Tomorrow our first anthology, SPICE & STEAM, launches!
So I thought it would be a great idea to let you get a taste of it, see if you like how it's going, before you buy it.
Now, if you prefer to download it, just click either one of these buttons for PDF or EPUB versions.
But if you want to read it, keep scrolling! I have two pages from each story here for you to enjoy.
Published by Adam Gaffen, Author, LLC
This Anthology is Copyright © 2022 by Adam Gaffen, Author, LLC and AC Adams
All authors in this anthology are the sole copyright owners of their Work, and retain all rights to their Work except for those expressly granted to Adam Gaffen, Author, LLC for appearance in this anthology
Cover Design created by the GetCovers design team
Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author.
All Rights Reserved.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
THIS SAMPLE IS NOT TO BE SOLD OR DISTRIBUTED WITHOUT THE EXPRESS WRITTEN PERMISSION OF THE PUBLISHER
Note from the Publisher
Thanks for downloading this sampler!
In here you’ll find two pages from each of the nine stories in Spice & Steam.
On behalf of my co-editor, AC Adams, and our fellow contributors, we hope you enjoy this and pick up the rest of the book!
Adam Gaffen, Editor
By Madilynn Dale
Glancing around, I rush toward the open window. I feel as light as a feather on my paws, and I knew any second now, Melissa would realize her mistake. Adrenaline causes my heart rate to increase, and nausea burns in my throat. I can taste freedom on the breeze. The sweet smell of tree sap greets me from the forest I know is waiting for me on the other side.
My fur bristles as I squeeze through and fall, landing on my feet. I don’t miss the tickling of the green grass against my paws before taking off at a sprint. I briefly notice the trees moving around me as the wind tussles their leaves. A storm is moving in and the air smells of rain.
I huff in short bursts as spots fill my vision. My legs are shaky, requiring more effort to move, and my stomach feels like a rock. My heart rate increases and seems to stutter as a scream fills the air behind me. I have a moment of panic when my legs buckle briefly, causing me to skid across the grass, but I shove my fear aside and spring back up. She will no longer use my energy to fuel her magical spells.
The forest ahead of me is dark, but I know I can hide in it. There are plenty of places a feline such as myself can squeeze in. I just need to find the right spot to catch my breath. Just a few moments to let myself adjust and calm is all I need before moving on. Being free of that small cabin is exhilarating, but terrifying. What does the world hold for me?
Suddenly, a loud howl fills the air. It sounds full of pain and suffering, which can’t be real. Fear courses through my being at a new pace and I question if anywhere will be safe. Melissa summoned a shadow hound to track me down. I am so screwed.
My ears prick as the sound of a car in the distance catches my attention. I can hear the tires moving on asphalt and I know someone is driving in this neck of the woods. This area was supposed to be deserted, according to Melissa’s musings, but thankfully not. Would the person driving take pity on me and pick me up? It’s not often you find a cat wandering in the middle of the woods.
I continue running as fast as my little paws will take me and ignore my surroundings, even though the wind continues to pick up around me and rain, lightning, and thunder fill the air. My heart beats a steady staccato and soon the surface beneath my feet changes from dirt to grass to pavement. The black asphalt is hot. My mind goes blank as I realize that I have not only found the road, but I’m in the middle of it.
Tires squeal and I blink, trying to pull myself out of a brain fog. Turning my head, I’m blinded by the headlights of a vehicle coming toward me. It’s an unforgettable sight that causes me to freeze. I can faintly see the silver grill. This must be my time. I close my eyes, preparing for the death blow, the pain that will come, but nothing happens. My body shakes as I stand waiting. I finally open my eyes when I hear a door open and slam closed. A deep voice swears loudly, and I hear the rustle of jeans. I’m alive!
“What the hell are you doing on the road? I could have hit you!” An average built man comes around the front of the vehicle, his eyes directly on me. He’s a bit thick and graying but attractive.
I stare at him, unable to move.
“Don’t worry, little kitty. I know I smell like a dog, but I won’t hurt you. That’s just my inner wolf. You’ll be okay. I’ll get you to safety. I can’t believe you’re out here in the middle of the woods, especially with this storm moving in.”
I blink at him and his scent registers. It’s wild and reminds me of the forest behind me. What was it he said he was? Oh yeah, he said he was a wolf. There is something about him, though. He feels safe and sounds safe, but he isn’t. I think. I might be wrong. Cats don’t get along with any type of dog, so why am I not bothered by him?
