Genre: GLBT Multicultural Erotic Paranormal
Cover art by Anne Cain
Silk and Poison weaves the dark and seductive tales of Ume and Toshiro Itou, a Japanese mother and son who find themselves lured into the dangerous world of rival Chinese Tongs in 19th century California.
Toshiro Itou is seduced into a world of dark passions and violent desires when he becomes apprentice to Dao Kan Shu, a fierce assassin in San Francisco's Chinatown. Lessons are taught in blood, but the rewards surpass the most sensual of fantasies ... for both men. As the line between student and teacher is blurred, the Poisoned Dragon himself discovers that seduction works two ways.
A top ranking man in San Francisco's Chinese underworld, Ren Yang knew better than to mix business with pleasure. But when a Japanese debtor repaid the feared crime lord with his lovely wife, Ren discovers that Ume Itou, "The Tokyo Plum" is an addiction stronger than the opium sold on his streets.
Caught between the underworld's ruthless hierarchy and the unexpected desires of their hearts, they must endure tests neither anticipated.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Night of the Poisoned Dragon
San Francisco, 1870
The Chew Kee was a small shop for exotic teas, herbal medicines and oddities imported directly from Hong Kong. A number of signs and posters scrawled with Chinese characters advertised the shop's merchandise through smoke-stained windows. Meanwhile, the characters for poisoned dragonpainted onto a corner of the dark glass of the front doors in crimson ink served as a warning for the Chinese that this building belonged to the Wong family, as much of San Francisco's Chinatown already did. Any unwelcome visitors would be dealt with appropriately.
The thought of what was generally considered "appropriate" made Dao Kan Shu smile as he pushed open the door and stepped inside. After all the recent trouble from a number of impetuous rival tongs, the men he worked for were finally beginning to fully appreciate the artistry involved in punishing those who crossed them.
"Mr. Yang is looking for you," the shop owner called out as he stroked his long gray beard with a bony hand. He eyed Shu over a cup of black tea, the fragrant aroma in the air
Shu walked in silence towards the back of the shop, not giving the older man a second glance. He smirked, knowing full well the reason why Yang wanted to see him.
Passing through the door, he entered the other Chew Kee--the sprawling opium parlor where only the most favored members of the city's underworld were allowed. Occasionally, some of the more recognized allies or clients of the Wongs could be found entertaining themselves here with one of the family heads, including several local politicians. Tonight however, only a handful of other "hatchet men" lounged around, looking for amusement within this establishment's wood-paneled walls. Shu took his usual place towards the back of the parlor and dropped into the padded seat as he waited for a serving girl to bring him a pipe.
The girl who approached, he did not recognize. She was new to the establishment, bright-eyed and eager to serve. Fresh off the boat no doubt, either lured by promises of a rich husband or even sold off by her family as an unnecessary female mouth to feed.
"Good evening and welcome. I am at your service." She licked her painted lips. "For anything."
She handed over the opium pipe; then knelt beside the chair.
"Anything?" Shu's sharp gaze followed the curves of her body as he exhaled, a cloud of wispy smoke filling the distance between them. "What a dangerous thing to say..." He laughed softly, his assessing gaze coming to rest on her smooth, painted face. It looked warm and inviting, the sort that promised to deliver on the pleasures implied by her words. She bore such an enticing look in her lovely eyes, those rich brown depths speckled with hints of green and gold. The soft, yet clearly sensual expression only proved what he'd already expected--that she lacked all knowledge of just whom she was attempting to service.
"You must be new around here, mei-mei," an amused smile played across Shu's lips. "I don't remember seeing this pretty face before." He leaned forward and cupped her chin between his thumb and forefinger, turning her head slightly to the left and then to the right. It was a pleasant face, but it could always be lovelier. Yes, with tears of pain running down her cheeks and her eyes wide with terror, she would be lovelier.
"I will serve you in any way you need, sir. That is why I was put here," the girl said softly. "I'm new to San Francisco but not new to the world we live in."
