It was a much smaller crowd gathered on the beach behind Ethan’s house than there had been for the Prince’s requiem, consisting only of the Fairy Princess and people Orion had given animal names, people with whom he felt comfortable – Otter and his own Eagle Prince, the Dragon with his Butterfly, Wolf with his mate, Mistress Lioness and her pride, Panther with his Minnow and his Blue Jay, and Brown Bear and Black Bear, both with their beautiful mates as well. He knew all their names now, of course, knew the Brown Bear was Ethan and the Black was Victor, but he still saw them both ways.
Coyote arrived last with a long box from his flower shop. “I hope it’s what you wanted, big guy,” he said as he handed the box to Orion. “You weren’t real specific.”
Orion opened the lid to a profusion of white lilies and oleander. “Yes. Thank you. It’s perfect.”
He put the box down to open the crate beside him and lifted out the dragon-prow longboat he had made. Larger than his first, this one was nearly five feet long, with a red and white sail and brightly painted wooden shields lining the sides. It was heavy but he shook his head at the offers of help as he carried it to the water’s edge.
Coyote helped him arrange the flowers on the ship’s deck along with a picture of Jake and a lock of his hair. Orion’s parents had managed to salvage some things from the apartment when he disappeared, things they thought he might want again someday, mementos and letters, bits and pieces of a shared life.
When he stood, it was to strip down to his boxer briefs, and then he faced the people gathered on the sand. He stood with his feet slightly apart and his arms crossed over his chest, perhaps not the most open posture but what he had to say wouldn’t be easy.
“Jacob Sterling Moyers was the love of my life,” he began, the words coming smoothly since he had recited them in his head repeatedly over the past week. “And I killed him. I knew his weaknesses and his fears and I ignored them to further my own ambitions, to feed an ever-hungry pride.
“Jake was not a particularly brave man, nor was he very strong. He needed someone to make decisions for him and he loved strong, decisive men, even though they tended to take advantage of him, to break his heart again and again. Through it all, though, he was never bitter. He loved the world and all its wonders, found humor in most things and remained always optimistic.”
He went on to describe how they had met, how Jake’s brilliant mathematical insights had furthered his research until it only made sense for them to work together, how they had begun to see each other and finally married. Through it all he looked from one face to another, as if hoping somehow by the earnestness of his gaze to convey the true sense of who this man had been so that someone besides himself would know, would remember.
The words stuck in his throat when he reached the part about working on the Cerberus Project and what had happened there, but he held up his hand to stop Keit’s progress across the sand when he tried to come to him. He could accept no comfort now or he would break down and never finish.
“In the end, Jake couldn’t face conflict, couldn’t take a stand when he knew something was wrong, and so he died because I failed to protect him when he needed me most. This compassionate, loving, brilliant man has gone on before me and I am left to remember. And since I was not there to send him on his way, I send what I have of him into the West, as my ancestors did before me, in the hope that if he lingers still, we may help speed his journey.”
With that, he lifted the now-laden boat in his arms and waded out past the breakers. He stopped and held up a hand, a pre-arranged signal, and Sasha tossed him a lighter. The deck of the boat, lined with straw, caught first, and soon the little vessel shone brightly against the gathering dusk. The scent of pitch mingled with the scent of burning flowers, an odd and not unpleasant combination. Orion took the dragon’s tail and pushed the little boat out to sea, standing in chest deep water until the flames faded to the brightness of a single candle.
“Goodbye, Jake, love,” he murmured. “I’ll miss you. Until I find you again.”
Walking backwards so he could keep the boat in sight, he returned to the beach where he collapsed to his knees with his head buried in his hands.
Keit broke away first, unable to hold back any longer from those heartbreaking sobs. He knelt next to Orion in the sand and wrapped his arms around his shoulders, giving what comfort he could.
Lilly watched with a hint of shimmer in her blue eyes. She was a little concerned with how much emphasis Orion had placed on taking the blame for Jake’s death, but she still felt this was a step in the right direction. He was no longer numb. The scar had been ripped off so the poison underneath could be let out. It left a new wound, but this one would heal cleanly, with time.
Even without the leather glove, Orion would have known the weight and shape of the hand that fell on his shoulder. He wrapped an arm around the Otter to pull him in to his chest and curled the other arm around his Prince’s waist so he could bury his face against his hard-packed stomach. Not alone, those two warm bodies said, you need never face these things alone.
The gathering stood in reverential silence until the flames faded from sight along with the last edge of sun as it sank into the waves. Victor shook himself and moved to crouch in front of Orion.
“Come on up,” he said, a gentle hand on Orion‘s arm. “I’ll help you. Let’s get you inside and dried off before you catch a chill.”
Keit let go reluctantly as Orion rose, shaking from head to foot. It was only sense, though, since Victor was the only person on the beach who could really support the big man if he faltered.
The rest of the company began to move behind them, with Der sweeping Vincent up into his arms so he wouldn’t have to struggle on the sand. Anthony, still on crutches with his leg still in its brace, only got two steps before Jerrett took the crutches, handed them to Sasha and lifted Anthony to cradle him gently against his chest. More than one eyebrow rose at this display of tender concern but if Jerrett noticed, he pointedly ignored it all.
Ethan was probably the most surprised, although he said nothing. He didn’t think he would ever really ‘like’ Jerrett, but the tension between them had lessened since the day they had beat the crap out of each other.
He strode ahead and had a blanket ready by the time Victor brought Orion up on the back deck. Molly wove her way between the many unfamiliar legs, wagging her tail so hard she was in danger of falling over trying to garner attention. She came up and sniffed at Orion as Vic settled him into a chair. Apparently deciding she’d found who she was looking for, she sat and put her head in Orion’s lap with a soft chuff.
“Hello, little one,” he whispered and placed a huge hand on her head. It was soothing, scratching furry ears, and his breathing soon quieted to the occasional hitch. Heavy exhaustion wrapped around him. He knew he should get dressed but couldn’t get his body to move.
Ethan wrapped the blanket around Orion’s shoulders and went to start a fire in the outdoor fireplace on the corner of the deck. The beach house was pretty small, but with the sliding doors open, the living room and the deck held everyone. They did however have a guest room ready and the couch pulled out. Ethan had already offered to let Elric, Orion, and Keit all stay if they wanted.
“Ve may need to take you up on your offer,” Elric said, suddenly at Ethan’s elbow. He stripped off his gloves and broad-brimmed hat now that the sun had set, and nodded to Orion slumped in the patio chair. “He is…difficult to move far vhen he feels poorly.”
Ethan nodded. “I imagine so. The guest room is set for you, if you need anything else, just ask,” he said, and looking over at Orion, added softly, “Molly is good company for him, I think. She’s a therapy dog, she’ll happily sit there for hours.”
“Good, good…thenk you,” Elric patted his shoulder in a distracted way and then wandered back to Orion. He took the big man’s face between his hands and kissed his forehead. “It vas beautifully done, liebchen. I’m sure he vould hef thought so, too.”
Orion heaved a soft sigh and closed his eyes. “I’m so tired, mein herr. As if I’d swum for miles.”
“To be expected. In a vay, you hef traveled very far this evening. Rest, liebchen. You need do no more today.”
Orion nodded and pulled the blanket closer around him. One by one, the little ones – Sasha, Drew, Quinn, Jonathan, Cody, and finally Keit, all came to tell him how beautiful the ceremony had been. Though his heart ached for his love, Elric still found a moment’s spare amusement at how they all wanted to coddle and mother the giant who would have frightened them not so long ago.
In the living room, Anthony protested being fussed over as well when Jerrett put him on the couch and wrapped him in another blanket. “Really, sir, I’m fine. It was just a little chill, standing by the water, breeze coming in. I’m good, really, truly, see? Breathing fine and everything…”
“If you get sick, Sasha will want to take care of you and I will have to share him even more than I do now. So be quiet and get warm.”
Brandon watched the exchange from where he stood on the far side of the room. He didn’t say anything, but he thought Jerrett was just that sort of high-handed asshole he couldn’t tolerate for long. He hoped either he would go soon or Der would want to.
“Yessir,” Anthony said with a soft smile. He knew enough to read between the lines by now. ‘Shut up and do as I say’ from Jerrett was as close to ‘I love you and I worry about you’ as he would get in front of others. Funny how such an imperious order could give him the warm fuzzies.
Then Sasha was there, bending over him to give him a tender kiss, and the fuzzies turned to butterflies with flame-tipped wings. “You OK, hon? Should we get you home? You‘re so pale.”
Home. Of course Sasha meant Jerrett’s house, not Anthony’s empty, lonely apartment. He had to swallow a sudden lump in his throat before he could answer. “It’s not like I’m ever much darker. I’m good, sweetie, for as long as his lordship wants to stay.”
Jerrett didn’t acknowledge the comment, although privately he thought they wouldn’t stay long. Just enough for Anthony to warm up some. The evening had turned surprisingly cool and it was damp this close to the water. Leaving his boys (funny how as soon as he realized he loved Anthony he starting thinking of him as ‘his’, well, no he supposed it wasn’t that surprising really) he walked down the hall toward the bathroom only to find it occupied. The door opened though before he’d turned away and Der stepped out.
Jerrett gave him a charming smile, and glanced over his shoulder at the empty hallway. “If you step back inside quick I’m sure no one will see us,” he suggested with a grin.
Der cocked an eyebrow at him. Once he would have jumped at the chance. Now he wasn’t as sure. Jerrett confused the hell out of him. The image of him beating Anthony with vicious zeal still haunted him but now it was overlaid with acts of tender concern.
“Perhaps another time, Monsieur Hawthorn,” he said with a little bow. “Funerals aren’t the best thing for my libido, I’m afraid.”
Jerrett chuckled softly and brushed past him. “Perhaps another time,” he said before closing the door.
Shaking his head, Der returned to the living room, unaware that his forehead was still creased in confusion.
Brandon was not the jealous type. Really, he wasn’t. He wasn’t one of those guys that got all bent out of shape if someone flirted with his guy, or danced with him at the club. Hell, he’d even learned he could share his bed, for Der. But that look on Der’s face, after seeing Hawthorn walk down the hall just a few moments before… he had to restrain a wild urge to rush down there and plant his fist in that smug bastard’s face, and he probably hadn’t done anything. He controlled both the urge and his own expression with effort.
“I think–” Der stopped himself and shook his head again. “Bran, I think I need you to hold me a minute.”
Unfortunately, Der was not a mind reader, or he would have known that was just about the worst thing he could have said at that particular moment. The prickle of protectiveness Brandon had felt went instantly into super overdrive, and the likelihood of doing something decidedly violent to Jerrett Hawthorn went from a mild urge to a definite probability.
