Welcome to my Masters and Mages page. If you’d like to read an excerpt, I’ve posted a section from Chapter 1 of Touch of Salar below, as well as a sneak preview of Masters and Mages 3: Curse of Salar (release date January 5, 2016)
Touch of Salar, Masters and Mages 1, is the first in the series. It is high fantasy in the m/m erotica genre. It’s a stand alone story, but the next book in the series , Blood of Salar, continues with Jamil and M’lan as the rebellion and their relationship heat up. Stay tuned for updates and follow my blog if you’d like to keep up with exciting things like cover reveals, giveaways, hops and suchlike.
Curse of Salar ~ Prince Dezra Luzan and Captain Nevar are enemies by design, but when their mutual desire rages out of hand, they find themselves fighting on all fronts to save their lives and their love. With the unexpected aid of a mysterious monk from Rakkan, Dezra must learn to control his powers or be destroyed by them.
Blood of Salar, Masters and Mages 2. The rebellion and the romance heat up!
“Intense fight scenes and action packed. This story grabs hold and doesn’t let go til the end. The descriptions of the powers of the two gods were awe inspiring.”
“Spirited, Enchanting…Wicked good!” – Rainbow Book Reviews
“Fantastic read. Highly recommended.” – Five Heart Review at MM Good Book Reviews
“Blood of Salar is a cut above” – 5 Star Review at Inked Rainbow Reads
“Alexis Duran’s elegant yet earthy prose drew me hard and fast into the first book,Touch of Salar” – 5 Heart Review by Velvet Panic
Curse of Salar, Masters and Mages 3. The power of the mages is on the rise.
“There was so much action and on the edge of your seat moments in this book.” ~ Five Star Review by Inked Rainbow Reads
“The chemistry between Dezra and Rayn is stuff-of-legend fabulous, but magic, massive trust issues, and a harrowing political climate make this story much more than a clever otherworld romance. Be prepared for riveting adventure, and wonderfully imaginative scenes of passion and sorcery of the “go-deep” epic variety.” ~ Read the awesome review by Alex on Rainbow Book Reviews
“This was a wonderfully written and intriguing story” ~ Four and a half stars from MM Good Book Reviews
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Excerpt from Touch of Salar, Chapter 1
The sun pierced a crevice in the mountains and M’lan raised a hand to shield his eyes. He stood on a desert battlefield littered with the wounded, the dying and the dead. He let the blood-smeared sword in his other hand drop. Dawn cut across the broken earth in a fiery lance, the anger of the god Salar exposing man’s cruelty in shocking, vivid detail. Blood everywhere, limbs hacked, horses screaming. Hundreds of cold sightless eyes, all turning toward him. M’lan stepped forward and tripped over a body at his feet. He fell, not onto a rock-strewn desert, but marble steps.
When M’lan’s palms hit a cool stone floor, he shook his head in confusion as his vision wavered between illusion and reality. On his knees, he breathed deep and tried to remember who he was, and where he was. He raised his head and the tentacles of the night terrors recoiled into the shadowed corners of a temple, chased away by the sun that was cresting the mountain. He was not a warrior, but a monk, a healing monk, and he was in the temple of Ka’alar, not some hideous battlefield.
He let out a shaky breath and climbed the last few steps on hands and knees. The nightmares were getting worse, and so powerful that they chased him all the way out his cell into the blessed light of day. He thanked Salar for the dawn, then groggily staggered to his feet. He dimly recalled rising and dressing before dawn, but the dream had hunted him down and reclaimed him on his way to the temple.
The fading aroma of night-blooming cacti still sweetened the air of the healing room. Clay ovens had been fired but a chill remained in the open-air space. M’lan was grateful, because the nightmare had left him drenched with sweat. He leaned against a marble column and basked in the rose-tinted glow of the sunrise. Morning was his favorite time of day, a fresh start, a new beginning. Every day, he channeled divine energy to mend fallen warriors. Every night in his dreams, as if he became a warrior himself, he relived the horror his patients experienced in real life.