“That’s it, little one, let me get you. I’ll find out where you belong. You’ve got to be someone’s pet. Let’s get you something to eat and out of this bad weather first. Then we can make a game plan.”
I meow at him, shaking myself out of my frozen fear, and he picks me up, cradling me close to his chest. I purr as he carries me around to the door of what I realize is a pickup truck, but I question myself. Why am I purring? This guy’s a wolf! I shouldn’t be so calm.
By Nat Paga
Mari could not believe her eyes.
When she set out into the King’s Forest early that morning, the herbalist hoped to find the plants she needed for her clients’ orders. Business was booming lately, which meant it was time for a restock. She needed to pluck marigolds in particular, her namesake, since she knew some poor sunburned person would need an ointment over the impending sunny season.
The neighboring village people might call her a witch, but they certainly wanted what she sold. Almost every day, someone made the trek to her homely hut at the forest’s edge, hoping her spells or potions might cure them. As long as they were polite and could barter something for her services, Mari was happy to help. It let her live as she wanted, quietly and without conflict.
It was close to midday. Sunbeams filtered through the moss-laden pines and maples, casting a glow over the verdant, sleeping giants. Twittering birdsong flittered all about, alongside underbrush rustled by a fawn or another small creature. As Mari took a deep breath of the warm, blossom-scented, late spring air, she felt at peace.
And then perplexed.
A rapturous beauty slept in a pocket clearing before a glittering pond. Like some forest goddess, she rested in a bed of carnelian and mustard marigolds. Her features were soft, with a button nose and round rosy cheeks. Yet she had a look of maturity. She was nude, her long locks flowing around her exquisite form like liquid gold, obscuring if not entirely hiding her figure. She radiated an air of a gift of nature not to be plucked.
When the man knelt over the unaware woman and leaned in to do just that, Mari intervened.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
The man leaped. As he turned, Mari was surprised to recognize him.
He was the dashing bachelor lord from a nearby landholding, Vespian Le’Vance. He was impossible to mistake with his tall and lithe athletic frame, luscious raven hair tamed into a neat tail, and formal finery worth a small fortune. He was the type of man that women dreamed of being with.
Mari had little interest in men and less patience for their antics.
At first, Vespian looked at Mari as if he were a rabbit caught in a hunter’s snare. His demeanor shifted once he determined she was not a threat. Dark eyes sized her up, lingering on the cleavage revealed by her admittedly loose dress laces (it was hot, and she had not expected to run into anyone). He bowed as he introduced himself, casting a smirk like he expected her to swoon.
“Fear not, kind maid. For I am Lord Vespian Le’Vance! I’m sure you’ve heard of me.”
Mari set her gathering basket down and crossed her arms.
“So? What gives you leave to put your hands on an unaware woman? Do you know her? Does she want your attention?”
“I… Well, I don’t know her in the strictest definition,” he blustered. “As a highborn lord, I assure you my intentions are nothing but pure. I shall wake this maiden with true love’s kiss, binding us in blissful union. Whoever she is now, she will become a lady of repute.”
Mari rolled her eyes.
“A romance for the ballads. It’d be considerate to ask if she wants to be a part of your union.”
“Tch. There isn’t a woman alive who would turn down the opportunity. How about you, hm? I’d heard there was a witch with blood-red hair living in these woods. The rumors failed to mention your beauty.”
Lord Vespian sauntered over to Mari. Closer, it seemed he saw something he liked by the eager glint in his gaze. Mari did not care what it was—the crimson locks she braided and coiled under her hood or the striking features she inherited from her mother—she did not appreciate his regard one bit.
Faith and Kalili go to Rome
By AC Adams
“Faith, what are you doing?”
I wasn’t annoyed, but I tried to fake it. Truth was, I was bored, and Faith’s promise of “come on, let’s go have some fun!” was welcome.
We’d changed into smart outfits. Faith preferred dresses, and today she picked out an emerald-green sheath, one which brought out the stunning copper of her eyes and hugged her curves. I favored pantsuits, a relatively adventurous look for women at the time, but one I was comfortable with. Today I chose one I’d had made for me in the city, simple black and gray vertical stripes on both the cigarette pants and jacket. My blouse was white silk, and the only concession to color was my red flats. Hats and matching purses completed our looks.
And the blindfold on me.
I was less than thrilled as she guided me out of our home. We’d had plenty of adventures outdoors, but rarely during the day, and never so close to the place we lived. We might have been immortal and virtually invulnerable to mortal weapons, but we weren’t stupid.