He came to Der’s side first though, and drew him into his embrace, steering him into the kitchen. He stroked a soothing hand over his back. “What happened? Did that asshole say something to you?” His voice was low, but there was a fierceness there that the easy going Brandon rarely showed.
Der cleared his throat before he could muster an answer, caught off guard by this side of his gentle Brandon. “Ah, well…it sort of sounded like a proposition for a quickie in the bathroom. But I think he was kidding. Probably. Gods…” He scrubbed his hands over his face. “It’s just so hard to tell with that man.”
Brandon again had to put forth a monumental effort not to follow his impulse to go charging off to tear Hawthorn’s head off. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He hadn’t said anything cruel to Der then, just slimy. Still, he didn’t know if he could contain himself much longer if he had to suffer the man’s presence. This was out of character for him and he knew it, but there was just something about the man he did not like at all. “Der, would you mind if we left soon?”
“Um…hmm…I hate to leave Ethan with a houseful of people,” Der began but something felt decidedly off here, the sudden crackle of potential mayhem, so he changed direction. “But I am a little tired today. Maybe a little under the weather.”
Now it was Brandon’s turn to look a little sheepish. “That’s total bullshit, but thank you, love,” he said, and kissed Der lightly, pulling him in close again.
Der wrapped his long arms tight around him and pulled in one slow breath, then another, then buried his face against Brandon’s throat so he could surround himself with his scent. He immediately felt steadier, cleaner, less jumbled. “All right, let’s get you out of here before something bad happens.”
Der and Brandon were the first to say their goodbyes, but others soon followed. Katya and her boys gave Orion their soothing words and took their leave shortly after Der, and Victor and Cody were next to follow. With the crowd thinning and Anthony no longer shivering, Jerrett took his boys home. Vincent, Jonathan, and Drew stayed a while longer and then it was time for them to go as well.
Lilly stayed until last. She settled next to Orion after the others had gone and took his large hand in her own. “You did very well today, Orion,” she said softly. The deepening indigo of night was falling around them, and the sky was clear and bright with stars. The steady sound of the waves coming in down on the beach was soothing and peaceful. “You have done all you can to send Jake on his journey, my dear. Now it’s time for you to rejoin the land of the living in truth, the shadow world is no place for you.”
“And how does one do that, princess?” he asked softly as he gazed out over the ocean. Keit had helped him dress again but he still felt cold and achingly tired. “I’ve lived in the shadows for so long. I can’t go back to what I did before. My brain can’t hold onto the same things anymore.”
Lilly smiled warmly at him. “No, you can’t go back, none of us can. But, perhaps you can find reasons now to go forward. Let Jake go on his journey, and you find yours.”
He stood, his hand still in hers and recited softly, “‘Only in silence the word, only in dark the light, only in dying life: bright the hawk’s flight on the empty sky.’”
The wind picked up and blew against them, lifting Lilly’s long dark hair all about. She squeezed his hand and they both turned to go inside. She got Orion to the guest room and had him lay down, then kissed his temple. She whispered a few soft words into his ear and he closed his eyes. She brought the blanket up around him and turned to see Elric and Keit both in the doorway. They accompanied her back into the living room.
“What did you say to him?” Keit asked.
Lilly gave him a wink and tweaked his nose, but didn’t answer the question. “He should sleep very soundly until morning. I need to be going.”
Keit kissed the back of her hand, the gesture never felt weird to him when it was Lilly. He bid her goodnight and got out of the way so Elric could do the same.
Elric tucked her hand into the crook of his arm so he could escort her to her car. “Thenk you, Prinzessin, for all you hef done for us.” He felt an odd twinge of sorrow when he turned to face her. “Though I do hope ve hef the privilege of seeing you again.”
They had reached her car and she turned as he opened the door for her. “Oh, I think we shall.” She said. The wind was driving in harder now, blowing a chill air all around them. Still she took a moment, reached her hand up to cup the side of his face, and lifted up on tiptoe to kiss him ever so lightly. “The spirits are restless tonight. Go back inside and be with your loves. Good night, my Prince,” she said, and left him watching after her as she got in and drove away.
He stood a moment longer, staring into the dark, and then an odd feeling of dread drove him inside. Restless, yes. He forced himself not to run to the door, like a child frightened of the basement stairs, though his heart trembled until he had the door shut against the night.
“More things in heaven and earth,” he murmured.
“Sir? Are you alright?” Keit had come at the sound of the door closing, and although he could not say Elric looked any paler than he usually did, he certainly did not look entirely well.
The Prince managed a wan smile. “Yes, herzchen. Now I am.” The bad things are all outside. He snagged Keit by the waist and pulled him close, feeling better by the moment as that lovely, compact body pressed against him. “Much better. Let’s go to bed.”
Keit was taken a bit by surprise at the fierce, passionate kiss Elric gave him, but it only took a moment for him to respond, melting against his body, arm sliding around his lean waist. He supposed it was just relief and release, but it still left his head spinning and a bemused smiled on his face as Elric broke the kiss and took his hand to lead him to the bedroom.
Ethan and Quinn said goodnight on their way past. Ethan swept Quinn up in his arms just because he felt like it, felt like holding him close, and carried him to their own bedroom.
“My love,” Quinn whispered in his ear. “If I promise to be real quiet, will you hold me down and fuck me hard?”
Ethan mock stumbled and fell across the bed with Quinn. “Bring a man to his knees with words like that, sweetheart.” Ethan chuckled low in his throat as his lips closed over Quinn’s.
Barely contained hunger leaped up in Quinn and he answered Ethan’s kiss with ferocious need, his hands whipping through Ethan’s shirt buttons to get at his hard-packed chest.
Ethan’s fingers were less sure in the dark, but just as quick to pull Quinn out of his clothes. He didn’t question the sudden passion that swept through them both, although he thought it might have something to do with the way the wind howled around the eaves. They were both naked and spread across the blanket in no time. Ethan slowed then, despite Quinn’s urgency. He pressed his lean body down, holding his slim wrists in his hand as he kissed him lovingly.
“Want you…so bad,” Quinn whispered between tender kisses. “Want that big, thick pole buried inside me.” He rolled under Ethan as much as he could, loving the hard weight pressing him down. His lips caressed along the strong line of Ethan’s jaw as he spread his thighs and let Ethan settle between.
Quinn was always passionate, always fully into the moment, but tonight there was something more… His kisses and the way he stroked Ethan’s skin sent fires lighting all through him. It had never been harder for Ethan to take his time, make sure Quinn was completely ready for him before he eased his slippery member inside him. Even then, Quinn would not be denied and he thrust his hips up, forcing Ethan deeper, quicker than he would have.
Ethan would never ever be less than careful, but he sensed Quinn was more than ready, and he sank inside him all the way with a hard thrust that made Quinn gasp and brought a moan to his own lips.
“Ethan, babe…I’m burning up,” Quinn gasped out. He lifted his legs to lock them around Ethan’s waist, squirming against the firm grip pinning his arms to the mattress. “Harder… fuck me harder…fuck me like you wanna put me through the mattress…make me come like freaking bottle rockets.”
Somewhere in the back of his mind as he writhed and pleaded, he knew something was weird. He usually encouraged Ethan but he left most of the dirty talk at the door, afraid of conjuring scenes he didn’t want to remember. Tonight, though, tonight a phoenix pyre of desire roared through his whole body and he hardly knew what he said.
Caught in the whirlwind of Quinn’s heat and desire Ethan could only do as he requested. His hands slid down Quinn’s arms and behind him, locking tightly around his body and pulling him close as he buried his face at the side of his throat. He spread his knees farther apart, digging into the mattress as his powerful thighs and hips bucked into Quinn hard and fast, his breath coming quick as he felt Quinn’s fingers dig into the muscles of his back and his teeth fasten onto his shoulder. His head was spinning as he pounded his full length into Quinn’s yielding body. Beads of sweat rolled down his sides, and he was holding on by his fingernails from tipping over the edge. “Uhh, oh, baby…baby please come for me…” he groaned huskily.
Those words husked in his ear were the last tug Quinn needed. The heavy, heated pressure leaped to a point near pain and then hurled him over. “Yes! Oh, fuck, yes!” he cried out, completely forgetting his promise to keep quiet.
He bucked underneath Ethan, feeling as if he were flying into a thousand pieces with each hard, pleasure-soaked pulse.
Keeping quiet was the furthest thing from Ethan’s mind. The way Quinn tightened and squeezed around him sent a jolt of pure pleasure racing through his over heated body. He drove as deep as he could go and held there as the shudders on an intense orgasm pulsed through him, his own cries of delight muffled where he nuzzled at Quinn’s throat. When the last few spasms were spent he couldn’t even move, collapsed in a haze of warm bliss.
Quinn lay dizzy and panting, stroking Ethan’s back to encourage him to stay where he was, the warm bulk comforting atop him.
When he could breathe again, he kissed Ethan softly. “Love…would you do that for me?”
“If I died? Give me, you know, that kind of a sendoff? I don’t think I wanna be buried.”
Ethan’s breath caught. “Quinn… don’t say that. Please. I’ll do whatever you like, but don’t talk about it right now.”
Quinn frowned, though Ethan couldn’t see it in the dark. “Sorry, babe. I’m sorry.” He held him tight since he seemed to need it. “Not like I’m planning on it anytime soon. But we might, you know, be together a long time and stuff.”
Quinn kissed him over and over, trying to erase Ethan’s momentary anguish, and realized Ethan had almost said ‘forever’. The thought made him smile.
In the guest room, Elric raised his head, still panting from where he and Keit had made wild, madly passionate love on the floor. Most of his hair had come loose from its braid, trailing down to frame Keit’s lovely face.
“I hope he still sleeps,” he whispered, with a nod to the bed.
Keit tried to catch his own galloping breath. He swallowed hard and listened for a moment. Nothing but deep even breathing came from the bed above. He didn’t know how they hadn’t woken Orion, but whatever Lilly had done had really put him out. He slept as sound as a stone and peaceful as a lamb.
He smiled up at Elric, bringing his hands up to cup his handsome face tenderly. “I think he’s sleeping well,” he whispered back.
Elric eased carefully out of Keit’s body, much more slowly than he had entered him, and lifted him from the carpet. He laid him on the bed on Orion’s right side and then climbed in on his left.
Lilly had said to stay with his loves tonight and while he didn’t know why this was so important, every fiber of his being said it was. Unlike most nights, he nestled close and draped an arm over Orion’s chest before he closed his eyes to sleep.
Posts tagged ‘Katya’
They decided it would be better for Vincent to come to Katya’s rather than take Thor to see him.
