A monster stalks the ancient forests…
It’s 1799, and Cole Seavey is a trapper running from a guilty past, seeking refuge on the vast American frontier. Lost in a raging storm, he finds himself face to face with a terrifying, otherworldly creature that seems to have emerged from a nightmare.
Cole is saved from certain death by a handsome Delaware Indian named Pakim. Together they learn that the monster is the fearsome Wendigo from native legends: a creature with a heart of ice, drawn to the evil of men.
Soon the Wendigo is terrorizing the frontier — settler and Indian alike — and Cole and Pakim join together to defeat the mysterious monster. In the process, Cole finds himself falling for the strapping brave and the promise of a new life together.
Unfortunately, the legends say that the Wendigo can only be killed by another creature with a heart of ice. But how can Cole hope to defeat the monster if it means denying the love he’s finally allowed himself to feel?
Man & Monster, which the Midwest Book Review calls “a spell-binding story that is half mystery and half horror,” is the second book in the Savage Land, a series that celebrates the untold gay history of the American frontier. Man & Monster is for fans of Harper Fox, Jerry Cole, K.J. Charles, and Mary Renault, as well as anyone who enjoys pulse-pounding suspense and romance.
(Man & Monster was previously published under the title Firelands.)
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The rumble of approaching hoofbeats rattled the cabin. “That’s Palmer and Pakim returning. Gwennie’s likely to be with them, so if you’re feeling up to it, maybe you should get dressed.”
Even as uncouth as I could be (quite, according to some), I had no desire to meet these strangers as naked as the day I had been born. Stiffly, I stood and pulled on the pants. Every muscle in my body barked in complaint, but I persevered. John also gave me a pair of moccasins and a clean shirt that I pulled on as a white man and an Indian woman entered the cabin. They were followed a moment later by the brave I had encountered on the trail.
As soon as I saw his face, it all came back to me. I remembered everything — his rescuing me, the fire, my stiff roger, his stiff roger.
God’s balls — it had all happened, hadn’t it?
I blushed, something I hadn’t done since the age of ten.
Pakim saw me and smiled broadly. “See, Palmer! My prayers to Manitto have been heard. My friend is up and awake!”
I doubted I had ever seen a face as open and trusting as his right then. And he certainly didn’t seem to think me loathsome for the odd fashion in which my body had responded to his. Perhaps he understood I had been so injured as to be unaccountable for my actions. Of course, the question yet remained as to why it happened (on both of our accounts, now that I thought about it), but that was something to be pondered later, if at all.
The Indian was dressed much the same way he had been when I had run into him — a deerskin shirt and pants, the shaggy bearskin coat he had wrapped me in, his beaded medicine bag slung over one shoulder.
“Everybody, this is Cole,” said John. “He woke up a little while ago and was relating what circumstances have brought him to us. It we seems we have a starving cougar to thank for our unexpected visitor.”
“Nice to meet’cha, Cole. I’m Palmer.” Palmer was perhaps five years younger than John, which meant I was mistaken about his being John’s son. Perhaps they were yet related — brothers or cousins — though I saw little resemblance between the two. There was a freshness to him, as if his youth hadn’t entirely passed into memory. Offsetting that innocence were blue eyes that looked both sad and wise, and I wondered what he had experienced to make them so. He wore his blond hair loose, and it was long enough to touch his broad shoulders. His crooked smile came to him easily — I suspected it was the expression he wore most.
“It’s nice to meet you as well, Palmer. By the way, many thanks for the loan of your pants.”
“Happy to oblige. Let me know if there is anything else I can help out with.”
Palmer may not have resembled John, but clearly he was cut from the same cloth.
For the second time, I was struck by a stranger’s generosity and again found myself vaguely suspicious. But suspicious of what? There was nothing these men could want from me, certainly nothing material they could gain by helping me. As hard as it was to accept, they actually seemed to be decent, kind fellows. Why, I wondered, was it so hard for me to accept that?
The answer, of course, was my brother, Gerard. He’d taught me too well to be suspicious of my fellow man.
“And this,” John said, “is Gwennie.”
As if I hadn’t enough surprises of late, here was one more. Gwennie may have had a white woman’s name, but she was definitely an Indian. Perhaps thirty years old, she was short and stout — and generously endowed with all the curves of her sex. Her long black hair was braided neatly and hung over one shoulder. A puckered mouth which made her look as if she had a mouthful of sour cherries was framed by round, rosy cheeks. To complete her dour bearing, hard, black eyes bore into me like an auger into soft wood. Her entire countenance was one of wroth, as if I had already given her offense, but perhaps I was hasty and her outward appearance did not reflect what was within. She was friends with John, after all, and he was certainly full of good chirk.
“How do you do?” I said, wondering if John had taken her to his bed as an Indian wife. Or perhaps it was Pakim’s bed she shared.
“Pah!” she spat. Any lingering notion she might be like John and Palmer vanished like a blown-out candle flame. “What you care how I am?”
John flinched, a look I couldn’t read passing between him and Palmer.
For some reason she clearly didn’t like me. Given the permanent look on her furrowed brow, I wondered if she liked anybody. On the other hand, John had said she had dressed my wounds and spent hours looking for goldenseal with which to heal me. No matter how gruff her demeanor, I wanted her to know how much I appreciated her help. No one could ever say Cole Seavey hadn’t shown them the proper gratitude.
“I understand from John that you tended to my injuries,” I said, as sweetly as if she were my own mother.
“It is so,” she said curtly. A long-tongued woman she was clearly not. “Though last thing we need out here is another useless white man who can’t provide for himself.”
And I had thought porcupines were prickly! Even so, I pressed on. “Judging from how much better I already feel, your skill must be considerable. Never have I recovered so quickly from such grievous injuries.”
I must have said the right thing as she bobbed her head slightly as if in acknowledgment. She reached into a pocket, removing a glossy, black feather. “I not sure if you want this from your breeches, so I save.”
My raven feather! Very much did I want it. “Thank you, Gwennie,” I said, reaching for it.
“You are welcome,” she said gruffly.
I turned to face the Indian brave. He startled me by stepping close, slipping his hand inside my shirt, and placing it on my bare chest. All thoughts of raven feathers vanished like bats at sunrise.
Pakim stared at me intently for several long seconds. It was unnerving the way his black eyes locked onto mine, but I forced myself to breathe steadily. “Your heart is strong, Friend Cole. I think you’ll live a long time yet.”
He pulled his hand away, and none too soon. My damned roger, with a mind all its own, had begun to stir like a bear rousing itself from hibernation. As nonchalantly as possible I tried to arrange my shirt to cover it.
“Greetings, Pakim. I owe you my life.”
“Only to God do you owe your life. I merely hope for your friendship.”
Needless to say, after all he had done for me, he had that.
Michael Jensen is an author and editor. His books of gay historical fiction include two series, The Drowning World, which is set in 5500 B.C., and The Savage Land, which takes place on the American frontier. Man & Monster, the second book in The Savage Land series, was a Lambda Award Finalist (under the title Firelands).
Michael is also the co-founder of AfterElton.com, which covered pop culture for gay and bisexual men, and eventually become one of the largest and most influential LGBT websites on the internet. In 2006, AfterElton.com was sold to MTV/Viacom in a multimillion dollar deal. As editor, Michael interviewed hundreds of writers, directors, and actors, breaking numerous stories and advancing the issue of LGBT visibility in Hollywood.
Michael also created the Big Gay Fiction Giveaway which helped promote more than 80 M/M authors to great success.
Michael lives in Seattle, WA with his husband, writer Brent Hartinger.