corrupts absolutely.
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He rose and stoked the fire, setting a pot of water on a few stones to heat for tea. Glancing in Kavi’s direction, he saw that both he and the Mage still slept, and he rested back on his heels. The Mage. Gregor said the name meant ‘teacher’ in his own land. Natan wondered what magics he’d taught Kavi in their time together. He knew Gregor had spent some months on the Isle of Wind. But Natan was still surprised he’d come back with a Karthagan as his apprentice. That people had been forbidden to return to Belega.
Natan called to mind the first time he’d seen Kavi, and his blood heated. When Gregor had stopped in Amara on his way to the Isle of Wind, he’d stayed with Natan several days. Natan wasn’t sure why the Mage had chosen him or what the magic user could learn from him. But Gregor had seemed content to walk in the forest or sit by the river, speaking or sitting in companionable silence. Natan had readily promised him a bed when he returned from his sojourn. But his shack on the river was tiny, with room for only two, with Gregor on the bed and Natan sleeping on the rug by the hearth.
When he’d come back, Gregor had ridden into Natan’s yard with the beautiful Karthagan sitting at his back, and Natan’s heart had thudded strangely. His first dazed thought had been to wonder where the man would sleep. Maybe he and Gregor shared a bed? Natan found he didn’t like that image at all, especially after the man slid off the horse and walked up to him, virile, lithe, the warmth in his eyes and smile enveloping Natan, though the man stopped short of touching him.
“I’m Kavi. Thank you for opening your home to a stranger,” he said in low, musical tones, holding out his hand. Natan blinked, losing his voice in a tide of yearning. He’d never seen a Karthagan before. Kavi was breathtaking, slim, strong, his olive complexion flawless. Black hair falling like silk to his shoulders. Dark gems for eyes, intelligent, questioning. Natan’s lonely heart reached for him, wanting the man for his own.
The Mage’s soft cough recalled him and he stammered through his greeting, blood rushing at the strength in Kavi’s fingers. His heart pounded. Natan felt awkward, callow, embarrassed by his poverty. He wished they hadn’t come. His solitary life had left him ill equipped for the longing that swept him. Kavi’s full lips lifted in a knowing smile and Natan dropped his gaze, mortified by emotions he didn’t know how to control.
As if sensing his distress, Gregor came up and pulled him into a quick embrace. “It’s good to see you again, Natan. I hope you don’t mind that I brought a guest. We won’t stay long. A few days, and with the weather this delightful, we’ll sleep under the stars.”
“Stay as long as you need,” Natan countered and felt the hot blood in his face at Kavi’s low chuckle.
“Damn the man,” Natan said now, poking at the fire. He couldn’t help looking again at the men slumbering close by. Bryon slept a little apart, near the prisoner, but Kavi had rolled against the Mage, a hand on his hip. Natan bit his lip, turning back to the fire and the simmering pot. He knew it meant nothing. Kavi was an affectionate man. But his body ached, remembering their glorious nights together and the bright smile on his lover’s face. He hadn’t known then that Kavi liked to play at love, giving freely of his body, but allowing no one near his heart.
Natan started, unaware anyone had woken until Kavi squatted across the fire from him. He sounded tired. Natan searched his face. Exhaustion and pain were evident, yet his eyes were clear. “How are you?” he asked gently.
“I’m well. The Mage took the horror from me…” Kavi’s voice trailed off as the water boiled over its pot. They watched it a moment, then Kavi laughed, easing the tension between them. “Making tea, Nattie?” he asked, arching a brow. “Remember the time you let the water boil over until it put the fire out?”
“That happened one time, and it was your fault for distracting me.”
Natan could have bitten his tongue but Kavi only laughed merrily. “You’re the one who kissed me, remember.”
“Well, you are a nice diversion,” Natan pointed out and used a stout stick to remove the pot from the stones while Kavi retrieved the tin of tea from their supplies. They sipped the hot brew in companionable silence. They had always been a good match, comfortable in their silences as well as shared conversation.
She now lives in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Oregon with her incredibly patient husband, who puts up with the endless hours she spends hunched over the keyboard letting her characters play. Dianne says Oregon’s raindrops are the perfect setting in which to write. There’s something about being cooped up in the house with a fire crackling on the hearth and a cup of hot coffee in her hands, which kindles her imagination.
Currently, Dianne works as a floral designer in a locally-owned gift shop. Which is the perfect job for her. When not writing, she can express herself through the rich colors and textures of flowers and foliage.
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