“Vince, I know you’re only trying to keep me safe, but Orion’s my friend, too. I want to see him,” Drew said.
“My kestrel, I would prefer you stay here. He’s relived a trauma which destroyed him once, and he’s already lashed out at one person. We don’t know what more discovery will do, if he will slip back into being Orion, or if he will snap entirely.”
“He won’t,” Drew said obstinately. “I want to be there for him.”
Vincent sighed. “I know you do, but I do not know if that would be best for either of you. Drew, you remind him of Jake. Your presence might trigger something in him–”
“Or it might not,” Drew interrupted. He came closer, put his hands on Vince’s shoulders and squeezed gently, looking into those dark, fathomless eyes. “Vince, stop treating me like a child. I’m not made out of glass. You can’t protect me from the world. He’s my friend, and he’s hurt, and I want to be there for him.”
“You’re three weeks out of surgery, my love. If you were to hit your head…” He stopped. “Or step off a curb and get hit by a bus, be struck by lightening, attacked by a rabid raccoon…” He sighed. “Are you sure I can’t simply keep you inside forever? I’ll build you a gilded cage, design you outfits made of Kevlar?”
They both chuckled and Drew cupped his face for a soft kiss, then picked up the case off the floor that contained Vince’s laptop and they went to Katya’s.
Naturally, since Drew was going, Jonathan couldn’t be left behind. His arguments had been far more vehement and dramatic than Drew’s but in the end, he got his way as well. Vincent shook his head, wondering where his permissive mood had sprung from.
The shaking refused to stop. It was like walking backwards through some strange, gray swamp. The present had become as murky as the past had once been. Thor tried to remember the names of the people around him, where he had been the week or the day before, but it kept sliding sideways out of reach.
The Dragon Prince arrived with his Butterfly and his Coyote. He knew them, was glad to see them, but the familiarity had no connections at the moment. Backwards. He needed to start from the point it had all fallen apart and perhaps he could venture forwards again.
His gaze settled on the white dragon. “How much do you know about neutrinos?”
“A bit,” came the velvet-soft reply. “I’ve read as much as I could find on them.”
Thor picked up a pad of paper and pen from the coffee table and began writing in frantic spurts. “Energy…in vast quantities…just beyond reach…as if they populated a parallel universe…”
The Dragon leaned closer, then pulled himself over to sit beside him on the sofa. Poor dragon, with clipped wings, numbers seemed to help him fly. Thor understood that. He went on, even as he reached the point in the equations where there would be no real solution, only the false one they had forced on him.
“Cerberus…they called it Cerberus…”
“The government people, the military people…it was their project.” He stopped writing, that terrible point of fracture reached. “An attempt to create…negative space…to harness neutrinos…for what purpose they never said.”
“Probably not to grow food for fluffy bunnies,” Coyote muttered.
Thor looked at Coyote, trying to understand what he meant. “Most likely not. Destruction not growth.”
“Right. You boys play. I’ll be in the kitchen.” Coyote wandered out shaking his head.
Jonathan found Katya staring at the open fridge. “Wondering how you’ll feed him, Ms. Kat?”
Her snort was amused but the set of her face, the way she held herself, spring-tight, told him she was angry and tried to hide it. He guessed at the reason. It bugged him a little, too, but having sat there and watched the disconnected way Orion…Thor was processing things, he also thought he understood the why.
“You know,” he began cautiously. “I think he’ll have a really bad moment when he realizes what he’s done. Don’t think he even knows yet he hurt the Prince. Don’t think it’s gotten onto his static-y radar yet. Like he’s trying to think his way back again to join the rest of us and hasn’t made it here.”
Katya selected an apple and turned toward him, letting the door swing closed. “Jonathan, do not try to reason me out of a bad mood.” She scolded him, but without any real heat. She set the apple on the cutting board, drew the largest knife from the block, and hacked it in two. She picked up one half and offered it to him, “Apple?”
He was smart enough not to refuse her, whether he wanted it or not. She took a bite of her own half and chewed thoughtfully. Finally she said, “I know he doesn’t realize yet. Which is why I haven’t said anything about it, and won’t.” Yet, her tone implied. She looked down at the piece of fruit, and although the ire was still there on the surface, a glimmer of something profoundly sad flickered across her face for a moment, and vanished. “How horrible to live with a fear so long, and then have it happen exactly as you’d feared it would,” she said, not adding how her own heart ached for Elric and what he must be suffering.
“Yes, ma’am,” Jonathan agreed softly, and then took a little bite of his apple. “You know I adore the Prince. I’d do anything for him. Doesn’t mean I can’t see both sides. Thing is, just because it’s happened and everybody involved is hurting, doesn’t mean it’s over. That man in your living room…”
He pointed with the apple and fought against swallowing hard at the look Katya had fixed on him. “That man isn’t quite Orion anymore. True. But that’s not Thor Heimdahl on your sofa either.”
“What do you mean?” her eyes narrowed.
“I found video of Heimdahl online. Amazing what you can find on You Tube. Anyway, it was this interview for an online science journal. That man in the video acted like he owned the world. The kind of man who’s always right and knows what he wants and everybody else better get the hell out of the way. Reminded me a little of Vic, actually. The man we have here isn’t him. Or he is, but he’s also Orion and he’s also something new, I think. He’ll have to figure out who. Doesn’t mean he’s stopped loving the Prince all of the sudden, though. Everybody’s made that assumption but it’s way too early to call.”
Katya poked him in the ribs. “And you, my sweet, have made the assumption that ‘everybody’s’ assumed. I know he might have even more regrets soon. If I didn’t think that I would have thrown him out already.”
Jonathan gave her a skeptical look that said she would have done no such thing. Katya composed her features into serious lines and refused to look at him until they both chuckled.
Drew sat on the chair beside the couch and listened to Orion and Vince discuss stuff that only vaguely made any sense. He wasn’t really listening to the words being said as much as he was observing the conversation. Orion… Thor. No, Orion. he knew him as Orion, he would think of his as Orion, even if he called him by his other name. Orion gestured animatedly and spoke in a quick concise manner even when he wasn’t entirely straight on his thoughts.
It was a little disturbing. Like a Pod Person had taken him over. The Orion he knew hardly gestured at all, when he did it was very precise movements, as if he must think before every action. For such a large man he was soft spoken, and even if he didn’t always make total sense, he was thoughtful. This Orion ran down verbal avenues like a truck out of control, slammed on the brakes and took off in another direction seemingly at random. Drew had heard him speak more in the last twenty minutes than probably the entire time he’d known him.
The changes were more than just speech and mannerisms. It was something harder to define, more a feeling for a person than an actual thing he could put his finger on. There was a lack of…of deference to him. It wasn’t that he spoke forcefully, it was obvious he knew when he was right, impatient if Vincent didn’t immediately understand what he was saying. He’d glanced at Drew once, without warmth or much recognition. His personality was totally different.
A part of him was happy for Orion. This was after all a breakthrough for him, he would have a past, however painful, and an identity that had been denied to him. Another part of him was completely dismayed. This was not Orion, not the Orion he knew, and if this person stayed he would probably never see the Orion he knew again. He was sitting right in front of him, and yet he might as well have died.
At a pause in the conversation Drew finally spoke. “Is it so important that you figure out exactly what went wrong right now?” he asked quietly. “I mean, you know something did go wrong… maybe you should try and remember what happened right after that.”
Thor shot him a look so full of anguish, Drew regretted the question. “I know what happened after that. He died because of the something that went wrong. My Jake died screaming.”
Vincent put a gentle hand on his arm. “We know. We’re so sorry. For your loss. For his terrible pain. You tried to save him, though. You went into the flames to try to bring him out. What happened then?”
“I think…” Tears crept down Thor’s face again. “No…I remember…getting as far as the hall. The rescue workers came. Too late for him. They…I still…they took him from me…”
They had to wait while he broke down completely again, sobbing uncontrollably with his head on his knees.
Drew moved over to the couch, sat on Orion’s other side, and put his arms around him. Changed or not, he was still a friend, and another human being in pain. He rubbed his back in soothing circles and kissed one broad shaking shoulder. “I’m so sorry…” He murmured.
Thor wiped his eyes on his sleeve, his chest heaving, and stared at the beautiful boy beside him. Butterfly… “Drew?” he whispered. Yes, this was Drew, his dear friend, the first face he could focus on clearly that day. He wrapped his arms around Drew’s waist and buried his face in his lap, somehow able to take the comfort in his arms he hadn’t been able to accept from anyone else.
Vincent kept his anxious thoughts to himself. Orion would have died before he could have hurt Drew. He had to trust Thor was still the same man in that respect. So far he behaved and treated Drew gently and the physical contact calmed him, his desperate anguish reverting back to quiet misery.
“What then, Thor?” Vincent asked quietly. “What happened after?”
“After…there was darkness.” Thor’s deep voice drifted up, muffled by Drew’s lap. “A white room…hospital, probably. People asked things. The meaning kept slipping away. Like trying to talk to someone from the bottom of a swamp. I…left. And went somewhere else.”
“Where did you go?”
Thor’s answer came after a heavy silence. “I’m not sure. A bus? Was there a bus? And how did I get on? A city, at some point. I don’t know where. Alleys and garbage and shivering in the cold. I think…I don’t think I had shoes. Men attacked me. The world flooded with red. Someone saw…watched me fight them off. How many, I don’t know.”
Drew continued to stroke his hands soothingly over Orion’s back. His throat felt tight and he had to swallow hard. As hard as it was for Orion to remember what had happened to Jake, he couldn’t imagine that remembering the next part of his life was going to be any easier for him. Elric only had a tiny bit of it, but it was enough to know that what had been done to him, what he’d been forced to do, was beyond inhuman.
“The rage faded. They came to me when I was exhausted. Promised safety and shelter. I went in the back of a van. A long way…it seemed a long way. When we arrived they chained me to the wall…to protect me, they said.” Thor’s voice was hardly a whisper now, hollow and bereft.
“When I did what they said, they fed me. When I refused, they came with whips and clubs. They trained me to the bell. To fight for them. I…don’t remember much from the ring. The bell. The rage. Someone dragged out after the bell rang again.”
Anyone else would have said ‘you don’t have to tell us all this’. Vincent and Drew knew better. They waited through each pause, offering physical comfort but no interruptions.
He heaved a breath. “I must have won most times. Rewards came. Blankets. A cot. Companions. They brought girls until they saw I had no interest. Then they brought a boy. Very pretty. Terrified. They told him the only reason he wasn’t beaten and thrown into the street was he was there to please me. They stood and watched while he came to me, trembling. Touched me. Took me in his mouth. They left when I came. He cried. I never molested him. Never threatened him. Shared my food with him. Soon he slept in my cot instead of on the floor. It was…better. To have someone there.
