A curse threatens the Winter Kingdom.
A brother is turned to ice.
A rebel uprising is on the horizon.
Marble-maker Rye Cunnings is at the center of it all—and doesn’t know it.
He doesn’t know he’s the lost summer prince. Doesn’t know his blood can unlock Winter’s curse. Doesn’t know why the marbles he makes flutter with magic. All he thinks is that he’s crazy. That he sees things others don’t, like dragons and strange markings on his skin.
But when a dark dragon snatches away Rye’s only friend Milo, he is forced to face the crazy in his life and figure out a way to bring Milo back.
Help comes in the form of Cerdic Leit, a warrior who finds Rye to take him “home” to the Telluric Realm and their kind. All Rye has to do is follow him into Gatreau, the gateway to the four Telluric kingdoms, and all his questions will be answered.
In the hopes of saving Milo, Rye steps into this new and dangerous world. A world where he learns of the Tellurics and their Hansian foes. A world that is swept up in a bitter battle of justice and hate.
And a world that won’t let Rye leave again.
This story is absolutely amazing. I couldn’t put it down and didn’t want to stop reading. To the point I almost gave my family cereal for dinner so they could leave me alone. I completely got lost in the world Ms. Sunday created and I hope to go back soon. The characters were so engaging and I loved getting to see into each of their heads a bit.
I connected with Rye almost immediately. He was a wonderful lost soul that had to go on this amazing journey to figure out who he is and what he’s supposed to do with himself. It was such a joy to watch him discover all these things about himself. Cerdic was someone that I wanted to hug. He had such a strong sense of duty, seeing him torn on how to proceed was heartbreaking. I’m still deciding how I feel about Drake. I think there’s more to him that when revealed will make me like him more. But he’s going about getting what he wants in all the wrong ways. Milo is the perfect guy to dislike. He’s written so you can’t help but like disliking him. However, he’s totally honest about who he is and what he wants. So you always know what you get with him. Alyssa I feel sorry for. She is a bit of a victim of circumstance and I hope she gets the happily ever after that’s hinted at in this book. Kaitlyn has that same sense of honor as her brother and it was interesting seeing how she applies it differently than Cerdic. Rye’s friends were wonderful additions to the story and I hope we get to meet them more in future stories in this series.
The romance in this story is subtle. I loved watching the different couples grow towards each other and dance around each other. It’s hard to tell how the society will react to LGBT couples since it’s not addressed in this book because there are more pressing matters to handle. I like that at least one is solidly in the happy for now camp and headed towards them making it while the other two have a longer way to go to get to the point of even acknowledging feelings let alone admitting them out loud. I’m fascinated where Ms. Sunday is going to take this series and the world she set up in this book. I so want to know what happens next and can’t wait to see how everything is connected and gets resolved.
Four and a half
Rye Cunnings shivered and hoofed it down the cobblestone road, fixed on the slice of his marble store ahead. This was just another morning. Just another morning.
A drizzly dawn fingered through the low-hanging mist creeping along Bristol’s narrow streets. Lamppost lights flickered and blinked out, sucking their murky reflections from deep puddles. Rain hit Rye’s neck and face and the palm he pressed against his chest. The drops snaked down his sleeve and mixed with the blood at his wrist. It tingled, and Rye dabbed his cuff over the cut—a circle intersected with twelve loops.
A cut that he’d gouged out with his keys, following the shimmery pattern that had marked his skin for as long as he could remember.
Mist lurked over the Marvel Marbles store sign, thickening over the tattoo parlor and barber cushioning it on either side.
Inside was safe. He just needed to get inside.
He jogged over the road for the bright blue door beckoning him home. Each step jarred through his body to his aching head. He just needed to touch one of the marbles he made.
Key in his good hand, he sank it into the lock and twisted until the bar snapped back.
A figure prowled out from the shelter of the parlor entrance.
Rye choked back a gasp, then let out a relieved laugh. Milo. Just Milo.
“Stealthy as a cat, you are.”
Milo smirked and slunk to his side, raindrops weaving through day-old stubble to the cleft in his chin. He studied Rye and lifted an eyebrow. “And where’ve you been?”
Doesn’t matter. Get inside!
Rye feigned nonchalance. “A walk.” A drug-induced, crazy person one. “Just a walk.”
