Sun
Sep 17 2017 11:00am

E.J. Russell Excerpt: Bad Boy’s Bard

E.J. Russell

Bad Boy's Bard by E.J. Russell

As far as rock star Gareth Kendrick, the last true bard in Faerie, is concerned, the only good Unseelie is . . . well . . . there’s no such thing. Two centuries ago, an Unseelie lord abducted Gareth’s human lover, Niall, and Gareth has neither forgotten nor forgiven.

Niall O’Tierney, half-human son of the Unseelie King, had never lost a wager until the day he swore to rid the Seelie court of its bard. That bet cost him everything: his freedom, his family—and his heart. When he’s suddenly face-to-face with Gareth at the ceremony to join the Seelie and Unseelie realms, Niall does the only thing inhumanly possible: he fakes amnesia. Not his finest hour, perhaps, but he never revealed his Unseelie heritage, and to tell the truth now would be to risk Gareth’s revulsion—far harder to bear than two hundred years of imprisonment.

Then a new threat to Gareth’s life arises, and he and Niall stage a mad escape into the Outer World, only to discover the fate of all fae resting on their shoulders. But before they can save the realm, they have to tackle something really tough: mending their own broken relationship.

Get a sneak peek at E.J. Russell 's Bad Boy's Bard (available September 18, 2017) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.

As they flew down the freeway on Mal’s bike, Gareth had to force himself to concentrate on the road rather than the welcome pressure of Niall’s arms around his waist. He was both sorry and relieved when they pulled into the parking lot at Washington Park.

He led Niall to the gazebo overlooking the fountain. Niall settled on the bench somewhat gingerly.

“Are you all right?”

Niall glanced up at him, his shoulders lifting in a deep breath. “Yes. Just thinking.”

Gareth sat down next to him. “Are you . . .” Don’t push. Don’t push. But he really wanted to know. “Do you remember anything else? Anything besides the song?”

He smiled wryly. “Sorry.” He looked out over the garden, which wasn’t exactly at its best in late October. “It’s a good song. I’m glad you’ve decided to play it.”

“Thanks to you. If you hadn’t stepped in . . .” He looked down at his hands, clenched between his knees. “I nearly lost it with Josh.”

“Nearly? I think you were there and beyond. Poor blighter looked ready to weep.”

Shame scalded Gareth’s throat. “I shouldn’t have done that. Josh is . . . well, he’s sensitive. He’s an introvert, which is odd for his kind.”

“His kind? You mean a violinist?”

Gareth chuckled at the teasing edge in Niall’s voice, but he still couldn’t look at him. He focused a flock of starlings dancing in the sky. “No. I probably shouldn’t tell you this—”

“Why not? I can’t exactly run away. Not like I’ve got anywhere to go.”

Guilt curdled in Gareth’s belly. It was Eamon’s fault for ripping Niall out of his life before, but Gareth had done the same thing when he’d urged Niall to escape from Faerie with no plan in place for what to do next. “Not because I think it’ll scare you. You were always fearless.”

“Me? You sure you’re not confusing me with one of your other lovers?”

Gareth cut a glance at Niall. “I don’t have any other lovers.”

“Not now, maybe, but—”

“No. I mean ever. Not before you, and not since. You were the only one. Are the only one.”

“Ah, shite, Gareth,” Niall muttered.

Goddess bless, that made him sound pathetic, didn’t it? Over twenty-five hundred years old, and he’d only ever had one lover. Mal probably laughed himself sick over that on a regular basis. “Anyway, I mean you’re human, and usually we’re not allowed to divulge this to humans. But since you already know about supes—”

“If you mean your bandmates are a little on the bent side, Tiff already let that one out of the bag. She’s a shifter. A big cat, right?”

“She told you?” Gareth shook his head. Tiff liked to skate on the edge, but risking a violation of the Secrecy Pact was courting disaster.

“More like she showed me. In the nature of a warning I believe. Your bandmates have got your back, boyo.”