“But a night came when I was ill and they still put me in the ring. I lost. They came with whips and took the boy away. He cried then, too. I’m not sure why. But the world darkened again. I looked into the eyes of an opponent one night and saw the fear. I didn’t want to hurt anyone else. The rage still came sometimes but I no longer tried to call it up. I wanted an end.
“Then one evening, I looked out into the spectators and saw an angel had come. A shining white angel dressed in black. I knew he’d come for me. I didn’t even put my hands up when the bell rang. It was time to die, I thought.”
A wistful note crept into his voice. “And the angel had come for me. My angel. He whisked me away…”
Thor stiffened suddenly in Drew’s arms, then pulled away abruptly and surged to his feet. “My angel… ohgod…no….”
Drew stood quickly as well. “Orion… Thor, sorry. Don’t run off again, okay? We’ll take you home, if that’s what you want?”
“Yes…well, the home you’ve known for the last couple years anyway. We’ll take you to the Prince, your angel. If you’re ready to see him now.”
“My love,” Vincent broke in, quiet but insistent. “Stay where you are. Give him a moment.”
Horror and confusion warred on Thor’s face. He took a step towards the door, stopped, and turned back with an anguished sound. Vincent held his breath when those tormented eyes turned to him and Thor rushed at him. Violence was not what he had in mind, though.
He dropped to one knee and seized Vincent’s hand in both of his. “How much did he know? All this time? When…and how?”
Vincent considered the questions carefully. There was no good answer here, only the truth. “The Prince has wrestled with the question of your identity from the moment he found you. He only had the bits and hints you could give him, from unfocused memories and fever dreams. He knew something terrible had happened. Guessed you had been in physics. Had learned your first name might have been Thor a few weeks ago when you mentioned it. But not until two nights ago was he able to place all the pieces together and find a person with a history to fit all these things.”
Thor knelt rigid and trembling for one heart-pounding moment. Then his expression crumpled and he dashed off, not outside but down the hall to the bathroom. The door slammed and miserable retching came from behind it.
Katya and Jonathan stepped into the room and Vincent filled them in on the parts they had missed.
“And the regret comes sooner rather than later.” Katya commented with a glance in Jonathan’s direction. “Maybe that’s a good thing. Should I call Elric, do you think?”
“I’m not certain yet,” Vincent said with a little shake of his head. “I don’t think Elric will be in any condition to leave his bed and I’m unsure whether Thor will be calm enough to transport home.”
“Well, only one way to find out, right?” Jonathan went to the bathroom door and put his ear to it. “Hey, big guy, you OK?”
“Getting a little tired of pounding on bathroom doors,” Jonathan muttered.
He tried the handle, though, and found it unlocked. Thor lay curled on the floor, head buried in his arms, back heaving with his shuddering breaths.
“Beloved…please be careful.”
Jonathan shot Vincent a crooked smile. “Hey, who knows better how to deal with this kind of thing than me?”
He stepped in and wrinkled his nose while he closed the lid and flushed. Poor man obviously hadn’t eaten much over the last few days. Probably wasn’t helping his short-circuiting brain.
“Hey.” He put a gentle hand on Thor’s shoulder. “Look, I know the Porcelain Goddess is good company sometimes but I gotta tell you, she sucks to sleep with.” When he didn’t get a reaction, he reached down and gently moved one of Thor’s arms from his face. Blue eyes stared out onto some distant landscape. “Great. Ms. Kat, I don’t think it’s a good idea to move him anywhere today or try to get him to make any more decisions.”
Katya nodded her head in agreement. “Richard?”
Richard came forward as Jonathan stood and moved out of the way. He knelt beside Thor, taking up where Jonathan had just been, and murmured soothingly to him. With Richard’s help, Thor got up and Richard took him upstairs to the guest room.
“I’d like to stay with him.” Drew said softly to Vince. “He shouldn’t be left alone.”
Vincent nodded. “Of course, my love. He has recognized you and I am convinced now you will be safe.”
With the thick, velvet drapes pulled shut, the single, dim lamp in the corner of the bedroom only emphasized the gloom. Keit didn’t dare risk any more light for fear of bringing on one of the headaches that made the Prince so ill. His poor, battered head hurt enough.
Evening drew near and soon the hated sun would set. In the meantime, Keit sat on the edge of the bed trying to coax his highness into taking some tea and crackers. The tea he sipped, the crackers he waved away before he slipped back into his brooding.
Beyond bringing ice and staying beside him, Keit had no idea what else to do for him. He had fallen into melancholy brooding of his own when Elric’s voice startled him.
“I do not know vhat possessed me thet evening,” he began softly, ice blues eyes staring into memory. “I despise blood sports. But an aquvaintance needed an escort. She said it vould be exciting. Horrifying vas closer to the truth. These fighters vere so brutal, so intent on causing as much pain as possible. Two metches and I vished to go.”
He placed the teacup down on the nightstand. “But then they led out the most magnificent creature I hed ever seen. Led, because he vas in chains vhich they unlocked vhen they put him in the ring. The announcer called him ‘Beast’ and tried to convince the crowd he vas a vicious, vild animal. Our eyes met. I saw the anguished, lost soul there. And I could not leave until I hed been able to extrect him from his jailers. It vas expensive but how does vone put a price on a man’s life?”
“Easily, my Prince.” Keit said with more cynicism than he usually showed. “People have been doing it throughout history and in all cultures. The things humans will do to one another has always… astonished me.”
One white brow crept up, Elric’s only sign of emotion. “Perheps I should hef rephrased. I meant to say thet for me no price vould hef been too dear.” He reached out to take Keit’s hand. “Herzchen…are you all right?”
Keit lifted his eyes. “I was speaking of those men, my Prince. Not you. And no, I’m not exactly alright, but I’ll be okay.” He brought Elric’s hand up to rub his cheek across the back. He blinked back the moisture in his eyes and swallowed the lump in his throat. He would not voice the question, but he couldn’t help thinking, what would happen if Orion didn’t want to come back to them?
Elric turned his hand to cup Keit’s cheek. “Oh, my heart…please don’t cry. Please.”
Keit closed his eyes and pulled in a deep breath. It wasn’t fair of him to cry now, when Elric most needed him. He could wait until later. “Yes, sir,” he said in a husky, but steady voice.
“I did not mean it as a command,” Elric whispered. “I simply feel so…useless. I see you hurt and I cannot think vhat to do. My ections hef caused his anguish and yours. Immer das selber…alvays the same. Those who come close to me come to grief.”
Keit made a sound that was half chuckle and half sob. “My Prince, everyone comes to grief. If anything, you make the grief less.” He turned and slid down next to Elric, careful not to jostle him too much as he put his arms around him. “You don’t know what to do for me, and I don’t know what to do for you… but at least we can muddle through together. Ich liebe dich.”
“So, ja, zusammen.” Elric kissed the top of his head. “I love you, too, my heart.”
Drew settled on the bed beside Thor and pulled the covers up around his shoulders. For a long time he simply sat with him, watching him lie there and drift. Eventually he talked to him, little things, he told him about the Japanese garden Vince had take him to, and the latest piece of music he was working on, and when he planned to go back to school. When he got tired he lay down next to him and held his hand.
Thor’s fingers closed gently over his, though otherwise he remained still. “Drew? I…I’ve hurt him. I said terrible things to him. How could I have done such a thing?”
“You were in shock…grief makes us not think right. He knows that. Ms. Katya spoke to him already. He knows you’re here and safe. He loves you, has already forgiven you, Thor.”
“I’m not so sure I can forgive myself. What if…what if I’m really a monster? Selfish. Bad-tempered. Violent. What if I hurt someone again?”
“I hurt people I loved, too. It doesn’t mean we’re bad, it just means we have to try again, try harder.”
Thor held Drew’s hand up, straightened his fingers out, and then placed their palms together. His hand dwarfed Drew’s slender fingers. “Except when I hurt someone, I might kill them by mistake.”
Drew lifted his eyes from their hands to peer into Thor’s. “All the more reason for you to try harder. Orion… Thor, you hurt him yes, don’t destroy him by turning your back on him for good because you’re afraid you might hurt him again.”
A long silence hung between them, then, “You can call me Orion if you want. I’m not…sure Thor was someone you would’ve liked.”
Over the next two days, Thor spent most of his time in bed, eyes closed. Whether he actually slept or not was debatable but he only stumbled out now and again to use the bathroom and then crawled back under the covers.
Suggestions that he go see Elric were only met with a shake of his head while a suggestion that he call him received a wordless look of anguished guilt. Apparently, Thor couldn’t muster enough forgiveness for himself to face the Prince. Eventually, though, it was gently hinted that Katya was not kindly disposed towards long-term sloth, so he rose and showered and began to putter about the house.
Like many scientists, who often had to rig equipment and invent their own mechanical solutions, Thor had a deep-rooted practical side. He tightened down a loose toilet, fixed a slow drip in the downstairs faucet, repaired the switch for the back patio light, changed the oil in all three cars, and hung a set of shelves in the garage no one had managed to get around to. He went about all his tasks in a serious, silent way, as if he engaged in some solemn ritual rather than home repair. Perhaps if Katya had needed a handyman with a broken heart, it might have been nice to keep him.
Jonathan watched him through the window a few days later while Thor trimmed the hedges. He’d come by to see how things were and wasn’t terribly encouraged. ‘So does he talk about it? About going home?”
Katya shook her head on a sip of coffee.
“That is one big mountain of guilt out there.”
“Mm,” Katya crossed to the window to stand beside him and look out. “Well, you know that old saying about how if the mountain won’t come to the man…”
“Yes, well, been working on that,” Jonathan said and took a long sip from his own coffee. Katya poked him when he didn’t elaborate right away. “Ow. Sorry. His highness hasn’t been in much better shape, is the problem. Hardly leaves his room. Won’t see clients. Of course, I understand him not wanting to see clients with a bruised face. But he’s…eaten up inside. You can tell he blames himself even though he speaks in that same calm voice he always does.”
“But I’m working on it.” He gave her a kiss on the cheek. “How do you feel about hosting a little private, intimate dinner party?”
“You know I would do anything to help right things, my dear. However, if your cajoling does not pan out soon, I will take… stronger measures myself.” Which meant her patience was just about at an end, and one or the other of these stubborn males would soon reap the result of that impatience.
Jonathan sighed. “You’ve been so tolerant, Katya. I know you have. I hope you don’t have to.” Thing was, he feared that a Katya dressing-down would drive Thor further into himself or raise Elric’s hackles to the point where he couldn’t listen to reason. “I’ll do the best I can. And you know I’m very good.”