He beckoned Milo inside, but he tilted his chin skyward and let the rain fall on his face. A small smile played at his lips. “And a mighty good morning for one. Fresh, today is. Invigorating. Where’d ya go?”
Where? Where he always regained consciousness: the local cemetery at the church ruin. Every week the same time, the same place, and always surrounded by a sea of daisies. “Just . . . about.”
Clouds rippled, growing darker. Rye sucked in sharply, grabbed Milo’s arm and steered him inside. He shut the door and sank back against the glass.
Milo strutted through the store, running fingers over jars of comets, cat’s eyes, peacocks and milky ways. Hundreds of jars filled the shelves on his walls. Sparklers, corkscrews, aces. Hundreds of colors glittered without light. Aquamarine, butterscotch yellow, magenta, and every shade in between.
Rye caught his breath and let the colors calm him. In a couple of hours the grandfather clock tucked between shelves would chime nine and kids would press their noses to the window and fog the glass as they took in the wonder of his store. The day would whip by with smiles and laughter. Then it’ll be sundown again, thank God.
Milo faced him, casting a look at his mud-crusted jeans. Rye tucked his bloodstained sleeve behind him. “You look like regurgitated hell, pudding.”
“And you wonder why I never let you into my bed.”
“You couldn’t handle me, love.”
Rye gripped the wooden “shut” sign as he peered through the rain-splotched glass to the sky. Milo came to his side, staring out the window with him.
“A bad sign, huh?”
Rye startled. “What?”
“The weather. Means less customers, right?”
“Customers. Right.” His head pounded, his teeth ached. A marble. He needed one now. He shifted away from the windows but Milo planted a forearm on his shoulder.
“You seem on edge, Rye. Lock up for the morning. We’ll go out.”
Out? He shook his head. “Not today.”
A dark shape darted behind the gaps in the clouds. A shiver scuttled down Rye’s spine and he stepped back. Milo moved with him, oblivious to the danger that lurked out there.
“I need to make marbles,” Rye croaked.
“What you need is a day off, friend.”
“Haven’t made a marble in two days.”
“We could go to the carnival, hop on the Ferris wheel. Might even see above these clouds today.”
“How about some green tea?”
Milo pulled away, and Rye scampered across the store to his special marbles behind the counter.
“All right,” Milo said. “I’m going to be a bloody wanker and just say it: you don’t have a social life, mate. You never party. No one visits.”
“I’ve plenty of—”
“Customers don’t count.” Milo skulked closer. “Far as I can see, I’m the only friend you have. And that makes you one hell of a poor bastard.”
A sharp pang shot up Rye’s temple and he hissed, and scanned the middle shelf. He withdrew the largest jar, uncorked it, and dunked his fingers into the mass of silver swirls. Relief fingered up his arms, soothing the pain in his head and the ache from Milo’s advice.
He pocketed a marble.
Over the counter, Milo pointed at Rye’s bloodstained sleeve. “What happened, then?”
Rye resisted the urge to stare at his wrist. The cut never stayed long, would be nothing but faintly-scarred lines by now. Opening the door to his kitchen and marble-making workshop, he threw a hurried lie over his shoulder.
“It’s nothing. Had a raspberry smoothie.”
In the kitchen nook before his workshop, Rye picked up a half-filled pot of tea. Behind him came the clacking of boots, then a hand clamped over his shoulder, urging him around. Cold tea spilled out of the nozzle to the floor between them.
“What are you—?”
Milo pushed up Rye’s sleeve and revealed the circular scar, traced with dry blood. “How exactly did you have that raspberry smoothie?”
“Y-you wouldn’t understand.”
“Don’t underestimate me, I have vast, comprehendy abilities.”
Rye’s throat was tight. “I’m crazy, Milo. Certifiable.” He lifted the pot. “Green tea?”
Milo gently drew his black-painted nails around and over the mark. “You and green bloody tea.” He pulled Rye’s sleeve down. “I’ll have a cuppa.”
With a shaky hand, Rye poured them both a cup. Milo pinched his nose, downed his tea, and set the cup in the sink. “Ugh.”
Rye sipped his, then put it down. It didn’t settle his churning stomach.
