Release Blitz, Exclusive Excerpt & Giveaway:
How to Love Thine Enemy
By Eli Easton
Can a forbidden love heal the rift between two enemy tribes?
Legend says that, centuries ago, the sled dogs and the Inuit were so deeply bonded that the dogs rose up on two legs and became men. The Qimmig and the People lived together happily until one of the Inuit betrayed the dog-men. The Qimmig fled, vowing never to return.
Taq figured that was just another story elders told around the campfire. But when he witnesses two guys survive a polar bear attack by shifting into dogs, he has to rethink everything. Could the Qimmig really exist? And could they have anything to do with the special, golden-eyed boy he’d played with as a child?
Cupun has missed his old friend, Taq. But it is forbidden for the Qimmig to have anything to do with one-skinned Inupiat. When a series of events brings Taq back into his life, the feelings of protectiveness and joy awakened in his dog’s heart tell him that Taq is his soul’s mate.
But neither the Qimmig nor the Inuit are prepared to accept this bond. Are the boys fated for tragedy? Or will their love find a way?
How to Love Thine Enemy is a star-crossed lovers/Romeo and Juliet trope set in Alaska. Friends-to-lovers, doggie shifters, and destined romance with a little wilderness adventure.
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Zeus passed around bottles of beer from a backpack as they sat around the fire. When he tried to hand one to Taq, Taq said, “That’s okay. You didn’t expect me.”
“I brought plenty. Take one,” Zeus insisted. So Taq did because, damn, it sounded good.
Cupun, Timo, and Zeus were in high spirits, as if they’d gotten a shot of some happy drug—smiling, relaxed, eyes shining. They practically glowed. It must be exhilarating to run as a dog, Taq figured. He was happy for them. Too bad it wasn’t as easy to get a boost of serotonin as a mere human.
Timo teased Zeus about something they’d seen on the run. A rabbit. The teasing turned to play-wrestling, which ended up with Timo sitting on Zeus’s lap and kissing him soundly.
Taq’s eyes went wide. Oh. Oh, shit.
Timo and Zeus are mates.
Well, doy. Cupun had told him, but Taq hadn’t understood. Mates. As in mated. His mouth went dry, his brain scrambled like eggs in a pan, and he looked at Cupun, eyes wide. Cupun had been staring at him, but when Taq looked, his gaze darted to the sky, then the ground, then settled on his fists, which were clenched on his thighs, his mouth pressed in a tight line.
We’re mates, aren’t we? Taq had stupidly said. Friends.
Oh. Yes. Friends. Cupun had looked so happy when Taq said they were mates and then—crushed. Taq hadn’t understood. He’d thought it was because Cupun knew they couldn’t be friends for long, that Taq would have to leave. But what if that hadn’t been it?
We’re mates, aren’t we?
Oh God. Heat stung Taq’s eyes, and a universe of possibilities opened beneath his feet. Maybe it was the beer. Or maybe it was the lingering sense of magic in the air, that men could become dogs and howl at the moon. If that was possible, anything was. Taq dared to believe.
He reached out and put his hand over one of Cupun’s fists, the heat of it like a glowing coal. They’d held hands in the sick room for days, but that was a kind of security blanket. This was different, and Cupun felt it. He looked up in surprise and Taq stared back at him steadily.
He let Cupun see what he wanted, unguarded his heart. Cupun’s hand felt electric under his.
Cupun’s eyes widened and burned gold. His throat bobbed as he swallowed hard. He leaned closer…
“Drink your beer!” Timo said. “Zeus brought lots!”
Cupun pulled back and laughed nervously. He took a long sip of his beer and so did Taq. A shy smile tugged at Cupun’s lips. Even in the moonlight, his face looked flushed.
“So your head is better?” Zeus asked Taq, forcing Taq’s gaze away. But his hand was still on Cupun’s, and when Cupun laced their fingers together, it felt like a promise.
Taq’s voice came out raspy. “It’s a lot better.”
“Zeus checked you over when you fell,” Timo said bluntly. “He knows all about those things. You could have died, if not for Zeus.”
“Well, no, honey. I really didn’t do much. Cupun got to you first,” Zeus said humbly. “But I’m glad you’re doing better, Taq. Frannie is a good nurse. We’re lucky she decided to spend some time in Alaska with us.”