“Yes, you are sweetheart. Like how you just tried to placate me so I wouldn’t go and bully either one of them and ruin all your finely finessed plans.”
She had to laugh softly at the way he suddenly tried to widen his eyes innocently. She patted his arm. “I would not try to bully Elric. But if your considerable charm and wit fail to produce the desired results, we shall have to examine other options. That’s all I’m saying.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He gave her a soft smile and leaned his head on her shoulder. Maybe it was all they had been through together, maybe it was some other strange connection but Katya was the only woman who could see straight through him. His own mother certainly never had. He loved her for it.
In the dark sanctuary of Elric’s bedroom, blue eyes opened to a whispered argument outside his door.
“Please, Jonathan, he’s been very clear about–”
“I know what he’s been clear on and it’s too freaking bad. His brain isn’t operating on all its cylinders.”
Keit’s desperate defense of the door having failed, the knob turned and Jonathan poked his head in. “Sir? I know you don’t feel well but could I talk to you? Please?”
The headache was better today. He truly should have been out of bed except that he had no energy, no appetite, and no interest in getting up. He hitched up against the headboard and waved Jonathan inside. “Vhat is it, junge? Hes something heppened at home?”
Jonathan winced. Not a good start when Elric called a person ‘boy’ instead of one of his pet names. “No, sir, everything’s fine at home. Except that we’re all worried about you. How are you?”
“Splendid. Never better,” came the softly ironic response.
“Sorry, sir. Stupid question.” Jonathan came to perch on the edge of the bed, his look of anxious concern not one he had to conjure up. He spoke for a while about Vincent and Drew, always coming back to the worry that nagged at them all. “Keit doesn’t look so good either, sir, if you don’t mind my saying so.”
“It pleases me so thet you feel you must remind me of these things.”
Honestly, did the man have to hide behind sarcasm when he was miserable? Jonathan bit back a heated response. “Katya would like the pleasure of your company tomorrow night. For dinner. What should I tell her?”
“Tell her she should issue her own invitations instead of sending a manipulative little messenger boy.”
Jonathan hung his head, bottom lip between his teeth. The tears stinging the backs of his eyes weren’t show either. He had expected an initial refusal but not such a harsh one.
A white hand reached out to cover his. “Süsselein, I am sorry. Thet vas uncalled for. Please forgive me.”
“Yes, sir,” Jonathan whispered but a tear still fell.
“Please understand. I cannot see him this vay. So hideous.”
“Sir, you‘re exaggerating. Sorry. But your nose is back to normal and the bruises hardly make you hideous. You’re still beautiful. What’s he going to think if you don’t come? That you’re afraid of him now?”
“I do not fear any man,” Elric said in a low growl.
“Then come to dinner. Please. A chaperoned, supervised dinner–”
Elric sighed. “Tell her I vill come.”
“Of course he wants to see you, Orion.” Katya told him as she smoothed the collar of his shirt. “Why else would he agree to come tonight?”
He looked at his shoes, his deep voice soft with misery. “To tell me it’s done. He wouldn’t do it any other way than face to face.”
“Mm, you are correct; he would not end a relationship any other way. However, I seriously doubt that is his intention tonight.” She paused. “He wishes to talk to you, he loves you, and he’s missed you. Accept that, at least, and listen to what he has to say before you jump to any conclusions. Alright?”
He nodded, his huge barrel chest expanding in a sigh. Orion. He had insisted they call him by the name the Prince had given him and he wasn’t entirely sure why. What was he to say to this man? The man who had saved him, nurtured him, nursed him, and, yes, had loved him? What if he saw him again and felt…nothing?
“I’m scared, Ms. Kat. I’m sorry.”
Katya cupped her hand to his cheek. “It’s okay, to be scared. It’s normal. Courage comes when we face those fears anyway, no?”
“So I’ve heard.” His forehead creased. “Maybe I’ve never been brave.”
Keit paused on the stairs when he heard an anguished sound from his Dom’s room. He rushed to Elric’s door only to find him standing in his dressing gown, staring at his closet.
“I cannot do this,” Elric said, running a hand over the side of his face. “How am I to face him vhen I cannot even think how to dress?”
“You can’t be that cruel, sir,” Keit said gently. “He is expecting you now. What will he think if you cancel?” he asked, coming forward to help him pick out clothes to wear.
“It is paralysis, not sadism,” Elric muttered. His heart gave a painful thud as his words brought to mind Orion’s last shouted epithets. “Am I cruel, herzchen? Are there times vhen you thought me so?”
Keit had never seen Elric so uncertain of himself, his confidence so shaken. It broke his heart nearly as much as it had when Orion left. “No, my Prince. You have never been cruel. Here…” Keit withdrew a dark emerald silk shirt. Not blue, which might seem cold on him, or red, which might be overwhelming right now. The green would be soothing. He took out fitted trousers in a dark charcoal as well. Very nice yet casual enough for a dinner party.
Elric let out a long breath and seemed to recover himself a little when he shooed Keit back out to let him dress. Why he had to dress in private, he couldn’t explain but it had been that way for a long time. Perhaps because he did it so deliberately, an audience would have destroyed the feeling of ritual.
He let the dressing gown fall from him and stood naked at the mirror. The bruise on his hip was the only sign his body carried from that day while his face…he sighed. Green and purple ran along the left side of his jaw while the skin around his right eye was still distinctly blue. At least I have some color in my face… He choked back a laugh, unwilling to give into nervous hysteria.
He pulled on the clothes Keit had set out for him and searched his shoe shelves for the right boots, black ankle boots with a relatively low heel, then sat down at his dressing table to brush out his hair. He tied it back, grimaced at the severe effect on his bruised face, then teased out the front just a bit and left the back alone. His hands shook as he placed the single emerald in his ear. He supposed it would do.
Appearances. Even when one was miserable and uncertain, one had to keep up appearances. He strode out and down the stairs where Keit waited with his coat in hand.
Keit handed it to him and kissed his cheek, then stood discretely to the side of the front window, watching until Elric was gone. Part of him had hoped he would be invited as well, and that part was sorely disappointed to be left behind, this meeting was so important. He reined those thoughts in, though. Orion and Elric needed their time and space to reconnect, if there was to be any hope of a future together.
When Elric arrived, Richard answered the door, much to his relief. He greeted everyone as he came in and spotted Thor…Orion…Gott im Himmel, what was he supposed to call the man? He hovered in the doorway to the dining room. Their eyes met briefly and Orion’s slid away to a spot on the floor.
Elric very nearly turned and walked out. Only Katya’s glare held him in place.
As if she wasn’t sure if even that would hold him long, Katya came forward and took his arm, leading him inside while Richard took his coat. “I’m so glad you came, Elric,” she murmured softly. “I’m sure there are things that you and Orion would like to discuss.” She took Orion’s arm as well as she glided past. Dwarfed between the two of them, she nonetheless was definitely the one in control of the situation here, in her domain.
In the dining room, a carafe of coffee waited, along with two place settings on the table, one at the head, and one on the immediate right. “I thought it might be better for you to speak privately. Dinner isn’t quite ready yet.” With that said, she kissed Elric’s cheek, and Orion bent when she turned to him so she could place one on his cheek as well, and then she left them.
Elric took the chair at the head of the table, straight and outwardly cool. He poured for them both, as he had always done, and when the big man still stood staring at the floor, he said softly, “If you do not vish to be here, no vone vill force you to stay.”
With a creak, the other chair accepted his weight, eyes still unable to lift from his lap.
“Thor.” Elric pronounced it as it should have been, ‘Tor’. “Do I call you this now?”
The big hands spread and then clasped together tightly. “I don’t know. If you want.”
Elric leaned an elbow on the table and put his chin in his hand. He supposed he hadn’t expected the boy to rush into his arms but this chilly reception threatened to snap his heart in two. “Am I so horrid, then? So revolting you cannot look at me?”
Thor shook his head. “No…it’s not…I mean, I can’t…” With a soft cry, he buried his face in his hands. “I can’t do this! God, I can’t! Please…it’s too much!”
“I vill go,” Elric said softly. “I hef upset you, Thor. It is obvious you no longer feel the same. I shall not torment you vith my presence.” He started to rise. A huge hand shot out and clamped onto his wrist, preventing further movement.
“No…you don’t understand,” the deep voice trembled with the earthquakes rolling through his chest. “Please don’t call me that. I can’t…it’s not…” He reached out his free hand to trace a finger along Elric’s jaw. “I…hurt you. I could’ve killed you.”
“But you did not.” Elric swallowed hard despite himself. “You could hef. But even in your darkest moment, in your rage and grief, you pulled the blows. The physical hurts vill mend.”
“But not the emotional? I said terrible things to you.”
“Orion,” Elric whispered. “Do you still love me?”
Orion withdrew his hands, chest heaving. He lifted his head and finally looked, truly looked, at the man next to him, his Eagle Prince, his angel… “Yes. God help you, yes.”
Elric turned in his chair and opened his arms. “Come here.”
With a strangled sound, Orion flung himself to his knees and buried his head against Elric’s chest, sobbing as if his heart had been torn from him.
Katya walked into the kitchen and a little smile curled her lips. Richard gave her a questioning look and she bestowed upon him one of her full dazzling smiles that made his knees weak. “I’d say things will work out just fine.”
“I hef missed you so,” Elric whispered into the mane of honey-blond hair.
“You don’t even know who I am anymore,” Orion hiccoughed. “I don’t know who I am…”
“You are the same man. There is simply…more of you now.” Elric stroked a hand over his broad back. “Although there vas certainly an awful lot of you to begin vith.”
Orion managed a strained laugh. The sound seemed to surprise him into a larger one. It felt as if an iron cage around Elric’s heart shattered and it beat freely again.
“There, do you see?” Elric pointed a shaking finger at his computer screen.
Keit leaned in closer. The article had some incomprehensible title about aggregate anomalies of something or other. The picture, however, drew his gaze and could not have been clearer. A large man, obviously the scientist presenting the article, stood behind a lectern. The hair was shorter, the eyes focused and sharp, but Orion’s face and frame were unmistakable.
“I must tell him,” Elric said in an anguished whisper. “It is wrong, morally, ethically, to keep this from him.”
Keit slipped his arms around him, offering his solid comfort. “My Prince…” He shook his head and bit his bottom lip, then let out a soft breath. “Not right this minute you don’t. It will make no difference if it is today, tomorrow, or in a week. Give yourself at least a day to think before you tell him.”
So cool and distant with everyone else, Elric wrapped his arms around Keit and held him close, trembling. “I am about to lose him, mein herz. And I cannot bear it.” He clung for a moment before he went on more reasonably. “Not right this moment, no. He sleeps and I vould not rip him from his peace. Come. Ve shall both go up to him and hold him.”