His heartbeat slowed and he took a moment to clear his mind and prepare for the first patient of the day.
M’lan had trained for years to calm his mind and cool his passions. While he was busy treating his patients, passion was not a problem. Despite the array of beautiful bodies he worked on, he remained as cool as a mountain lake, his mind as still as he concentrated on sinews, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. At night, though, his passions erupted in those violent dreams of war, killing, and terror.
The monks of Ka’alar Healing Temple exclusively served the noble classes of the kingdom of Rakkan. In recent years, most of their clients were soldiers, officers who’d been injured in the ongoing battle with Jirnan Province to the south. The monks also treated elite forces of no particular rank or designation—spies, assassins, sons and daughters of the nobility trained to serve the king in secret and deadly ways. The only reason M’lan knew this was because of the nightmares that showed him what his clients did, where they went, who they killed. If anyone ever found out, he’d be executed on the spot.
Cobwebs clearing, he hurried to wipe down the soft-padded table in the middle of the room with essential oils and snapped out a fresh cloth to smooth on top of it. Today he was to begin the healing process on a new patient. For the sake of secrecy and discretion, patients were referred to by title. Today’s client, if spoken to, was to be addressed as Major. He was male, twenty-eight passages of age, and had been in the intensive-care ward of the temple for three weeks.
M’lan’s role came into play after the most grievous injuries were patched, wounds closed, and vital functions stabilized. He put the final touches on a body that would make it as fine and fit as before whatever trauma had broken it. He aligned the chi as well as the bones, muscles, and nerves. He released locked-in trauma and allowed the body to flow naturally again, maybe better than before, if the connection was right and the patient willing.
Some warriors only wanted to be patched up so they could return to the fight. Others believed a complete healing cycle would make them better at what they did and less likely to fail again. They all took injury as a personal failure.
The entry chimes sounded, and M’lan bowed his head, as was custom when nobility entered. The patient wore a black silk robe, head covered with a hood. He moved with grace and a lightness of foot, unlike most of the warriors M’lan worked on, who tended to be heavyset and muscle-bound. By the tang of sulfur salts, he knew the man had already warmed up with exercise and soaked in the healing pools. Good. A committed patient was so much easier to work with.
The man crossed the tiled floor without a sound and stepped up to the table. From behind him, M’lan watched the silk robe slide from wide shoulders and drop to the floor before he raised his eyes, ready to assess what he saw.
His breath caught. Even though he was used to seeing well-sculpted, muscular bodies, this one was exceptional. Faint scars crisscrossed the truly beautiful almond skin but were hidden among the swirls and tangled vines of an elaborate tattoo that climbed from the crease beneath the man’s left buttock to the base of his neck. His torso tapered from the broad shoulders to a slim waist. The arms and legs were lean yet muscular, and the buttocks tight and hard. He had glossy black hair that flashed red in the sunlight. M’lan glimpsed a fine high cheekbone, sculpted jawline, and aquiline nose. A true son of Rakkan.
The man lay down on his stomach without a word, crossed his arms above his head, and rested his face on the open frame at the top. He was tall, and he reached from one end of the table to the other. M’lan moved closer, rubbing warmed zinn bark oil onto his hands.
“With your permission,” he said as was required. All he got in return was a grunt.
His pulse spiked as his nightmare flashed before his eyes. What horrors had this man endured? What visions would M’lan be forced to share? He clasped his hands together and centered his thoughts. Only the act of healing mattered now. His fears were childish. After warming his hands by rubbing them vigorously, he placed them on the small of the man’s back. Though heavily scarred in places, the skin was smooth and hot from the sulfur bath. Electric sparks trickled up M’lan’s hands, and he nearly jumped back. He closed his eyes and let out a calming breath, feeling the rhythm of the man’s pulse beneath his palms.
About Touch of Salar
In a world ruled by tyrannical kings and fickle gods, the young monk M’lan finds himself at the center of royal intrigue as his healing powers attract the attention of his superiors. When he learns the handsome warrior whose body he’s tending to is not only a noble, but a king’s assassin, any attachment to him might prove fatal. Despite the danger, he can’t stop himself from falling in love. Can he risk the abandon of passion when a slip of the tongue might force his lover to execute him?
