Picture a masquerade ball: the masks, the mystery, the seduction, the reveal! Now imagine men who wear another mask every day, as shifters. This anthology offers seven stories about what lies beneath disguises, literal and figurative.
BA Tortuga marries the heat and splendor of New Orleans with a werewolf when Landry comes to town in Different Masks. In Missouri Dalton's Foxtrot, Remy starts this year's Masquerade miserable, but with help from an old flame, things start looking up. Believe Me, Beloved by Charlie Cochet gives us Robert Bradley, who dreams of singing on the radio, and when attends the masked ball of handsome station owner Gabriel Chase, Robert has no clue his dream is about to take an unexpected turn.
In As You Wish by Rob Rosen, James must tie his employer, Charles, up to a metal cot, naked, in the basement and return the next morning to untie him, no questions asked, but he gets more than he bargained for. It's time for the annual Crane Masquerade Ball in Katherine Halle's Alpha Prime, hosted by Stephen Crane, the new Alpha Prime, who's hunting a mate. Everyone is expected to attend, including Christian, a vet student who detests Stephen with a passion...
Elizabeth Brooks bring us What You Are, where Cory relaxes his vigilance at a masquerade ball after two years agonizing that someone will unearth his two secrets. A single whisper leaves him wondering if he'll ever find someone who can accept him for what he is. Finally, in Annual Full Moon Werewolf Ball by Sean Michael, a chance encounter a year ago changed Gramm's life. When he runs into Damien, he finally gets his chance to confront his demons, but things are not what they seem.
Humorous, hot, suspenseful, and seductive: we hope you enjoy unveiling the men of Masks Off!
From Different Masks by BA Tortuga
The air felt like he needed a machete to cut it. God, Lyons hated New Orleans in August. It sucked a man's soul right out of him.
Of course, he never went into the city unless he was on a retrieval, so maybe that was why he didn't like it. Most of the time it was depressing to track down a young loup-garou and haul them back to the pack. They always had such joy in testing their freedom and fought him so hard when the Alpha sent him to bring them home.
In this case, Lyons wasn't sad at all. He was fucking mad, and he was going to hunt Kipp's ass down and bring that fucker home.
Four months. Four months the little fuck had been gone. Just bugging out without a fucking goodbye or fuck you, or damn, that had been a wild night.
No, the man had just freaked out and left. Like they hadn't been best friends for damned near twenty years. Lyons growled, which made the street busker who'd been slipping up on him back off.
He caught a familiar scent, masked with grease and booze and... sugar?
He spun around, eyes moving over all the tables in Jackson Square -- tarot readers and psychics and... There was an artist there at the corner, huge canvases of the full moon like a beacon.
Moving against the wind so it wouldn't carry his scent, Lyons moved around, trying to get a good look at the man, not the paintings.
Dressed in black with his hair slicked back and dyed dark, a sparkly glitter moon on one cheek, Lyon would never have recognized Kipp. The man was lean now, blue eyes sparkling in the streetlights.
He looked like he was incredibly happy.
It made Lyons want to kill him. Or at least beat him.
From Foxtrot By Missouri Dalton
Cacophonous music beat counterpoint to the throbbing of my head. I pressed the sweating glass of scotch on the rocks against my forehead and sighed. Coming here had been a terrible idea from the start. The hard plastic edge of my mask dug into my forehead. I could see a foggy reflection of myself in the mirror over the bar.
The mask covered from my eyebrows down, over my thin, pointed nose and across sharp cheeks to sweep down to my acute jaw line leaving a rounded opening where my mouth was free. Amber eyes -- fox eyes -- stared out of the steel-toned mask. The chick at the shop where I'd bought said it was a reproduction of some Carnivale mask from Venice. I just thought it was cool -- and had the benefit of covering nearly my whole face. My hair stuck up all over my head normally, ginger spikes that made me look like a damn porcupine. I'd slicked it down tonight in an attempt to look more put together.
I'd even worn something outside of my usual job attire, jeans and a blazer, and opted for a white linen suit. Very old South meets Jersey mafia. I stood out like a fucking apple in a bowl of oranges. But I was unrecognizable, and that was what mattered.
Joker, the bartender, a monstrously huge fellow with dreadlocks and the sort of face only a mother could love, leaned over the bar and stared at me. "You look like hell, Fawkes."
"Fuck you." I downed my scotch; the cold of the ice made my teeth ache. "Why am I here?"
"You agreed to come." Joker was the only person in the club not wearing a mask. It was Hide's annual Halloween Masquerade. I wasn't personally into the leather scene, but Joker had asked me to come, so I came. I owed him a few favors.
"I did. When's my next set?" I was entertainment for the crowd. I'd run one set earlier in the evening already. My saxophone case was on the counter next to me. I ran a hand over the leather, trying to find comfort in the familiar. I hadn't been avoiding the club just because I wasn't into the scene; I'd been avoiding it because he was here. All the time. So immersed in this world he'd had no time for mine.
Ending things over the phone hadn't been the grown up thing to do, but I hadn't wanted to meet him in person. My desire to tear his throat out was too high after he cheated on me. I'd been around too long to waste time on cheating bastards.
To be fair, it wasn't all his fault that things between us hadn't worked out. I was to blame for some of it. He wasn't prepared to follow me down the fox-hole into my fucked up world. He wasn't ready to see the world that lies right next to his.
I could sense them, the predators that were more than human, roving through the club. Vampires that took the very scent of the air away with them, versi with the scent of forest and blood clinging to them, elfkin like Joker that smelled of magic and rainwater, and the odd adept -- human but stinking of power.
Joker knew what I was, protected my secret from the others. I wasn't the last of my kind, but it had been decades since I had met another of us -- and there were too many who would kill first and ask questions later. No one trusted vulpes.