He tugged Keit with him, the afterimage of Thor Heimdahl still on the computer screen as they left.
Keit let himself be led, but before they went in he stopped Elric and slid his arms around him once more. He was upset, both for Elric and for himself…but he was also a reasonable and practical man, and if he could offer his Prince any comfort, he needed to. Cupping his hand to the side or Elric’s face, he kissed him lightly. “Sir, you know it may make no difference to him. It doesn’t mean you…we, have to lose him.”
“It is true,” Elric whispered, his fingers combing through Keit’s hair. “The demage may be too great for him to recall this other life.” He drew in a deep breath and pulled Keit close. “I hef a terrible feeling, though, and I hope it is only my own fears.”
He took Keit by the hand again and led him to the canopied bed where Orion’s giant frame lay curled. They each took a side and Orion rolled onto his back to wrap them in his arms and settle them against his chest, though he never woke.
The next morning over breakfast, Elric decided he could not wait. The guilt caused by silence, however brief, would eat his heart from the inside. “Liebchen,” he began softly. “I know now vhat your name vas. Before. I know, in part, who you vere.”
Orion looked up from his eggs, head cocked to one side. “Who was I, mein herr?”
“You vere a scientist.” Elric took his large hand in both of his. “A physicist of some reputation, come to this country as child from Scandinavia. You…vorked for the government, it seems. Perhaps. Thor Heimdahl’s career becomes cloudy after he…you left MIT.”
Orion finished his orange juice, brows furrowed. “Thor. Yes. The shadows whispered that name to me. But what it means…” He shook his head. “I do not know this man.”
He stared at the table for a few minutes as if the wood might hold answers. Finally he heaved a huge sigh and rose. “Mein herr, I am tired today. Could I go back to bed?”
“Of course, liebchen.” Elric kissed his cheek and watched him wander out, an anxious cloud over his heart.
Keit pushed his fork around aimlessly on his plate watching Orion go. He no longer felt hungry. Last night he’d been sort of optimistic. After all, just because Orion knew who he was didn’t mean he remembered it, or that it would automatically change him… But now, now he was worried.
It was a rather long day. The Prince cancelled his appointments and stayed in his study. Orion did not reemerge from his room. Keit told Sasha and Caroline to go home. After fretting about in the kitchen, debating if he should make lunch or not, he finally decided to go upstairs and check on Orion.
He slept, a deep, unnatural sleep from which even Keit’s gentle touch did not wake him. His brow furrowed and he mumbled, “Let me sleep, sweetness,” but his eyes remained closed and who he thought he spoke to was unclear.
At dinnertime he came back downstairs, walking as if he trod on glass. He smiled and kissed them both but his eyes were shadowed and the little he ate was probably more to please his companions than out of hunger.
“Liebchen, you do not feel vell?” Elric asked softly.
“There is an ache, mein herr. Behind my eyes. It claws at me and will not let go.”
Elric put him back to bed with aspirin and a backrub, hoping to ease whatever gnawed at him. Orion went back to sleep and still slept when it was time for Keit to go to work the next morning.
“Go, herzchen,” the Prince told him with a gentle hug. “I vill call the doctor if he is not better by noon.”
Reluctant and worried sick, Keit did as he was told, a terrible feeling of abandoning them when they needed him nagging him all the way to work.
Elric sat on the top step staring out into space. It had been years since he felt so lost, so helpless, and he hated the feeling. Perhaps he should show Orion the articles he had found, tell him more, try to fill in the gaps with him.
The first scream yanked him to his feet. The second had him barreling down the hall and through Orion’s door.
“Oh, God! Jake! Nononono!” Orion knelt on the floor, head clutched in his hands as he rocked, keening.
Elric knelt with him and touched his shoulder softly. “I am here, liebchen. Tell me vhat you see.”
“I told him not to! But they made him start without me!” He let out a bellow of rage and anguish. “How could they be so stupid? I warned them and warned them it would go wrong. God, oh, god! Half his body was black with char…half his face had melted…oh, fuck…oh, my poor Jake…”
“You are certain, in the smoke and the dark, that it vas him?” Elric asked in a spare whisper.
“My goddamned ring was still on his finger!” Orion/Thor roared. “Of course I’m sure!” He surged up and stalked out.
Elric swallowed hard and followed though he had no idea if Orion still knew him. The big man stood in the front hallway, chest heaving, tears streaming down his face.
“Liebchen, I’m so sorry,” he began. “I know vhat it is to lose–”
“No! No you don’t!” Orion whirled and seized him by the shirtfront. “Your spouses died whole and quickly! Mine died in agony, a twisted, malformed parody of himself!” He hauled Elric up, his feet dangling six inches off the floor. “You have no idea!”
“No, I suppose no one could.” Elric knew he should be terrified but he couldn’t muster any fear. His heart was breaking for this man, both men, the one he loved and the one he had been.
Orion’s eyes narrowed. “And you. How long have you known? How long have you kept this all from me?”
“I only discovered who you vere the night before I told you,” Elric answered calmly.
“Liar!” Orion bellowed and backhanded him hard across the face. “You sick, twisted little sadist!” He tore the leather collar from around his throat and flung it to the floor. “You just wanted to keep me captive here for as long as you could! Your private sex toy!”
“I hef tried to do only vhat vas best for you, liebchen,” Elric whispered, dizzy and nauseous from the blow.
Orion hit him again, the fist connecting with his jaw like a wrecking ball. “How long have you known?”
He struck again and again. By the fourth blow Elric hung like a broken doll from his grip. With an anguished cry, Orion dropped him and stalked out of the house in nothing but a pair of jeans. The scene he left behind had a surreal quality, Elric sprawled face first on the white tiles, his alabaster hair pooled around him, covering his face and offering a strange counterpoint to the thin rivulets of carnelian creeping across the floor.
Keit pulled up in the driveway and cut the engine. He hadn’t been able to concentrate at work, and his anxiety was only growing worse the longer he stayed. So he called it a day at lunch time and went home early to see if Orion was feeling any better.
As he stepped out of his car the front door flew open and Orion strode out. The tense, aggressive set of his body, the determined, anguished look on his handsome face, and the lack of collar told him more than any words that something was gravely wrong here.
Keit slammed the car door and rushed over to him. “Orion? Are you alright?” As he drew closer he notice one other thing that set his racing heart into full blown panic. There was blood on his hands. “What happened?”
Orion paused and looked at him in a puzzled way as if trying to recall his face. “I don’t blame you,” he muttered, half to himself. “You came after.”
He shoved past Keit and strode on, down the drive and onto the street, heedless of gravel underfoot and Keit’s frantic calls after him.
Keit ran after Orion a few paces, calling after him.
“Fuck fuck fuck!” He turned around and ran back toward the house. Much as he was worried that he needed to follow the big guy, he couldn’t keep chasing him not knowing what was inside the house, and why Elric wasn’t out there already.
Taking the steps two at a time he dashed inside and stopped cold for a heartbeat when he saw Elric lying unmoving and the blood on the floor. “Oh god…oh shit!”
Oddly enough, as he knelt beside Elric to examine him gently, the thought of calling Jerrett popped into his head. He was the last person on Earth he should have been thinking of for help, almost anyone else would have been a better first choice, but that was who came to mind. “Oh, my Prince… oh, shit…” he murmured frantically as he lifted his hair and checked for damage, afraid to move him.
Elric stirred with a soft moan. He pulled his hands in and pushed up far enough to drag himself three feet towards the door. “My love…” he whispered before he collapsed again.
Orion wandered from one neighborhood to the next, one street much the same as the last. Orion…what a strange name to give someone. A giant hunter. Maybe not so strange. To be named after the god of thunder was little better.
God…Jake… The memories were too sharp, too horrible, too overwhelming. He clutched his head and cried out in his agony. A woman across the street picked up her child and ran away. “Jake…my beautiful Jake…”
His feet took him onward when he no longer saw the world around him. A blanket of gray horror wrapped around him and he could no longer recall if he had begun walking with a destination. At one point, he looked up and his brow furrowed at the house in front of him. He knew this house. He had been here. Maybe the people were friends.
Exhausted, aching, chest burning with too many tears, he made his way to the door and rang the bell.
“Please.” He spread his hands and tried to get his shaking voice under control. “Please… do you know me? I…I’m so lost…”
Richard opened the door and his usual calm composure was hard pressed to remain in place. “Orion?” He stepped out and put a comforting hand on the man’s shoulder. “How did you get here?” he asked, looking around and not seeing Elric or Keit or any type of car in the driveway. “Did you walk all the way here?”
“Walked…I guess I did.” Orion looked into the man’s face and knew he could trust him. “I know you, I think. I don’t know what to do…”
“Come in, come in and sit down.” Richard guided him gently inside. “Are you alright? What happened? Where is Elric?”
Elric…the name skittered across his thoughts and slid away, his mind too full of past horrors to contain the present. He shook his head, unsure which question he answered, and sank onto the offered sofa. One of his feet bled. He must have stepped on something. Strange bloody footprints trailed in his wake, blood following him since that day…
“How long has it been?” Orion asked softly as he stared at the floor. “Since the accident?”
Richard pieced some things together quickly and wondered who was with him. “No one really knows. At least two years.”
“Years?” Orion cried out in anguish. “Two years…god…I couldn’t even bury him. I don’t know if there was a funeral. I don’t even know where he is…damn…oh, damn…Jake…” The weight of despair crushed him. He buried his head in his hands and began to sob again.
Katya stepped into the room at the same time Richard put his arm around Orion’s broad shoulders. He looked over at her with a deeply concerned expression. “He’s remembering,” he explained simply.
The questioning look softened and then became troubled. Oh, dear. “Liam, go and get some bandages, please,” she murmured to the man who had come up behind her. She came closer and took a seat opposite Richard and Orion, uncertain if he would accept comfort right now, although he seemed to accept Richard’s steadying presence.
“My dear, we will help in whatever way we can,” she offered gently, not at all certain how that would be yet. She needed to call Elric as soon as she could, but she wanted to make sure he was stable before she left to do so.
Liam returned quickly with the first aid kit, clean cloths, and water. He knelt beside Orion and hesitated briefly, but Orion was cooperative and let him have his foot to look at. The gash fortunately wasn’t too long or too deep and Liam had it cleaned and bandaged in short order.
“Would you like to lie down and rest?” Katya asked.
“I’m…not sure I can.” But he let Richard and Liam help him lie down and cover him anyway. Shivers hit him hard and another blanket settled on him. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to steady himself. Nothing felt better but at least he felt less afraid now, less alone. “Thank you.”