Sitting back against the chair, Shu took another drag on the pipe. The smile faded from his lips and he exhaled slowly. "Show me the skin on your back."
She turned and undid the buttons of her silk dress, letting the fabric slide down to reveal the small characters tattooed upon her shoulder: the characters for poisoned dragon revealed to all who her masters were.
"I see," Shu said softly. "You certainly are not new to the ways of our world." He leaned forward once again and gently took hold of the edge of her dress. Careful to only touch the material, he pulled it further down to uncover more of the flesh on her back. Though far from being ideally pale like a winter snow, her skin was unblemished by harsh sunlight. Smooth and soft in appearance, the flesh itself had yet to be marred by any beatings or cruel treatment that he could see.
"Look at me," he breathed.
The girl turned.
"You've always been a good child, haven't you mei-mei, and you'll do anything I require." He paused. "Tell me, would you die for me?"
"If I was ordered to by Mr. Yang."
In the fraction of a second she met his gaze, Shu saw a spark in her eyes that all her submissive postures could not hide. There was a passion in them that needed to be dealt with, a lesson that must be taught. Shu smiled. For his amusement, she would do perfectly.
He set the pipe down on the lacquer table beside the chair and reached out, his fingers lightly brushing against her face. "Your mouth speaks wisely..." Dao Kan purred. "But your eyes say otherwise."
Before she could move, Shu slid his hand to the back of her head and pulled her towards him. His lips claimed hers as he dragged her onto the chair with him. With his other hand, he reached out to find the edge of her dress and pulled the material away. Her unmarked shoulder lay revealed, a small gasp escaping her in light of her sudden nakedness. Swiftly, Shu drew out the knife always concealed beneath his western-styled jacket, and he held her tightly against him. He reached around and cut slowly into her flesh.
The girl knotted her fingers in his jacket and held on for dear life but she did not scream or utter more than a whimper. Her body reacted underneath the knife's edge with only the slightest of trembles, and Shu pressed his lips harder against hers. He held her by the back of her head, pleased with her self-control and the opportunity it gave him to find the satisfaction he craved.
He turned slightly, pulling her mouth close to his ear as he slid his lips across her face. He could smell the salt of tears still hidden by her eyelashes, though he couldn't taste them. His lips brushed against her ear as she clutched at his clothing.
"Don't be so timid, child," he whispered. "I want to hear you sing for me."
Shu pressed the blade into her more forcefully, stopping just shy of reaching her lung. He raked it across the length of her smooth, pristine skin. The girl could not contain her screams this time. "Yes, sing for me..."
Shu pulled away to appreciate the expression of agony and terror that contorted her once smiling face. "Yes, mei-mei, I knew you could be beautiful." He continued to work the blade across her back and leaned in towards her, kissing her cheek lightly. Shu smiled to himself confident that his handiwork would be recognized, and everyone would know who this woman now belonged to.
A girl's scream assaulted Ren Yang's ears seconds after his guards and he entered the Chew Kee.
"It would seem that Shu has arrived ahead of us," Yang said. Though he despised Shu and the man's taste in amusements, Ren appreciated a job well executed. Whatever the methods. So far Shu had never failed to give him the results he needed.
The men spending their off-hours in the opium den curtailed their amusements once Yang entered. Yang frowned upon seeing who Shu had chosen as his latest 'playmate'. With a nod from Yang, two of the other men rushed forward and removed the bleeding woman while one of his guards brought over a chair.
He sat back, crossed one leg over the other, removed his glasses and wiped them with a square of pure white silk. "I had plans for that one this evening, Dao Kan."
"My apologies," Shu answered with a plainly false smile. "I'm sure you'll find another one better suited for you, however." He reached forward and grabbed his opium pipe, his smile dropping quickly when he saw the guards were still holding the girl while she tried to find her footing. "I would appreciate it if those men stop touching my new property, Mr. Yang." He stared over his shoulder at them, eyes narrowed into slits.
