My story Little Match Girl is out in the Once Upon a Rainbow anthology!
Once Upon a Rainbow, Volume One
Author: Sydney Blackburn, K.S. Trenten, Riza Curtis, A. Fae, Dianne Hartsock, J.P. Jackson, Donna Jay, A.D. Song, Mickie B. Ashling
Release Date: November 20, 2017
Format: ePub, Mobi, PDF
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Word Count: 147100
Sex Content: Ranges from N/A to Explicit
Pairing: FF, MM
Orientation: Ace/Aro, Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian
Identity: Cisgender, Genderqueer, Intersex, Trans
Warning: Depictions of non-con and attempted assault.
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1127395428
Christian can’t help himself. He’s fallen in love with the sweet, sometimes effeminate guy who’s been coming into the sandwich shop for the past several months. But Dani is also the Little Match Girl, the ragged queer selling candles on the street corner Christian’s been avoiding all year, going so far as to cross the street to avoid walking by him. Ashamed, he wonders if Dani can ever forgive him.
Losing his mother to cancer, Dani has spent the last year in a haze of grief and loneliness, selling Mother’s candles like they always had, giving himself to any man who can pay, saving him from having to go home to his father’s brutality. Desperate for a place to belong, he sets out with Christian to find his mother’s family. Christian helps, wanting Dani to be happy, though the cost might be losing his sweet lover forever.
Dani approached the run-down house, relieved to find the cellar windows dark, even though it was still relatively early. He retrieved the burlap sack he’d hidden in the bushes and eased open the door to their apartment, listening carefully in the stillness. Maybe Carl—he would never again call him Father—had already passed out. Hell, he was afraid to hope that.
The door creaked as he closed it, and the anxiety that accompanied his days spiked. “Hello?” he called. Carl expected a greeting before Dani could escape to his bed in the back. No answer. He tiptoed across the stark room, the few pieces of furniture black silhouettes. The cold air smelled of onions from Carl’s dinner, and candlewax. Maybe Carl had gotten some work done.
Dani snorted. Fat chance. The candles he peddled had been made by him and his mother. Carl spent his days at the local pub. His nights—a shiver ran through Dani. Mother had died of cancer the year before, God rest her soul, and Dani wished with all his heart he could have gone with her. Carl, his goddamn father, hadn’t been right in his mind since. He’d always been a brute to them, but now…
He set the bag of candles on the scarred kitchen table and drew a few crumpled bills from an inside pocket of his coat. He made sure Carl got the money he expected from the sale of the candles, Dani only keeping what he needed for dinner. If one could call coffee and a half sandwich dinner. Just think of the meat pies the rest of the money could buy! But the sandwich shop was a place out of the cold. And Christian worked there, the beautiful man who always had a kind word for him. He thought he’d met an angel that first night he’d gathered his courage and entered the shop, drawn by the warm glow of the fire.
Hot blood rose in his neck, burned his cheeks. If he had sold even one more candle today, he could have gotten his own food and not suffered Christian’s charity. That had been humiliating. Christian had spoken of payment, but how stupid of Dani to think the man wanted him, too thin and bony, his clothing so threadbare he washed them by hand rather than risk having them fall apart in the washing machine they shared with the rest of the tenants.
He couldn’t go back there. Not after this. Heart sore, shaking in the cold room, he hurried to the far end of the cellar apartment. He took a second to glance into his father’s room as he passed. The bed was rumpled but empty, minus the quilt, and a sick dread knotted his stomach. He didn’t have a room of his own, just an old mattress and a blanket behind a stack of crates at the back wall.
His limbs were heavy as he approached his bed. Sure enough, a dark form lay tangled in the covers. Carl claimed to sleep with him for warmth, but lately there had been straying fingers and a hot breath on his neck. A hard shudder left Dani weak. He needed to get out of that house.
Defeated, his shoulders slumped. Where would he go? Who’d hire the boy who had sold candles on the street corner with his mother for years, and now stood out there alone, pale and hungry, shivering in his thin jacket?
A loud snort broke the silence, making him jump. Balling a hand into a fist, Dani went back to Carl’s room. Stepping inside, he listened intently, reassured by the muffled snores floating to him. He nudged the door closed and crossed to the large dresser beside the bed, the one piece of nice furniture in the apartment. It had been his mother’s, the only thing she had brought to the marriage from her old life, with roses carved into the oak around the mirror and on each drawer.
She never talked about that time, though the bits of lace and a pair of fine gloves spoke of wealth and happier days, before she had married the local candlemaker. Dani didn’t know why she’d done it, but she had been young and pretty and romantic, probably swept off her feet. Carl had been handsome, once. Their single wedding picture proved that. Before he began to drink.
After lighting the candle on the dresser top, Dani pulled open the heavy first drawer, careful not to let it squeak. Carl used the other drawers, but this one had been his mother’s, her clothing in neat piles, smelling of the lavender sachets she favored. Dani smiled despite his tears at the scent. He’d loved his sweet mother so much.
A small box in the corner held some trinkets and cheap jewelry. Dani picked out the hair comb she always wore, covered in bright plastic beads and ribbons. Pushing his hair back on the left, he slipped the comb in place, letting the ribbon curl against his cheek. He did resemble her a little, the glittering bauble softening his features. The candlelight made his eyes seem wider, softer. He bit his lips to redden them.
“Would you like me like this?” he asked his reflection, thinking of Christian, imagining his delighted gaze on him. Pain stabbed his heart. Mother had understood his moods, knowing somehow when he needed gentleness, chatting merrily while she brushed out his hair. Let him play with her jewelry.
Wistfulness touched the expression in the mirror. “But who could love a beast?” He paraphrased a line from the fairy tale Mother used to read to him. He’d loved that story, imagining the man who would one day see his beauty. But he was too thin. Too queer. Even if Christian liked men, Dani wasn’t one half the time. Besides, Christian had already rejected him. He didn’t think he would risk that again.