Gareth winced at Niall’s use of the word, the same one the Voices always used on him. Although the way Niall used it was more like a benediction. With the Voices, it was contempt. “As long as I don’t act like a total arsehole like I did today. And with Josh, of all people. As I was saying, he’s an anomaly. He was a lone wolf.”

“That’s not such an oddity. Most of us have times we’d prefer privacy.”

“No. I mean he was literally a lone wolf. He’s a werewolf, and he was living packless, which is virtually unheard of—at least when it’s by choice. But he’s like me—he never wanted the pressure to find a mate, to pair up, to explain to anyone why he doesn’t feel sexual desire like others do.”

“But he’s with Spence, right? Seemed like it anyway.”

“I can’t answer for how Josh and Spence conduct their relationship in private, but for me—well, I felt sexual attraction and desire exactly once. With you.”

Niall turned a troubled gaze on him. “But David told me you’re opposed to alliances between supe and non-supe races—or even between supe and supe, if they’re not in the same camp, so to speak. Did I . . . back then, did I compromise your values? Make you less somehow? Is that why you could justify a relationship with a . . . a human?”

“Aye, that’s the question, isn’t it, boyo? Let’s hear you defend yourself to him.”

Gareth gripped the edge of the bench. “I wasn’t always this adamant. I mean, I wasn’t a fan of crossing class or affiliation lines because the conflict between Seelie and Unseelie, between Irish and Welsh, between high fae and lesser fae . . . well, they never turned out well for one party or the other, and often resulted in full-scale war. Look at the last of the Oak Wars. And farther back, in the days of the elder gods, the Irish and Welsh nearly wiped each other out because of Matholwch’s treatment of Branwen, and then Evnissyen’s murder of his own nephew.”

“Ancient history doesn’t have a lot of relevance here, does it?”

“It wasn’t ancient for me, not back then. The Unseelie had been targeting me for years, although they had remarkably bad aim if they were trying to kill me.” They’d certainly caused him heartache enough nevertheless. “They always seemed to miss me and hit whoever or whatever I was with. My favorite greyhound. My horse. My groom.”

Niall shifted in his seat, and Gareth thought he heard him curse in Gaelic.

“So I should have known better than to get involved with you. Just being near me put you in danger, but I thought I’d evaded them. They hadn’t made an attempt for over a year when we first met. And I . . . well, like I said, I’d never felt anything like that before. It was easier than I’d expected to put aside my own principles when it was for my own benefit. Then they took you. And it was my fault.”

“How could it possibly be your fault?” Niall’s voice was rough with some kind of emotion. Anger? It was no less than Gareth deserved.

“If I hadn’t been with you, if they hadn’t realized you were important to me, they’d never have targeted you.”

“Listen, Gareth.” Niall gripped Gareth’s arm, sending a shiver of desire through him. “You can’t blame yourself. I’m not a nice person, or I wasn’t anyway, and I certainly haven’t had much chance for self-improvement lessons in the last little while.”

“I imagine not.”

“But although I don’t remember all of what we were together, I know what I was on my own. I was a thrill-seeker. I never counted the cost to others in pursuit of adventure. I didn’t think—not about consequences.”

Gareth covered Niall’s hand with his own and squeezed. “You never did realize your own worth.”

“Oh I pegged my worth at its precise value, trust me, and it wasn’t anywhere close to the cost you’ve obviously paid.”

Gareth frowned at the seriousness of Niall’s tone. “What are you saying?”

“What I’m saying,” Niall said, his eyes somber, “is that maybe you shouldn’t wait for me to remember anything else. This might be your chance to see that you’ve put your trust in the wrong person all these years. To realize I’m not worth it. To move on.”

Gareth took Niall’s hands in his. “You are worth it, Niall, and if I haven’t moved on by now, I doubt I’m likely to do it in the future. Can’t you give us a chance?”

***
Copyright © 2017 by E.J. Russell.
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Learn more about or order a copy of Bad Boy's Bard by E.J. Russell, available September 18, 2017:

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E.J. Russell writes romance in a rainbow of flavors — from M/F stories grounded in absurd contemporary reality to M/M tales splashed with the supernatural — but you can be sure that while the couple makes their way to HEA, they’ll never stray too far into the dark.

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