Bloodlaced | Courtney Maguire
Release Date: September 29th, 2020
Publisher: City Owl Press
Add to GoodReads: https://smarturl.it/Youkai1GR
Kanjin hardly view their servants as human. Even less so when they are different.
Asagi is different. Both a man and a woman.
In the wake of his failure to protect a boy he saw as a son from their abusive master, Asagi is sold into the house of a young nobleman, Mahiro, who is the opposite of everything Asagi has ever known—gentle, kind, and generous.
Mahiro bonds with Asagi and their friendship blooms into a deep and profound love. But when Asagi is poisoned out of jealousy, Mahiro reveals himself to be youkai, a demon who feeds on blood, and he has no choice but to turn Asagi to save his life.
Asagi awakes reborn, strong, and eternally youthful. But the price for Asagi’s new life is high.
The blood of the innocent.
Just as Asagi’s trust in Mahiro falters, the boy he failed to protect, now a man, reappears.
New master, same threat.
With both a literal and proverbial monster at the door, Asagi must decide what it means to be human to protect what he loves most.
I slipped into his mind like a warm bath. He didn’t resist me at all—in fact, he welcomed me, embraced me, and filled me up until there was no separation anymore. I felt the happiness of our reunion, the joy and hope it triggered in him, flow over me like a spring breeze, soft and sweet and full of promise. Somewhere, a heart fluttered and danced, and I wasn’t sure if it was his or mine.
But under it all was something so familiar it hurt. Fear, sharp and vibrating just beneath the surface, fear of separation and loss, fear of punishment, fear of something intangible and unnamable that everyone like us carried like a stone on our backs. As I fell deeper inside him, the fear became more concrete and attached itself to memories. It was like watching his life unfold in reverse. The most recent memory came sharp and fast to the surface before making way for the less distinct visions of boyhood, distorted and out of focus. The firm hand of harsh masters. The loss of friends and loved ones. Some to sickness and injury, others simply vanishing into the unknown. And then, he himself becoming the vanished, whisked away from a home he’d become familiar with to start the whole terrible process again.
Even deeper and I became aware of something else, something that pierced the dark in flashes and waves of sensation. A warm body next to mine. Long black hair tangled around little fingers. A song, familiar but somewhat distorted. All of it coupled with a strong sense of comfort and safety and deep, deep unconditional love.
It was me.
Tears wet my cheeks, and my whole body shook. Love. The bright rose-colored love of a child untainted by anger or resentment. He’d brought me deep into his heart, into his safe place, and I found myself there.
Without even realizing it, I’d pulled him closer to me. Face wet with tears, I dropped my head onto his shoulder. His lashes fluttered against my neck as he drifted back into awareness, and his arms tightened around my waist. It felt like melting.
“You’ve forgiven me,” I said, voice filled with awe.
“Forgiven you?” he echoed. “You’ve done nothing wrong.”
“No,” he said sternly, pulling away from me and taking my face in his hands. “Do not blame yourself for what happened to me. You weren’t the one who hurt me. It was him. Blaming yourself is like blaming the cane that whips you instead of the hand that wields it.”
“But I should have done something. Stood up to him, taken you away…”
“He would have killed you.”
“I shouldn’t have left you alone with him.”
“What choice did you have?” he asked with a dry laugh. “What choice do any of us have in what happens to us? I’m glad he sent you away. I’m glad you ended up with a kind master who loves you. You suffered enough for me. You should never feel guilty when karma rewards you.”
Reward? I looked back at my long life spent apart from him and failed to see the reward. Mahiro might have been kind and generous, but his love came at a price. And even that had slowly eroded away without me noticing, leaving me with a shocking emptiness filled only with a dark, primal hunger.
About the Author
Courtney Maguire is a University of Texas graduate from Corpus Christi, Texas. Drawn to Austin by a voracious appetite for music, she spent most of her young adult life in dark, divey venues nursing a love for the sublimely weird.
A self-proclaimed fangirl with a press pass, she combined her love of music and writing as the primary contributor for Japanese music and culture blog, Project: Lixx, interviewing Japanese rock and roll icons and providing live event coverage for appearances across the country.