Major Jamil Jarka comes to the temple with one intention—heal his wounds so he can return to the fight against the rebellion. When the monk assigned to him turns out to be stunningly attractive, he sees this as a pleasant distraction, no more. But soon he finds himself becoming obsessed with M’lan and is torn between the fear of betrayal and the lure of love.
Sinister forces strive to turn the monk and the warrior against each other—a conflict neither will survive if they cannot trust their lives to love and the healing power of Salar.
A preview of Curse of Salar (Masters and Mages 3)
Dezra, last prince of the royal line of Jahar, son of Khiros and Isara, Chosen of Ka’alar, Divine Hand of the Spirit of the Armazin Mountain, Living God of the Armazin, Earikk, and Tovald Peoples, bowed down on hands and knees and vomited into the potted Elmar tree on the terrace outside his chambers.
Prince Dezra had partaken of his usual plum wine and smoked harrar powder since midday, but that wasn’t why he was sick. The purging was self-induced to rid his system of the drugs he’d smelled in his wine. Their sharp mineral bite couldn’t be hidden, no matter how strong the wine.
The drugs were meant to make him groggy and confused. There had been many boring state affairs when Dezra didn’t mind those effects, but tonight at the dinner, representatives from all the regions under the control of Jahar were gathering at the palace to affirm and celebrate Grand Premier Skala in his role as overseer of the kingdom.
Dezra planned to be sharp in order to watch the ambassadors, lords, and ministers interact in this highly ritualized proceeding. They came to pay tribute to Gon Skala, usurper of the throne of Jahar, and to give insincere homage to the remnants of the royal family—Dezra and his sister, Alandra. Dezra nurtured a dim hope that some of these politicians still honored the royal family’s right to rule.
The grand premier never bothered to drug Alandra, as she was a loyal member of his entourage. Dezra had not earned such ill-gotten trust.
He sat back on his heels and filled his mouth with the strong red wine. He was tempted to swallow it and let a comfortable stupor wash away foolish notions of reclaiming the throne. Instead he swirled the liquid around his mouth to get rid of the taste of bile, and spit into the clay pot. Then he stood, smoothed out his silk tunic, and wiped his mouth with the back of his wrist.
Three weep trees grew at the edges his terrace, forming a curtain of long, drooping branches heavy with purple blossoms. The trees and the thick foliage of the garden beyond them created the illusion of a forest inside the enclosed courtyard his rooms faced. At the end of summer, the garden his grandmother and mother had created was still lush. Birds flew in through the open roof three stories up and tittered in the high branches.
This moment alone was rare. He’d faked a rage in order to drive away the spying servants who dogged his footsteps. Lashmi, who’d served him the longest, would soon be returning with whatever offering she deemed necessary to soothe his temper.
He wouldn’t be confused at the dinner tonight, but he’d have to act like it. Dezra had become such a skilled actor he could make a living with a troupe of troubadours if need be. Life in the palace, and the small degree of freedom remaining to him, depended on everyone believing he was a heedless wastrel, a spoiled figurehead content to waste his life in coddled luxury.
The only one who suspected his deceit was his sister, and that was merely a suspicion, or so he hoped. When they were young, they’d both harbored dreams of reclaiming the throne and had shared a childish blood oath to avenge their slain parents.
Alandra still held that against him. The grand premier had convinced her it was more profitable to concede defeat and cooperate with her own removal from power. Dezra had been stupid enough to resist. Now Skala would never trust him.
Quiet footsteps approached from behind him, and a figure swept aside the silk drapes, allowing a beam of lantern light to cut across the marble tiles. Dezra glanced over his shoulder and was surprised to see Jai standing there.
Jai was the latest in a string of attractive attendants the premier sent to seduce and spy on Dezra. Jai had been allowed to leave the palace to visit his dying father and had been gone for half a moon. Dezra was glad to see him but would never show any glimmer of what might be misread as special affection. Any servant who displayed too much loyalty to him was sent away on some pretext or other, and Dezra had worried that the dying father had been one of these excuses.