"Your property, Shu?" Yang laughed. "While we may value some of your talents, remember that you work for us. That girl--before you spoiled her beauty--bore the mark of the Wong family. I'm sure I don't need to remind you that, as head of this branch, that makes her mine."
Nothing vexed Shu more than to see his things in the hands of others, and the anger clouded his judgment. But while Yang's words sickened him, Shu knew they were nonetheless true.
He forced an apologetic smile. "I meant only that I would like her to be my new work of art.
Surely, you can share?" Shu joked before taking up the opium pipe once more.
Yang replied with a look of disdain. "We need you to go to Colorado."
Shu raised an eyebrow and exhaled. "Oh?"
Yang looked to one of his guards, the tall one on his right who wore a bowler hat and an always expressionless face that could have well been fashioned of dried clay, Lau. He nodded, and the bodyguard came forward, pulling out an envelope from inside his suit jacket. He offered the small packet to Shu.
"You'll notice there are two train tickets inside," Yang gestured in the direction of the envelope with another curt nod. "We need you to stop at a place called Pagoda Springs first and pay a visit on one Li Zhang. He has been remiss in his payments to us. Very remiss." Yang sipped from the glass of absinthe another serving girl brought forward. "Talk to him. Let him know how benevolent the elders are and how graciously we give him this second chance. Of course let him know there will not be a third."
While Yang continued to speak, Shu opened the envelope and examined the contents. The amount of money inside was more than adequate for getting around such a backwater place as Colorado, and he was pleased to see that the train tickets were first class. Anything less and he'd have been insulted.
"Li Zhang will not be a problem." Shu smirked and tucked the envelope away into his pocket.
Talking with someone meant he only had to leave him enough fingers to wire the money to San Francisco, affording him plenty of creative options as to how to go about dealing with the fool. "No one can represent our elders' benevolence as efficiently as I can."
"I'm sure." Yang finished the shimmering green liquor and placed the empty glass on the table between them.
"Tell me something," Shu tapped his fingers on the armrest of his chair. "There's a rumor circulating that another debtor exists overseas who believes himself outside the Wong's reach."
"That rumor is a lie," Yang said coldly. "I'm expecting a wire from Tokyo tonight that should contain all that's due the Elders."
"So there was a debtor."
Yang visibly tensed. "That's not your affair, Shu."
The smile dropped once more from Dao Kan's face and he raised an eyebrow at Yang. "It doesn't come as a surprise that men like Li Zhang and this Japanese fool, whoever he may be, have lost some ... consideration ... for proper business practices. There is more hearsay about certain things happening in Denver beyond the reach of our Elders. It would seem the Wongs are thought of as fools by some..."
In an instant, Yang produced a concealed knife and hurled it. The sharp tip embedded itself in the high back of the chair a fraction from Shu's temple. "No one makes fools of the Family and its elders, Shu. No one." Yang stared as Lao retrieved his knife, wiped it then handed it back.
"You're being paid to enforce our policies, not comment on a situation you know nothing about."
"Yet you are also sending me to Denver?" Shu said smugly, patting his suit jacket where the envelope with money and tickets rested.
"Ling Po's people are causing a disturbance at our house there. I want it stopped." With that Yang got up and left.
"Always a pleasure, Mr. Yang," Shu called. With a casual smile playing on his lips, he watched Yang and his guards disappear. Perhaps he might have spoken too boldly tonight, but the Elders valued his skills. There was nothing Yang could do that Shu feared. Yang knew this as well, and that made it all the sweeter.
Shu turned in his chair and scanned the row of girls waiting against the wall until they were needed. Each turned away or looked quickly to the floor when his fierce gaze met theirs.
Shu smiled wickedly and stood. He grabbed one girl by the hair and yanked her forward. The train wouldn't depart for three hours, leaving more than enough time to play.
Video Trailer: Silk and Poison