Book Blog Tour: M/M ~ Off World by Jonah Bergan ~ (Excerpt, Exclusive Excerpt + Giveaway)
Title: Off World
Author: Jonah Bergan
Publisher: Booktrope Publishing
Cover Artist: Michelle Fairbanks
Length: 240 Pages
Release Date: August 22, 2015
Blurb: What really brought Taine to that backwater little world? Taine’s a hunter. He’s a red-skinned, black-eyed Lowman by nature, and a hunter by trade. Some hunters work in flesh, others in secrets, and some few work to set right what’s been set wrong. It’s a big galaxy and there’s always plenty of work for a hunter like Taine, so you got to wonder, what with all that at his feet, what really brought Taine to that backwater little world?
Off-World is a M/M science fiction action/adventure set in F/M dominated space. The story takes place in an arm of the galaxy where slavery (sexual and otherwise) is legal and commonplace. Strictly speaking, it is not a BDSM novel in that consent is not a matter of concern for the characters, but those with an interest in BDSM should enjoy the story. Due to explicit content, Off-World is not recommended to readers under eighteen years of age.
He scowled, and turned back toward Taine.
A gentle tug and the shirt came loose in front. The uncle slipped it over the boy’s shoulders and let it fall the floor.
He sampled the first scents of the boy’s essence. Sweet, Taine thought. Like honey must taste. It was a thick and golden flavor, and it made Taine smile. That’s all he needed to know to buy any boy—that there was something either savory or sweet in them that was still strong enough to reach the surface. The rest would be up to the trainers—the professionals back at the Temple on Taine’s home-world. But the boy’s dancing tongue sparked Taine’s curiosity, and he wanted to know more.
There were other ways to open a human. Most of those were forceful, and some were downright violent. The uncle and aunt might not understand, but for a Lowman, this was an act of kindness. It was the gentlest way to break through to the only thing a Lowman truly valued.
Taine found his way blocked. It was expected, a barrier—an obstacle to turn him back. It had a scent and a flavor—something akin to the bitterness of burned toast, but its aspect was like a sharp blade bearing a dark stain, it stabbed at him, threatening him and warning him to turn back. Taine instinctively flinched away from it, slipping around and behind it, evading it, and driving himself closer to the wellspring. He found and followed the predominant scents—that of seaweed, dark and rich, and the flavor of saltwater, and he found himself standing on hot sand, feeling the sensations of an empty beach, and the heat of a brilliant and golden sun. It was a rich and delicate feeling, and a smell, and a taste—the smell and taste of sunshine. Yes, Taine thought. That is who he is. Sunshine.
These people had no idea what they were doing, but that wasn’t a surprise either, was it?
From Chapter Sixteen: A whole Fucking Salad of ‘Em
Set-up: Tanner and Sunshine are sitting by a camp fire deep in the wilderness, waiting for Taine to return. There is an uncomfortable silence between the boys. Tanner remembers an incident from his past. He remembers when his mother took him to the town of Bishop to see about apprenticing him off to become a slave-handler.
The boy wasn’t much older than Tanner was back then. He was harnessed up to a sledge loaded with a pile of big stones. He was hauling it round and round, through the muddy streets. Tanner had seen the boy pass him several times already, and based on what he’d seen done with the other slaves, he anticipated seeing the boy again and again as they kept him at it until nightfall. He just has to be exhausted by now, Tanner thought, and what’s the point? Each time the boy lagged or slowed or even came to a stop, the handler would lay into him with a wide strap and bark obscenities at him and the boy would strain and struggle, crying out when the strap landed across his shoulders, but he’d lurch forward again, and start hauling, or hauling faster, and the whole thing seemed just about as awful to Tanner as anything he’d ever seen. They just keep driving him to nowhere, he thought.
