About Cereus: Building
With stories by Sean Michael, Julia Talbot and BA Tortuga
What happens when a besieged and rather small dragon comes to a vampire
and says, “I need your help.” Or when that vampire comes to a werewolf and
says, “I have a job for you.” The vampire goes and builds a resort for
things that go bump in the night, of course. Riding the wave of Julia
Talbot’s Bloodrose series, the multi-author Cereus: Building features
paranormal romance from three of Torquere Press’ most-loved authors. The
stories move from vampire Jonny’s city club to a new luxury getaway in the
woods of the Pacific Northwest, where pleasure and pain are the name of the
Lee Benoit, author of the Dragonwalker stories, writes: I have a soft spot for shared-universe anthologies. Something about the communalism of the shared elements coupled with the particular voices of the various authors makes for a reading experience that goes beyond the story, if you know what I mean.
Cereus: Building is the first in a spin-off series of Julia Talbot’s Bloodrose universe. If, like me, you haven’t read the Bloodrose books, I can tell you that you won’t miss a beat by picking up Cereus: Building. These three experienced authors know how to make stories stand alone even while slipping the tongue to readers of earlier books in the way of cheeky cameos by past heroes.
Julia Talbot’s “It’s Elemental” showcases Julia’s unparalleled talent for stories about men who are perfect for each other but too stubborn to see it. Sparks fly from the first moment tiny, flighty interior designer Kenny and brawny, direct finish carpenter Chayton meet over a disputed window seat. I loved the details about Chayton having been an anthropology major in college (for selfish reasons -- I like having something in common with insanely desirable men) and how this background actually made it easy for him to accept Kenny’s elemental demon nature. I also adored both men’s self-consciousness about their true forms. Their happy ending was, of course, inevitable, but their path there was vintage Julia Talbot, and for that we thank her.
This anthology continues to deliver according to readers’ expectations of each author with BA Tortuga’s rollicking “Third Course.” Faelan, werewolf and Top, can’t resist the brother werecats who run the kitchen. Executive chef Stephan is cocky and self-confident, while pastry chef Marco…isn’t.. The reasons for that soon endear both brother to Faelan and Faelan’s skill at dealing with two very different subs binds the kits to him. BA builds to a heart-thumping climax when all three shift and run together beneath the full moon. It’s in resolving the near-tragedy that BA’s chops are in evidence, even more so than the hard-thumping BA-style sex scenes (which, whoo, yeah!).
Finally, Sean Michael gives us the story of Daniel, mysterious as the night-blooming flower that is the resort’s namesake. There’s nothing mysterious about Daniel’s desire for Zee, the Top in charge of the edgier activities for the resort. The tension between the two is sharp and bright, and the care that develops slowly over the course of the tale has Sean’s signature sweetness and depth. This story solidifies the theme that runs through the entire trio of stories -- the need to protect the true self and the power of revealing that self to one’s true beloved.
Julia, BA, and Sean all have a knack for super-sexy supernatural stories that don’t take themselves too seriously. Even when things go very-very wrong for their heroes, there’s a genuine optimism and sense of fun as the bedrock -- things may go pear-shaped, but they never get too dark to see the way out. That combination of heavy and light, hot and fun, ties these stories together as much as the common setting. Cereus: Building promises to be the first of a series, and if you like shared-universe stories, paranormals, or opposites-attract tales, you’re in for a treat with a long view. Enjoy!
"I need your help, friend." Daniel Underhill looked at Jonny, eyes glowing gold through webcam, the glow sort of pixillating a bit, making things a bit odd, even for Daniel.
Really, how much more odd did it get than being a dragon? Daniel was certainly the only one Jonny had ever met.
"Well, you know you need only ask." Jonny settled more comfortably in his chair, steepling his fingers in front of his chest. He sat behind his desk at the club Bloodrose, marveling at things like Skype, which certainly hadn’t existed when he’d become a vampire all those centuries ago.
Daniel cleared his throat, bringing Jonny’s attention back to the screen.
"You know that I have...particular issues, yes?"
It took Jonny a moment to suss out what the man might mean, but he hit upon it. Daniel, although quite astonishing in his true form, was reportedly quite...undersized. Petite. Wee. Possibly even tiny, for a dragon. It caused problems on occasion. "Indeed."
"Well, I've been here a long time, eons, and no one has bothered me, but my kind doesn't like population and our territories are getting smaller every decade."
"Isn't that the way it is for everyone?" The wolves were all bitching about it as well, about how there was nowhere to run, and how while they loved the club, it was too urban for them.
"Yes, but... I can't protect my home, not from my own kind."
"I take it you have an idea." Dragons were all about ideas. Not so much practicalities, though they were exceptional at making money. Daniel had a particular talent for finding magical objects and selling them.
"Of course I do." Daniel's smile was suddenly young and happy. "You're going to build a kinky little getaway here rather like your club, and let me have a huge, amazing cabin on the edge of the resort. You'll make money. I'll make money. Everyone will avoid the mountain because there will be human activity. It's perfect."
Jonny pondered that. "You're in the Cascades, yeah?"
Daniel nodded. "Six hundred acres ready to build on. You front the money for the development and guarantee me my house, and you do as you will."
"Hmm. I would like to keep a good bit as a preserve. We can stock with game if there's not enough..." Wouldn't the 'weres love a safe place to hunt?
"It's virgin land. Perfect." Daniel smiled. "Safe, except from my kind."
And having a busy presence would stop that quickly, wouldn't it? Dragons were silly creatures.
"I like it. We could go very green, very earth friendly. Go underground for some of the vampire quarters as long as it wasn't near your den." Daniel could be touchy about that den of his.
Daniel nodded. "My den is a natural cave. If you look, you'll find others. Humans tend to avoid the area." He got a wicked little smile. "Crossing my borders uninvited causes its own issues."
"Don't I know it?" Jonny had never been to Daniel's land, but there had been that poor courier once... The dangers of dealing in magical objects. Even small dragons had big flames.
Daniel shrugged, licked his lips. "Occupational hazard."
"Indeed. I can send some people to do an initial survey, talk to selected backers."
"Just let me know to expect them." Long, golden hair was shoved back, Daniel settling. "So, now that the business part is done, let me tell you about this amazing spell book I had sent from Romania. I either made a stick into a fire snake or a burning stick into a dead snake. The accent's tough to pull off."
"You're not Romanian." Neither was Jonny, thank goodness. A vamp from Romania was trite, at best.
"No, but I'm not Mexican either, and I managed to unearth that Mayan demi-god for you once, didn't I?"