And no matter what you might think, in 1952, being discreet lesbians in Westchester County, New York, wasn’t easy. Our neighbors certainly suspected, but as long as we smiled and dressed modestly, they ignored the elephant on the front lawn.
Pulling me out of the house for “fun” put all that at risk. Having survived the witch scares in both Europe and the American colonies—and boy, did our timing suck there, leaving one just to get caught up in another—we were both skittish about being called out.
That left out the fact that neither of us was human.
I was a demon, and she was an angel. I was over seven thousand years old. Faith was older, though how much older we didn’t know. Some millions of years, but time was wibbly wobbly in the Head Office.
Both our putative employers utterly forbade our relationship.
We didn’t care. We were the last Thirteens, and their rules didn’t apply to us, no matter how much they wished they did.
If we were going out to have fun, with that tone of voice from Faith? There was going to be fallout.
“I can’t tell you!” she sing-songed, guiding me to our car.
“Faith,” I growled, settling into the seat. We shared a beautiful new Jaguar, an XK 120 roadster, red and right-hand drive. We’d both learned to drive while living in London, and though we’d been back in the U.S. for a couple of decades, we both preferred the UK set-up.
“It’s a surprise,” she said, closing the door.
“I got that.” I heard her come around and settle into the driver’s seat. Then she was busy getting the car running and us out onto the road, so I held my tongue. Immortal or not, I didn’t want to distract her and cause an accident. I liked that car.
I waited as patiently as I could. It was easy at first, with the grumble of the engine, the wind and sun on me, and my love next to me. I rested my hand on her thigh, just so she could feel my touch.
But when we’d been moving for at least a half-hour, my patience ran out.
“Faith, where are you taking me?”
She tsked at me. “What part of surprise don’t you understand?”
“Oh, fine, you can take off the blindfold. For now.”
I whipped the cloth from my face. We were on the parkway, headed towards the city.
“What’s the big deal?” I said. “We go into the city all the time.”
“Today’s special. And we’re not going into the city.”
Again with the non-answer. I decided on a different tactic and shimmied over in the seat, pressing my thigh against hers. She dropped an arm around my shoulders and pulled me into her.
“I love you, Faith.” I purred into her ear, and I felt her shiver.
From Earth and Ash
By Fern Miller
The first time I saw my future mate, our eyes connected across the candle flame. He came to see if the pack’s rumors were true, that I was here and soon to be his. At least, that’s what the other girls told me.
In the dead of night, my bedroom door opened to reveal glowing golden eyes peering at me. The flick of the flame danced across his sharp jawline, allowing me a peek at the alpha they arranged for me to marry. Broad shouldered and muscular, he was built for hunting and fighting.
I had heard rumors of my own about him. He’s a killer. Possessive. Trouble. The type of alpha that doesn’t give second chances. I questioned why my parents would contract me to him. But then I realized no one else would risk their human daughter on the alpha named Roan. I was the last option, so I had to make this work.
He came closer, hovering over me as I sat on the corner of my bed. I focused my eyes on his chest, noticing a small trail of hair going past his stomach and moving farther down.
He placed his hand on my cheek and tilted my head so that I stared into his eyes. His touch was firm and demanding, even though he never made a sound. Only through his midnight stares was how I came to know him.
When I was first told of the contracts to the pack, my mother warned me it would be like this. “You are not to speak to each other until the marriage is consummated. It’s their pack tradition. And enforced by pack magic.”
As a fifteen-year-old, hearing that from your mother terrifies you. But, being born a daughter, I knew my life was already pre-arranged. I was to help keep the peace between the wolves and the humans. Five other girls and I would be assigned a mate based on the best probability of pack survival. We were to breed and carry on the wolf bloodline, because the wolf women became infertile several years ago. The men were to protect us, our children, and the pack members from outside forces and, if it came down to it, from each other. It’s a treaty that’s been enforced for generations.
Now, as a twenty-five-year-old waiting for Roan’s approach, I am filled with both excitement and nervousness. My belly rolls from the combination of the emotions I feel. Roan should be here soon for another visit. I’ve gotten used to him taking me by my black hair and forcing me to stare into him. Maybe it’s a way for him to connect with me, as we have no other way to communicate one on one. I don’t know, but it’s working.
A knock at my door startles me from my thoughts. I turn away from my vanity and move to open the door.
“Hello, Ms. Cora. I’ve come to bid you good night.” My maid walks into the room carrying blankets and a steaming