It sounded so normal and real-worldish that it snagged Taq’s attention. He studied Zeus. “Cupun says there are quite a few of you here. From… Mad Creek, is it?”
Zeus nodded. “I was born and raised there.”
“My sister, Hitty, lives there. And lots of friends,” added Timo chattily. “But Alaska is better.”
“It’s beautiful here,” Zeus agreed. “Peaceful.”
It was definitely that. Taq thought Yakatuk was remote, but man, these mountains were the end of the world. He supposed it was a perfect spot for shifters who didn’t want to be found. But then, Zeus seemed so much like a regular qallunaat when he was in his human form. So did Frannie. Taq wondered if they were really happy here without TV or electricity or anything. But it wasn’t any of his business.
Was it because Zeus was from California that it was cool that he was mated with another guy? Or did they even worry about things like that? It was a pack of dog shifters, for heaven’s sake. They weren’t gonna have the same rules and prohibitions Taq’s people had. Like, fuck all the rules, right? They were free.
“So it’s cool for you two to be mated?” Taq blurted out, then felt stupid. “I mean… er… never mind.”
Cupun gripped Taq’s hand harder, and Zeus and Timo looked at each other. The softness on their faces was almost embarrassing.
Zeus smiled. “You mean because we’re both males, right? It’s not a big deal in Mad Creek. Most Quickened feel as I do, that a mating bond happens at the level of the soul. The exterior of a person is not the important thing.”
“Yes, but Mad Creek is lucky,” Timo argued. “They have so many in their pack, they don’t even have room for them all. They don’t care if matings produce pups or not. It’s not the same for the Qimmiq.” He gave Cupun a stern look, but Cupun only pulled Taq’s hand deeper into his lap.
“You married your soul’s mate. And so will I,” Cupun said matter-of-factly.
Timo frowned and looked between Taq and Cupun. He seemed to debate with himself what to say and finally settled on, “We’ll see what Yuki has to say about that.”
“What about Quickened and human?” Cupun asked Zeus, ignoring Timo. “I thought Timo said there are mates like that in Mad Creek.”
Zeus nodded. “Sure are. Some of my friends, in fact. Our sheriff, Lance Beaufort, was my best friend when I was a pup. His mate is a human named Tim. They have an adopted daughter. The head of Search & Rescue, Matt, is human, and his mate is a Quickened named Roman. Our doctor, Dr. McGurver, is human, and he’s married to a female Quickened, and they have five children. And then there’s Rav, who runs the distribution center where a lot of the Quickened work. He’s human and married to Sammy, who was born an ordinary Labrador retriever until he got the spark. So I guess you could say we have all kinds. Like I said, what matters is the soul bond.”
It was good news. Maybe the best Taq had ever heard. And the easy warm tone of Zeus’s voice was as powerful as his words.
It was possible. Hell, it even sounded normal where Zeus came from.
Taq turned his head to find Cupun already looking at him. They stared at each other. In the firelight, Cupun’s gold eyes danced with flame, so reflective, it was hard to see into their depths the way Taq wanted to. But it didn’t matter. Cupun’s hand was hot and firm in his, holding so tightly. Taq felt his spirit and Cupun’s swirl around their bodies, weaving together, electric with possibility, vibrating with knowing, heavy with syrupy desire.
In that moment, Taq gave his heart over completely and he felt Cupun do the same. Taq was so full of emotions—wonder, gratitude, desire, joy—he thought he might explode.
In the distance, Timo was going on about something, his tone scolding. But it didn’t matter. Not at all.
Enter the Giveaway:
To celebrate the release of The Best Gift, Eli’s giving you a chance to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card & an e-set of the whole Howl at the Moon Series so far!
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About the Author:
Coming from a background in computer game design, Eli has written over 50 books in m/m romance since 2013. The Mating of Michael (2014) and A Second Harvest (2016) both won The William Neale Award for Best Gay Contemporary Romance, and Eli’s books have won many awards from the Goodreads M/M Romance Group’s Reader’s Choice Awards. She is best known for her Christmas romances, the Howl at the Moon series of rom coms featuring dog shifters, and the Nerds Vs Jocks series, co-written with Tara Lain.
Connect with Eli:
Facebook: Eli Easton
Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/164054884188096