Tanner had been standing with a small group of handlers and apprentices when he’d said it. Most of them were talking amongst themselves, and hadn’t heard what he’d said. But one did, and that was Jensen Trammel, the master slaver in Bishop. He just happened to be standing there when Tanner spoke up. The men quieted immediately, and parted before him as Trammel stepped forward and laid his hand on Tanner’s shoulder. At some point, Tanner was going to have to stand before the illustrious man, and ask for an apprenticeship, and pay the fees, and take the oath, and make a pledge, but right then he wasn’t nobody to nobody, and he felt a little embarrassed to have drawn attention to himself.
“You gotta learn,” Trammel said, “nothing ever happens with a slave in training, without a good reason behind it. People got all kinds of funny ideas, but the business end of it is this: we’re making something valuable, out of something that ain’t, and that don’t happen easy.”
Trammel looked over at the slave hauling the sledge, and nodded in his direction. Tanner looked with him. “That colt’s got a frame that’ll bear some muscle,” he said, “and a bull is worth more than a colt. But if you’re going to bring a bull up out of a colt, you gotta work them muscles, and feed ‘em too.”
“Yeah,” said one of the handlers, “Plenty of protein.” The men laughed, but Trammel gave the man a look, and they all quieted down quick. “Ain’t there some kind of work that still needs doing?” Trammel asked, not of anyone in particular. There was some muttering, but the group broke up, and even the junior handler who’d been giving Tanner his tour, walked off to find something to do. Tanner turned to follow, but Trammel held him back.
“Come on,” Trammel said. “I’ll show you what’s what, and we’ll see if it’s a soft heart or sharp brain that makes you who you are.”
By the fire, Tanner sighed and stretched his legs out from the cross-legged position he’d been in. He leaned back, his hands and arms braced like stilts behind him, propping him up. He crossed his legs at the ankle, and looked over at Sunshine again. The flit was so very glum, and Tanner was starting to take it personally. The silence between them was uncomfortable, and the fact that the flit looked so miserable, just being there with him, was starting to irritate Tanner more than he’d ever imagined it would. Still, Tanner couldn’t think of a thing to say in order to break the silence, so he looked back and stared into the fire again.
He remembered how he’d spent the rest of the day with Trammel, and how he’d learned what he could from the man who was just about the best man in the whole world to teach him.
At first, Trammel seemed a kind old man, with sad eyes, and all in all, he seemed pleasant enough, but as the day wore on, he saw the man more as the man he was, than the man he seemed. His industry was a hard one, and it became plain as day that you couldn’t have a soft heart to do it, and do it well. Tanner saw aspects of the industry that he didn’t much like. By the time that day was done, Tanner wasn’t at all certain he’d be up to it, and Trammel seemed to know it.
“You’ll find,” Trammel said, “when it comes right down to it, you’ll do what you must. Just like the rest of us.” He was walking Tanner back, out of the slaver’s district when he said it. “I’ve seen proud men crawl, and strong men weep, and righteous men lie to themselves, and to others, just to get their own way. Men are a cowardly bunch, weaker inside than out, and most do better under the yoke than free of it.”
Tanner thanked the man, and was polite about it, but much of what the man had said, and even more of what he’d shown him, didn’t seem right. He told his mother about it on the road home.
“He’d have to say that,” Simone said. “Everyone has to find a way to make their work a good work, even if they have to twist things around to do it.”
He hadn’t told her about the worst he’d seen—the beating that left him sick to his stomach and fighting the urge to flee. He wasn’t sure he could do that to someone, no matter what Trammel said about it.
“He works for witches,” Mother said, “as you will too. The world is what it is, so brace up and get ready, because when it’s a choice of slaver or slave, you’re smart enough to choose right.”
Jonah Bergan is a freelance writer living in New England. His publishing credits include a ten part serial, multiple short stories, and a collection of anecdotal humor. He has also published MMORPG game reviews and content, hypnosis scripts, online user manuals, and advertising texts. Please visit jonahbergan.com to learn more about him.
Winner’s Prize: A Paperback copy of “Off-World”.
Runner-up’s Prize: An e-copy of “Off-World”.