Once a warrior, now a fugitive.
Spartan fighter Theron has done the unthinkable—he’s disobeyed orders and fled Sparta. All for his helot lover, Andreas. They can run, or they can die.
They’ve sworn oaths to Apollo; now their future lies in the god’s sacred city. The road to Delphi runs through treacherous wilderness, filled with vengeful warriors, greedy bandits, and savage creatures. Nor are the cities safe for strangers wearing the red cloaks of the Spartan military.
Once slated for execution at Theron’s hand, Andreas finds it hard to trust the man who betrayed him. Forgiving Theron grows easier for Andreas with every step they take. He isn't ready to trust Theron with his heart again—but remembering why is getting harder and harder.
A god’s scheming places a fellow exile in their path, Theron’s shield-brother Coridan. Still reeling from his own tragedy, Coridan could be the force that tears them apart forever, or who brings them together in Apollo’s service.
Three different men, three different pasts, who must unite in a common destiny.
If they can survive.
- 5 To Be Read lists
Publisher: Rocky Ridge Books
Pairings: M-M, M-M-M
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 3 Age: 18-25
Tropes: Badass Hero, Class Differences, Rescue, Second Chances
Word Count: 92,000
Setting: Ancient Greece
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
"We made it!" Andreas' voice echoed made it… made it… back at him.
He stood atop the ridge and shaded his eyes against the glare. Sunlight streamed through the notch in the mountains. Helios' chariot had climbed high enough into the sky to illuminate their path if such the faint rut could be so named. More deer track than shepherd's trail, winding between the few stunted scrub firs still clinging to the side of this mountain.
But still better than a well-traveled roadway where an outlawed Spartan warrior and a runaway helot risked capture and worse.
Andreas' chest swelled with pride even as his legs ached and threatened to dump him on his backside. The cold, dry air burned in his throat and made his forehead ache dully.READ MORE
"Yes, we have." The smile Theron turned on him was infectious—lighting up Theron's wind-reddened face and warming Andreas' chest. He reached out and hugged Theron before he thought better of it. His solid bulk resting against Andreas—not a thing they'd done often—soothed something inside him. Theron wrapped his arms around Andreas' waist and Andreas lost himself in the heat of Theron's body. But when Ictis wriggled between them, Theron stepped back.
"Sorry about that, little warrior," Theron sighed and patted an apology to where the ferret rode inside Andreas' chiton.
"I was beginning to think we'd never reach the top," Andreas admitted. He shivered and clutched his cloak more tightly. The wind still whipped in through the gap where the woolen cloth didn't quite meet. Every time he built up some warmth, he'd lose it when he had to lean on his staff. Or his pack shifted, or his grip failed.
He wondered if Theron was faring any better in his Spartan scarlet cloak and breastplate. Did the many cloth layers of the protective linothorax trap heat against his body? He hoped so for Theron's sake.
"We had too much to lose if we didn't," Theron spoke with a weary, breathless conviction.
Even exhausted, Andreas doubted Theron would ever surrender. He'd survived Sparta's brutal warrior training to become one of the elite kryptes. Those who gave up died.
And here they were. About to leave Sparta behind forever.
Andreas sometimes found the fact he was traveling with a kryptes difficult to believe. He—like all helots—had spent his life fearing death at their hands. Now a kryptes was all that stood between him and death.
Nearly as difficult to believe—a kryptes laden with a pack, something no self-respecting Spartan would carry if a helot could instead. Andreas wouldn't have reached the top of the mountain if he'd had to carry both packs.
He'd never dreamt when he'd been a helot that he'd ever leave his home, see faraway places, or these awe-inspiring surroundings.
Sunlight slanted into his face now the Parnon Mountains no longer blocked the morning rays. The sun seemed to burn brighter than it ever had when he'd been confined on his klēros, that bit of land he'd tended for a Spartan master. Even the wind felt sharper, keener, harsher here. Had a scent all its own.
A gust rocked him where he stood on the brink of the escarpment.
Shivering, Andreas raised a hand to his chilled and chapped cheeks. His lips were cracked. He wished he had some way to protect their faces.
He licked his lips and almost immediately they were drier than they'd been before. How something so illogical could be, he didn't understand, but he couldn't prevent himself from repeating the useless gesture.
Gray stone crags rose on either side of him, bare and dull. Ice work traceries gleamed in the morning light—beauty even in such a desolate place.
The land dropped off before them. In the hazy distance, Andreas could see a valley leading north. He wondered how long until they reached the tree-filled vale. The downward slope appeared to be even more unforgiving than the one they'd just traversed—broken rock and farther down sparse stunted growth. Poor footing and not much by way of shelter or food to be had. He would have to keep his eyes open for anything he could forage to supplement their dwindling supplies.
"How far to Delphi?" Andreas had no idea—not even in which direction Apollo's temple could be found—but he'd follow Theron there. His world had always been much smaller, just the distance he could walk in half a day.
Apollo had called Theron to serve him. And when one of the Olympians knew your name, it was never wise to balk. Andreas could understand what the god wanted from Theron. But even though he'd sworn himself to Apollo, Andreas couldn't imagine what the god would want with him.
Theron extended his hand to point northeast and quickly drew his arm back within his scarlet cloak. "We'll go to Tegea first. Then Corinth and finally Delphi. I don't know how long we'll have to travel. I hope to be in Delphi before the snows reach Mount Parnassus. Either way, we need to get off this mountain."
Glancing over his shoulder, Theron's expression darkened.
Andreas could guess where his thoughts had gone. Despite his words, Theron was looking back. He could think one thing, but one's heart didn't always agree.
Behind them stretched Lacedaemonia, the land of the Spartans, along with all of Theron's hopes and dreams. He'd given up everything for Andreas' sake. Warmth filled his chest at that thought.
Obscured by clouds, tree-covered foothills faded into the fertile river valleys. Far beyond his sight, the villages comprising the unwalled city of Sparta continued to train warriors, but would no longer threaten Theron. Or him.
Once he and Theron set foot on the downward slope, they left everything behind and their exile began.
They could never return. The realization they were about to do something irrevocable didn't bother Andreas. But he knew, while Theron might willingly turn his back on Sparta and embrace their future, the first stride would be difficult for a man who had dreamt of nothing more than being a Spartan.
With a heavy sigh, Theron squared his shoulders. "Come, let's claim our future," he said and set off down the hill.
How much had that initial stride cost him? More than anyone should be asked to bear alone. Andreas could support him and keep him company every step of the way.COLLAPSE
I loved this story. I hadn’t read the other stories in the series that preceded this one, but I didn’t need to: there was enough conflict, passion and suspense to keep me turning the pages. Well done!