“Now make me a marble, friend,” Milo said with a wink, and took out the pendant hanging under his shirt. “One with a bit of me in it.” He snapped off a thin corner and handed Rye the tiny wedge.
Rye stared at the piece on his palm. So small, so horribly scratched, and yet it warmed his entire hand. He clamped his fingers over it.
“Got any cash?”
“Put it on my tab.”
“I love it when I do work and no one pays me.” He moved into his workshop and Milo followed behind. “Reminds me of my last foster home.”
“Said so dryly. That’s exactly why I like you.” Milo flung himself on the stained brown couch at the flank of the room and slipped his hands behind his head. “I’ll lie here and share my woeful problems while you warm your glory hole. God, I love marbling.”
Rye tossed a fiber blanket at him. “I work with a torch.”
“Go on then, light up. Make magic.”
Swallowing, Rye glanced at Milo, who stared at the ceiling with half-lidded eyes. Make magic. He’d thought the same thing himself a thousand times. The way his marbles soothed his anxiety, or seemed to open locked doors, or throbbed warmly in his grip like they held secrets of who he was—what he was.
“I don’t make magic,” Rye said carefully.
Milo turned his head, waggling his brows. “Marvel me, then. Make me a nicer set of balls than I already have. Or better yet, make a marble that solves all my problems.”
“Such as cockiness?”
“Don’t go messing with anything starting with cock. All else is fair play.”
“Your assery it is then.”
“Entertain me with these oh-so woeful problems.” Make me forget mine.
“I’m too smart for my own good,” Milo said with a smirk. “And it’s going to cost me.”
Milo looked pointedly toward Rye’s wrist.
“Point taken,” Rye said.
Milo’s phone rang and he swung off the couch. “You get to making that marble,” he said, ducking through the door. “I’ll be back.”
Rye took a sparkly gold glass rod from the jars on the shelf, bumping the small velvet pouch of marble monstrosities at the end. They’d been Milo’s attempts at marbling, pockmarked and pitiful. Yet he’d not brought himself to throw them away. They called to him with a magic of their own, the magic of a hundred shared laughs between them. Laughs that had been few-and-far-between before Milo had come into his life a year ago.
Rye set the melting glass next to the wedge of pendant. What style did Milo want? Did he wish his marble to glitter? To glow? To be dotted with silver?
He listened for Milo and was met with nothing but the creaking of his store door. Where had Milo gone to take his call? Rye shuffled to the kitchen. Empty. He checked the store.
A breeze swept through the room. The front door was partially open and rain was pooling at the floor. Had Milo taken his call outside? Or had he left, like sometimes he did, without so much as a goodbye?
At the store window, Rye looked outside. The cloud had thickened. It hung low over shop roofs and gutters, only a few feet above the three umbrella-toting pedestrians huddled at the bus stop. Milo was strutting down the middle of the street toward the store, ash blond and soaked.
The cloud burst, plumes pelting toward the ground, and a large winged body swooped down the street toward them.
Rye’s heart seized in his chest; he jerked his bloodied arm across his face and peered at the beast again, at its long snout, horns, and black scales, the arrowhead tail snaking behind it, whipping up gusts. The dragon dipped and umbrellas jerked, inverting into black poppies. Their owners laughed.
Rye ached to be one of those men, ignorant of the terror flying over them, of the dragon stretching its forelegs, clawed talons aimed at—
Rye tried to shout but his voice was lost in the tight clutch of his throat.
The dragon whipped past the window. Wind surged and the door banged against the wall shelves, smashing a jar, glass shards and red marbles raining to the floor.
Rye shrank back into the shadows, shaking as the dragon snatched his friend and lifted into the clouds. Words echoed in his head, soft, placating…
Shhh. He won’t get you.
A born and raised New Zealander from Wellington, I’ve been exploring the literary world since I started reading Roald Dahl as a kid. Stories have been piling up in my head ever since. Fast forward to my mid-twenties and jump a few countries (Germany, America, and back again), I started to put them to paper.
My genre of choice is romance, both adult and YA, gay and straight. You can take a closer look at my books, available as e-books for download in many formats!
When I’m not pushing my characters deeper into adventure, I chase my son around the house and fight my two comical cats for the desk chair.
Since 2014, I’m also part of CritShop Literary Services, specializing in writing workshops and editorial services for LGBT fiction.
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