Welcome back Kayla!
From the Ashes is one of those rare stories for me, one that didn't have a photo for inspiration. What was the inspiration for From the Ashes?
Linda Reilly told me about a submission call for m/m fairy tales. I enjoy fairy tales, but I don't care for the ones where the author chooses a fantasy setting so they can justify whatever their story needs to exist. I want plausibility and logic even in my fantasy stories. I guess that's because I've read a lot of fantasy stories through the years and I have certain expectations of them.
The only fairy tale I could think of was Cinderella. There are actually a lot of Cinderfellas (m/m versions of the story) out there. So I set myself to come up for a logical reason for Cinder to be a male. I wasn't just going to stuff him in a dress without a compelling reason for it.
So Cinder's greedy, grasping stepmother was born. A woman, who for the sake of money, forced a very young grieving boy to dress and act like a servant girl named—you guessed it—Cinderella. Her goal was to keep him from inheriting so everything would be hers.
Cinder is approaching maturity, but because of a poor diet, he still doesn't look like a young man. Delayed puberty has kept him small, his voice from changing, and hair from sprouting in inconvenient places. But even that won't hide his stepmother's subterfuge much longer because the changes are starting to occur in his body.
The story is set in 16th century France. After all, Cinderella is a French tale. And true to the Disney version of things, he has a fairy godmother.
Blurb: Cinder never thought that he could rise from the ashes of his life, but an unexpected encounter with a woman claiming to be his fairy godmother may be just what he needs. Finding himself flung into his very own fairy tale, she sends him off to meet his Prince Charming. But was the gown really necessary?
Cinder glanced around. Paper lanterns floated in the trees, lined the walks, and graced the gazebo near the reflecting pool, giving the grounds a mystical air. Their warm glow caught the dancing jets of the fountain splashing merrily to his right. The musical, crystalline tones carried on the night wind’s breath. He was reminded of the enchanted gardens in the fairy tales his father had read to him when he was a child. What would happen to him if he dared walk there?
Henri led him toward the gazebo. Soon he would find out.
The cool breeze caressed his uncovered neck. Cinder shivered at the ethereal touch. Henri turned to him, the question clear in his eyes, but he didn’t know how to answer. Instead he breathed in the tangible scent of rich earth and flowing water, hoping to calm his bounding heart.
Henri lightly stroked his arm. Cinder’s breath caught at the silky brush of the other man’s fingers. He drew another shaky breath. Henri may have meant to soothe him; instead his touch set Cinder’s wayward body aflame.
They left the last of the courtiers behind as they entered the dim interior of the fanciful pavilion. Vines climbed its intricately carved posts, perfuming the air within. The music and voices of the aristocrats faded away. Only a single intrepid nightingale could be heard over the cheerful burbling of the fountain. Hidden from the rest of the court, an unworldly sense of peace filled him. Was his very own fairy tale about to come true?
Bespelled and bemused, he could feel the magic in every beat of his heart, in every trembling breath he drew.
Once inside the bower, Henri reached to cup Cinder's cheek. Unused to being touched, he nearly flinched away but managed to still, heart pounding, before giving himself away. The older man's thumb slid across his cheekbone and came to rest lightly on his mouth. Why did he want to lean into that caress?
The other man's warm, slightly musky scent filled his nostrils, drowning his senses.
Henri's other hand wrapped around his waist and drew him close. He leaned closer while tipping Cinder's face upwards. Cinder's breath left him in a rush, stirring the noble’s hair. Henri was all that he could see, his mouth slowly, carefully descending toward Cinder’s. If he allowed this, the other man might discover his deception. He couldn’t risk that, so why then did he ache to feel Henri’s kiss? Their lips brushed, light as thistle down.
Surprisingly, Henri's mouth was soft and warm upon his own. After a moment, it pressed more firmly against his. Something fluttered in his chest, trying to get out.
Cinder didn't think to pull away until he felt Henri's tongue seeking entrance. The hand on his face slipped to his nape and held firm. He froze in shock, not even daring to breathe, as flames rushed through his body. The very beat of his heart betrayed him.
The questing tongue stroked his lips and pushed between them. It slid over his teeth, seeking to enter. When he protested, Henri swept in and began a lazy, sensuous exploration that left him breathless.
Soon he found himself returning the caress. Henri responded to his fledgling attempts by pulling him closer and moaning into his mouth. He had never experienced anything so sensual and erotic. He fed his own needy pleas to the other man one at a time.
Finally they separated slightly, Cinder panting heavily, trying to catch his breath. Was Henri as affected by their kiss as he was? A quick glance confirmed Cinder was not alone in his arousal. Flushed and gasping, Henri gazed at him with eyes full of wonder and something unnamed smoldering in their depths.
A knight and a former princess, Kayla Jameth now spends her time writing m/m romance. A true Renaissance woman, she has done everything from cross stitch like a proper lady to welding with the best of them. An eclectic life has left her with a unique understanding of the world inhabited by men and an appreciation for the difficulties faced by men in m/m relationships. It is her devout wish that her experiences translate into a richer telling of such tales.
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