Katya touched Richard’s arm and kissed his cheek. “I’ll be back,” she said softly, not having to tell him what she was going to do or to stay with him.
She went into her office and closed the door before calling Elric to tell him where Orion was.
Elric heard the phone through a haze of pain. He wanted to get up to answer it but couldn’t puzzle out which direction up might be.
He heard Keit answer and his end of the conversation as he walked into the bedroom with the phone still clutched in his hand.
Keit had been out to look around the neighborhood twice after he’d gotten Elric into bed, and he was more than relieved to hear Katya’s voice telling him Orion was at her place now. “He’s at Katya’s house, Sir,” he informed Elric, in case he hadn’t gotten that from his end.
Elric tried to hold out his hand for the phone. His arm fell over the side of the bed. Keit obligingly placed the phone in his hand, closed his fingers over it, and lifted the arm back up to his ear.
“Katya?” His voice came out a hoarse whisper. The bed would insist on pitching at a hard gallop. “He knows who he is. His name is Thor. Thor Heimdahl. Take care, please. It is as if the loss of his beloved has only just occurred and he is…in agony.”
“And so are you, my dear,” she said softly, knowing how much this must be tearing him apart. “I will take care of him, never fear. Until he decides what he would like to do. And I will keep you apprised.” She paused. “Elric, let Keit take care of you. I’ll call the moment anything changes.”
“He blames me…” His voice slurred a bit before he could catch himself. “He believes I hef lied to him.”
Katya bit her bottom lip lightly and shook her head. “It’s the grief that makes him think such things, Elric. Give him some time,” she said gently.
A sigh hitched in his chest. No one else would have been privy to such weakness, but this was Katya. “All that he needs…anything. Please let me know.”
She promised and Keit took the phone from his uncooperative fingers. “Süsselein…” Elric’s breath caught again, his lack of control perhaps due to the disorienting pain in his head. “The room spins. I cannot think. I hef ected foolishly…”
Keit sat on the edge of the bed and smoothed his hand over Elric’s hair. “No, my Prince. How could you have done anything differently? You did exactly what you had to do, for him, despite what it would mean for you.”
“I should hef stayed vith him. Guided him through this. Showed him the articles. Explained all thet ve knew. Instead I throw the information in his face and vait to see vhat he might do vith it. If he hates me now, I cannot blame him.”
“Sir… you don’t know if easing him into it would have resulted in anything different. He doesn’t hate you. How can he? He’s confused and angry and grief ridden… he doesn’t understand anything yet. I think Ms. Katya’s right, you need to give him some time.” He slid down from the bed to kneel beside it so he could look into Elric’s eyes and hold his hand. He kissed the backs of his fingers. “I’m so sorry…” He laid his cheek on the back of his hand. “So sorry. I wish there was something I could do.”
“Come hold me,” Elric whispered. “I need you.”
Keit gladly complied, sliding next to him and gently folding his arms around him. Elric pulled him closer, and Keit kissed the top of his head. His heart ached not only for Elric, but for Orion as well. Somewhere along the line, he’d fallen in love with the big man as well, and he felt just as abandoned. He kissed him again, stroking a soothing hand over his hair.
Elric steadied in those beloved arms. His heart felt no less battered but it was possible to think again. “If ve hef lost him ve shall mourn but he must be allowed to find his own vay again now.” He sighed and stroked Keit’s back. “I think I need some ice.”
“At least he’s in safe hands for now, sir.” Keit tried to reassure him before slipping back out from his arms to go and fetch some ice.
Katya returned to the living room where Orion still lay on the couch and Richard sat with him, a comforting hand stroking his back. As large as he was he looked like a child lying there with the blanket tucked up around his shoulders. He lay there, but his eyes were open and he shuddered as he stared off into the past.
Kat sighed inwardly. Why oh why did it have to be her door he came to? Not that she wasn’t glad he was safe with her, or minded having him, but she was probably the worst person to help him with his grief. She cared, she was sympathetic, but she was better with the realms of logic and reason than comfort and nurture.
“Orion…” She called softly, since he was awake. “Or, would you rather I call you Thor now?”
“I’m…not certain what my name should be.” He scrubbed at his face with both hands. “Thor, I think.”
“All right.” She paused. “I imagine you must have a lot of questions…I want you to know that you can ask them, or just talk to me, if you need to. If you’d rather have time to think first, that’s alright, too. Whenever you are ready, my dear.”
“Thank you.” He whispered. Older memories crept in on soft feet. He had never been able to sit still, always the one who had to make things happen. His first time asking Jake out had been more a demand than a question. Jake had laughed and then said, all right, since he didn’t have a choice. Decisive…demanding…maybe a little arrogant, he had been these things.
He sat up and looked at her, this beautiful woman who always seemed much larger than her physical frame. “I need to know what happened to Jake. Please. Jacob Moyers.”
“Okay.” She said gently, and leaned over to put a kind hand over his. “We will find out, together. I know… I know you must feel awfully alone right now, but you do have friends…people who care about you. We will help you find your way.” She patted his hand. “Let’s start looking.”
The search took no more than twenty minutes. Most newspapers kept obituaries online, many archived for a number of years. Finding Jacob Sterling Moyers, dead at age twenty-four, proved heartbreakingly easy. The face looking back at Katya was model perfect but so honest and cheerful one couldn’t help be drawn to it. Jake’s picture had a little smile, as if he held some secret he would be pleased to share if asked nicely.
Jake’s remains had been taken back home to his family in Portland where the funeral had been held, four years before, not two. The obit made no mention of Thor.
He sat next to Katya, hands clasped tight between his knees to curtail their trembling. It did no good. His whole body shook. “Jake…” he whispered and reached a hand towards the screen. “God…”
Tears blurred his vision again. “How do I go on without you now?” he asked softly. “Why didn’t I die with you that day?”
Katya laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. “As painful as it is, you will find a way to go on. Four years ago, apparently, your way of dealing with that pain was to forget everything. What had happened, who he was… who you were.” She paused. “I don’t think you want to forget him this time, do you?”
“No…no…” Thor shook his head, trying to keep the sobs in check. “Never again…I need… I need to remember. All I can…”
He had to give in to the pain for a few moments again, unable to speak. The horror of that day, of finding Jake’s mangled, burned body in the lab, would be with him the rest of his days, shake him from sleep years later, but the mind cannot look at horror unceasingly.
“I need to make sense of it,” he finally whispered. “To understand what happened. Or at least how.” He took a deep shuddering breath. “The Dragon Prince…he could help…”
Katya thought he meant Elric for a moment, and then remembered Orion had referred to Vincent as a ‘dragon’. “I’m sure Vincent will be happy to help you in any way he can.” She said, and then added, “Elric as well, would give you anything you need.” She said it evenly, trying to keep any hint of rebuke from her tone. Now was not the time to chastise him for attacking and abandoning the man who had taken him in and loved him dearly, although it took a heaping helping of her willpower not to do so. The thought of him hitting Elric and leaving him on the floor bleeding made her furious, but for now, she kept that fury in check, for everyone’s sake. “I’ll call Vincent.”
“You sure you’re up to this, babes?” Jonathan stopped his whirlwind progress through the condo to crouch by Vincent. “You still look kinda…”
Vincent arched a brow at him. “Kind of what? Dreadful? Like death riding in from a late night carnival?”
“Um, no. I was thinking more along the lines of ‘tired’.”
“Ah.” Vincent lay back against the sofa cushions. “Well, since I have you as my personal event manager, I have no need to even get off the sofa, do I?”
“Ducking the question, oh Prince of Dragons,” Jonathan said in a dry tone.
“I’m fine, beloved. Yes, I’m still tired but the need for ceremony outweighs such things. And we’ve only invited family.”
Jonathan chuckled and returned to his preparations for Drew‘s homecoming. ‘Family’ ended up at about twenty-five people but he knew what Vincent meant. Everyone coming was someone they felt close to, all comfortable, old friends along with Drew’s actual kin since his mother would be coming, too. Der actually got the honor of bringing Drew home from the hospital. Jonathan was a little irritated about that but it couldn’t be helped. Too much to do.
Drew finished tying the bandana in place at the back of his head. Looking in the mirror he didn’t think anyone was going to mistake it for a simple fashion accessory. He’d dropped a few pounds and his normally pale complexion looked almost translucent. With his hair gone he looked like a cancer patient. He actually felt better, but he still looked sick. He was going to have a hard time convincing Jonathan not to mother him. He stepped out of the bathroom, switched off the light and found he had company.
“Hey tiger, I hear the warden granted you a pardon,” Phil said.
“Yeah. Going home today,” Drew confirmed. “What are you doing down here? Don’t you have some nut cases to take care of?”
“Like I said, I heard you were getting a pass, so I came to say goodbye. The inmates can hold their own for a few minutes,” Phil said. “Vincent coming to get you?”
“No, Der is. I’ll see Vince and Jonathan when I get home.”
“You take care of yourself now. Don’t go doing too much right away.”
Drew rolled his eyes. “As if Jonathan would let me.”
Phil chuckled. “Right, right. Not much chance there.”
Drew smoothed the blanket on the bed and sat on the edge. It felt a little strange to be dressed in regular clothes again. “Phil…I, um… I just wanted to say, I’m sorry. You know, for trying to…” He made a little gesture toward the bathroom, remembering how he’d stepped out of the shower and got down on his knees in front of Phil because Josh had told him to.
“Now don’t go doing that. We both know you couldn’t help yourself. I’m just that damn sexy, you couldn’t resist,” Phil said, puffing up his broad chest and doing a little strut.
Drew laughed. “OK. Well, thanks for understanding.”
The sound of chain-festooned jackboots rang in the hall, no mistaking to whom they could belong. Der’s sharp-toothed grin was so bright it got there before the rest of him. “Hey, sugar bear! Ready to blow this pop stand? Hey, Phil! Are you our official escort or do we have to wait for someone else?”
“I’m here unofficially,” Phil said.
“I already signed the release papers.” Drew bounced up to kiss Der’s cheek. “Did you bring the bike?”
“’Fraid not, sugar bear. I like my head attached to my shoulders, and I’m pretty sure Jon would take it right off if I drove you up from the hospital on my chopper.”
Drew sighed dramatically but he was smiling. He gave Phil a hug, which the big man accepted a bit awkwardly at first and then settled on a warmly paternal hug in return. They said their goodbyes and Drew and Der were on their way.
As they got close to the condo, Drew suddenly asked Der if they could stop at the park.
“I promised I’d bring you right home. People coming over and all that.”
“I know… just, can we stop for a few minutes? Please?”