Jai had been foolish enough to develop a fondness for Dezra, but that didn’t stop him from reporting everything Dezra said or did to the premier’s watchers. Dezra couldn’t blame him. That was what the servant was brought to the palace to do. The premier recruited servants from other kingdoms or from states with no loyalty to the royal family and no lingering superstitions regarding the divinity of Dezra and Alandra.
“How’s your father?” Dezra asked without preamble.
“Gone up the mountain to dance with the spirits,” Jai said, bowing slightly. “How is my lord?”
“Thirsty,” Dezra said and held out his empty cup. Jai hurried forward with a bottle.
“I’m sorry about your father,” Dezra said. “May Salar light his passage.”
“I am most grateful for your blessing, my lord.” Jai filled the cup and bowed again. They always spoke formally, even during sex. It amused Dezra and saddened him.
Jai stood a hand taller than Dezra and was muscular for a house servant, lean with hair the color of desert sand and pale blue eyes. He had a smooth, attractive face, which was why the premier’s agents picked him. Dezra’s watchers were always trying to guess who might entrance Dezra enough to earn his trust. So far they’d failed. He trusted no one. Sometimes he pretended in order to keep the watchers content. He found it easy enough to pretend with Jai and Lashmi, though it pained him to watch them love him and be torn apart by conflicting loyalties.
“How goes things beyond the palace walls?” he asked, lifting the cup to his lips and keeping his gaze on Jai’s face. The servant raised his eyes. Despite his exemplary training, he stared hungrily at Dezra, an expression of desire disturbing his calm.
After a moment’s faltering, Jai said, “All is well. The rebel activity has ceased, and the markets are thriving again.”
“We are blessed by the strong hand of Premier Skala,” Dezra said in as a bland a tone as he could manage. Jai would have to guess if he was being sincere or not, have to worry if he should report Dezra’s sarcasm, and in the end, probably decide not to say a word. That was what Dezra imagined anyway. He always filtered what he said out loud through the viewpoint of spies, guessing how his words might be interpreted by watchers and mulled over by ministers. Most likely, he was taking himself too seriously. Most likely, the minister and his cabinet had given up worrying or thinking about him much at all.
But then there were the drugs in the wine and the strange questions on his lovers’ lips and the lurking servants who read his journals when they thought he wasn’t looking. No, unfortunately, he hadn’t been forgotten. He was still considered a threat. It must irk the premier to no end to have to keep Dezra alive and flitting about the palace.
The presence of the royal family legitimized Skala’s rule and dissuaded the populace from uprising. Unlike their rulers, the common people remembered the glorious days when the powerful magic wielded by Dezra’s ancestors molded Jahar into the wealthiest and most powerful state between the oceans. If the people ever forgot about the mages of Jahar, Skala would no longer need the prince, and Dezra would be executed on the spot. Until that day, he was a prisoner in the palace his ancestors had built.
In the kingdom of Jahar, the rule of mages has been overthrown. Prince Dezra Luzan is held prisoners in the ancestral palace. In order to stay alive, he pretends to be a drug-addicted wastrel, trusting no one, not even his lovers.
Into his lonely existence comes a man who should be his sworn enemy; Captain Rayn Nevar. Dezra is irresistibly drawn to the rough soldier and his longing for a simple sexual encounter quickly builds into a dangerous obsession.
Captain Rayn Nevar knows he should stay away from Prince Dezra, but his desire for the beautiful young man overrides all common sense. Rayn soon finds himself protecting the prince from a plot to destroy the last of the mages.
When treachery leads to Dezra’s escape, he is at last free to unlock his long repressed powers. Only the arrival of a mysterious monk with powers greater than Dezra’s stops the prince from using sorcery to destroy all who stand in his way, including Rayn.
As Jahar edges toward another war between masters and mages, Rayn must question his devotion to his increasingly deadly lover while Dezra must decide if ultimate power is worth the ultimate sacrifice.