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Life Itself

Less Than Three Press LLC

Heat Rating: SWEET
Word Count: 23,000
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Tavali is a mage, a master thief, and his antics have just accidentally released one hundred demons across the dimensional plane. Now Tavali must recapture the errant demons, accompanied by a sentient sword determined to make him see the task through.

But fixing a mistake is always far more difficult than making it, and even love, magic, and a bossy sword may not be enough to save the day...

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The thing Tavali hated the most about this world was the mosquitoes.

They buzzed incessantly, gathering in swarms behind the flimsy mosquito netting that had been strung up over his bed. While he was awake, he could keep them away from him with a small expenditure of power, but he had a feeling they were just waiting, biding their time until he finally went to sleep.

Monstrous little things.

He turned the page of the book he was reading, sitting cross-legged in bed. The candlelight beside him cast an uneven light on the pages. He could have made the room light up with a glow as bright as the sun, but he had been politely informed that such displays would be unwelcome here. And Tav had no desire to offend his hosts.

The argument downstairs was only just beginning to die down.

He could hear it from the loft they had placed him in, the muffled sound of raised voices—one masculine, one feminine. Although Tav wasn’t particularly listening to the words, he could imagine the speakers now. One of them was the spear-woman with the dark, curly hair who had accosted him on the beach; the other, the man who had come to his defense.

He listened as the argument played through its final phases. The woman let out one last parting shot—she had looked like the kind of person who couldn’t resist a parting shot—then stormed off. He heard the sound of fabric snapping violently and could picture her knocking aside the woven hangings that served for doors here. There was silence from downstairs and then, slowly, footsteps.

A head appeared at the entrance to Tav’s loft, its owner no doubt balanced on the slender ladder that led upward. It was the warrior from earlier, the quiet man with the dark, serious eyes. The one Tav couldn’t help but find intriguing.

What was his name again? Ah yes, he remembered.


Suran was used to waking up in a different place from where he’d fallen asleep. It was one of the quirks that came with having Tavali as a partner. So when he opened his eyes and saw not the quiet, rustic cabin by the sea he had lain down in, but the green leaves of a forest canopy, his reaction was not panic, but deep, deep resignation. He sighed, pushing himself up into a seat position and running a hand through his hair.

A glance beside him told him Tav was still sleeping, which was no surprise. Tav’s skin was deathly pale, and there were bluish circles under his eyes that revealed his exhaustion. Their last foray through a seaside town rife with political conflict had ended two days ago, and Tav was only now catching up on lost sleep. That apparently didn’t matter when a divine mandate was in play.

Suran glared at the sword that stood point-down in the ground beside them, embedded in the earth.

“You couldn’t have let him rest a little longer?” he asked under his breath.

The sword, a slender rapier with an intricate guard, didn’t respond, but Suran could feel it watching him. The sword wouldn’t speak to him unless it had to—hadn’t spoken to him since the first day he had started accompanying Tav on these ventures—so Suran was used to its silence by now. When their seaside cabin failed to materialize, he sighed, pushing himself to his feet. He picked up his staff, which had appeared beside him along with the rest of their gear, and tested its weight in his hand, going through sets of practice movements before setting it down and stringing his bow.

Sometimes, the worlds they arrived in felt strange, different from what Suran was used to. Sometimes, his body felt unnaturally heavy or light, sometimes his movements felt slower than normal. He’d learned early on that it was good to practice with his weapons whenever they had a moment to rest, because there was no way of telling how a new world would affect his ability to fight.

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