Der took the next corner and eased the hearse over to the curb next to the park. “All right. Couple minutes.” He got out and jogged around to the passenger side to hand Drew out. Yes, yes, the boy said he was fine but he looked like a soft breeze would blow him away.
Drew walked slowly next to Der across the grass and to the little trail that ran around the duck pond. It was late afternoon, almost evening. The shadows were long under the trees and the temperature was cooling. They walked past the bench they had once shared when Drew had spotted Der feeding the waddlers and feeling melancholy. A little further on, they passed the place where Jonathan had found him after he’d had a bad day and almost slipped back into an old life.
He didn’t know what he was doing here, why he wasn’t rushing home to see Vince and Jonathan. He should have been overjoyed, but he felt a little anxious. He knew he was making Der a little worried, too.
He supposed he just wanted to stretch his legs a little, breathe in fresh air not tainted with hospital smells. He had joked about being an ‘inmate’, but he really had felt like that at some points. Trapped. Caged.
Der was getting antsy, Drew could tell. They’d walked quite a way already and still had to turn around and go back. Drew stopped at the other end of the pond. Hands in his pockets he stood looking down into the water. The sweater he was wearing was enough to keep off the chill, but the wind went right though it and he shivered. He saw Der about to say something and Drew beat him to it.
“What do you think happens when we die, Der?”
Der blinked and had to regroup before he could answer. Ah. So it was that kind of mood. He put a gentle arm around Drew’s shoulders to offer his solid warmth. “Well, if we’re talking about me, I’m going straight to the devil since I’ve been such a bad, bad boy.”
No little laugh came from Drew, not even a smile. Not the time for bad jokes, obviously, you idiot. Der cleared his throat and began in a pensive tone. “I’ve never died, love, so I don’t know for sure. I used to believe in heaven and hell, when I was little. But those things didn’t make sense to me as I got older.”
He curled down to kiss the top of Drew’s head. “Vincent’s theory is that spiritual matter is like physical matter. It can neither be created nor destroyed. So there is no end. Only another beginning when you die. A new start. I suppose that’s closer to what I think happens. Not like I’m one of those people who claim to remember past lives. But I think we probably had them.”
Drew gave a single small nod, but didn’t look up. “What if there’s nothing? What if this is all we get? We know we’re here, and then we’re dead, and that’s it. Nothing. We’re just…” Drew shrugged. “Worm food.”
“Drew…” Der said softly.
Drew looked up at him. “I’m sorry, Der, I’m not trying to, you know, bum you out. Really.” He took a deep breath and put his arm around Der’s waist. He started slowly walking again, back the way they’d come. “Sometimes I think people just tell themselves there’s something after this, so they don’t get depressed or scared. I want to believe there’s something. I want to think that Angela and Vince’s mom…that they got another chance…even Josh…”
Drew took another breath. Maybe he shouldn’t have walked so far after all, he was tired.
“Nobody can say for sure, you know,” Der said softly. “And anyone who says they can is either deluded or selling snake oil. But if this really is it, a one shot deal, all the more reason to make the most of it, isn’t it?”
Der swept him up in his arms when he felt Drew’s steps falter. “There’s no reason we should be here at all. It’s magic, life, that it happens in the first place. And while we’re here, there’s beauty and there’s love and sometimes people even find a little happiness.” He gave Drew a soft kiss when they reached the hearse again. “I’d say that makes it worth the price of admission.”
Drew didn’t say anything more, but he returned Der’s soft kiss before they got in and finished the ride home.
“What the hell is taking Schiller so long?” Jonathan asked with a scowl.
“Patience, my coyote,” Vincent said and patted his arm. “You know how hospitals can be. Discharge is not always a swift and efficient procedure. They’ll be here soon.” His voice was calm but he understood Jonathan’s mood. Everyone else had arrived except the guest of honor and there had been no call to say they would be delayed.
“I’ll just go see if I can spot them, shall I?” Anthony offered on a bright smile and dashed out the front door. Various odd thumps and thuds followed and then booted footsteps overhead.
“Vince, that lunatic’s gone up–”
“Yes, beloved, I know.” Vincent pinched the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger. “Just let him go.”
The hearse slid up to the curb a mere five minutes later and once again Der came around to help Drew out. Not that he truly needed it but it made Der feel better.
From up above somewhere, a voice belted out, “Oh, Valencia! With you blood still warm on the ground…”
Der’s gaze traveled up and spotted Mad Anthony, balanced on the roof beam. He flung one arm up and answered, “Valencia, I swear by the stars, we’ll burn this whole city down… What are you doing up there, you muttonhead?”
“Looking for you, of course. Mr. Kemp’s having kittens.”
Der sighed. “Oh, fabulous. Come down from there and guard my back.”
“For you, big guy, anything,” Anthony said with a bright grin. He half-ran, half-slid down the roof, stopped himself just short of the edge, leaped off and caught himself one handed on the eaves before he landed as gracefully as any cat.
It was probably a testament to the strangeness of his life, but Drew wasn’t at all fazed to come home to people jumping off his roof. “Hi, Anthony,” he said as they walked up to the door.
“Hey, cutie! How’re you feeling? You need anything? Nice bandana. I like the blue. Good with your eyes. Jonathan’s got lots of food. You’re probably hungry. Hospital food sucks big time–”
“Dear gods, what’s Jon been feeding you?” Der muttered. “Bowls of sugar?” He peered more closely at Anthony who grinned and ducked his head. “No, wait. I haven’t seen you this perky in weeks. You’ve been getting some…”
Any further interrogation had to wait, though, as Jonathan flung open the door. “Drew! Are you all right?”
Guilt assailed Drew for the extra half hour he’d taken before getting home, but he smiled for Jonathan and slid his arms around him. “I’m fine, sorry we took so long.”
Jonathan hugged him close and kissed his cheek, but Drew noticed he was looking at him now in almost the exact same way Der had just scrutinized Anthony. Drew grinned. “No, we didn’t make a pit stop for a quickie.” He chuckled and nuzzled under Jonathan’s chin.
“Hmph. I would hope not. Just out of surgery and all.” Jonathan turned with an arm around Drew and led him inside, pointedly leaving Der on the doorstep.
Their progress was soon blocked by people wanting to see Drew, to hug him, to tell him welcome home, Jonathan put two fingers in his mouth and whistled sharply. “Hold on, ladies and gentlemen, and make a path, please. There’s someone Drew needs to get to first.”
The little crowd parted to form a friend-lined path, opening to reveal Vincent waiting on the sofa. He held his arms out and whispered, “Drew.”
As much as Drew would have liked to fling himself into Vince’s arms, he knew it was probably not a wise idea, and Jonathan would probably faint. He settled for a modest rush and wrapped his arms tightly around his neck as he dropped into Vince’s lap.
There was a soft ‘aww’ that lasted all of two seconds before Xavier rolled his eyes and commented, “Jeez, it’s like watching puppies snuggle or something.” Which got a few chuckles and giggles and diverted enough attention that Vince and Drew could have a semi private moment or two.
“Hello, my love,” Vincent whispered, their foreheads pressed together. “It’s so good to have you home.”
In the kitchen, Der had gone to help Jonathan carry things out and found himself backed into a corner.
“You said you’d bring him right home!” Jonathan stabbed a finger at his chest. “You promised! What the hell is wrong with you? Where the hell have you been?”
A hundred smart ass things occurred to Der but something about this little assault felt off. Jonathan had been treating him like…well, like he used to, when they’d first met, ever since Drew went to the hospital.
“He wanted to stop at the park,” Der answered softly. “He was having one of those ‘what’s the meaning of life’ moments. It wasn’t more than a few minutes. Jon? What have I done to make you hate me again?”
“Don’t be stupid. I don’t hate you.”
“I take you in ‘cause you’re too scared to go home, make sure you and Vince are looked after, and you haven’t done anything but snap and snarl at me since.”
Jonathan turned his back, hands flat on the counter. “I…I didn’t…”
“Yes. Yes, you did.” Der reached out a hand and pulled it back again since he wasn’t sure how even a gentle touch would be received. “Jonathan?”
“You…he…when Vince was so sick,” Jonathan began in a low voice. “I…I slept on the floor next to him. I wanted to be near if he needed me. But I wanted…I wanted to go to you, too. And I couldn’t. Because…because…”
“Because Brandon was in the bed with me?” Now Der put a hand on his shoulder and turned him.
Jonathan nodded, bottom lip caught between his teeth. “I miss you sometimes, you dork.”
“Jon…sweetheart…I’m sorry.” He folded Jonathan into his embrace and held him tight, though he had no idea how to make it better.
Brandon paused in the hall just outside the kitchen. He’d been about to see if they needed any more help. He hadn’t meant to eavesdrop…but in a way he was glad he’d overheard before they knew he was there. Now would probably not be the best time to pop his head in. Feeling a little strange he quietly went back the way he’d come with Jon and Der none the wiser.
Shouldn’t he be upset that his boyfriend was trying to comfort his lover for not paying enough attention to him? Instead of being angry though, he felt bad for keeping Jonathan away. God, sometimes this was just so fucking confusing.
Jonathan heaved a breath and pushed back gently. “Christ, I’m sorry. You finally have someone who makes you happy and Drew’s home and everyone should be happy and I act like a bitch.” He waved a hand fretfully. “Don’t pay any attention to me. Too much stress.”
Though Der didn’t think it would help to just let things go at that, Jonathan was right about one thing. This was Drew’s day. He picked up a tray in either hand and let Jonathan put on his charming host face and pretend nothing had happened.
Out in the living room, Vincent trailed gentle fingers over Drew’s cheek. “Are there headaches, my kestrel? Are you feeling relatively well?”
“The headaches aren’t bad,” Drew said. “Dr. Lassiter says they’re normal. My head is sore though, like I clunked it on something and got the biggest goose egg in the world.”
“I suppose it’s a small price to pay for being able to see the world as it is again,” Vincent said softly. “I like being me in your eyes again and not someone else.”
Der put the trays down and was about to go over to Anthony to find out who he’d been seeing. Cold waves of panic washed over him when he saw Anthony lean down to whisper in Sasha’s ear and kiss his cheek. Jerrett was standing right there, for gods’ sakes. Anthony was trying to get his handsome nose bashed in.
With every intent of preventing a tragedy, Der started across the room, and then stopped in confusion. Jerrett had seen the interaction, leaned over to put an arm around Anthony’s shoulders with a sensual smile, and pulled MA in for a searing kiss.
“The things people don’t tell me,” Der grumbled to himself and went to find Brandon instead.
He found Bran off to the side a bit with Xavier in a seemingly intimate conversation.
They had their heads together a little too close to be engaged in just friendly chatting, which was almost more alarming than seeing Anthony with Sasha a moment ago. A quick scan of the room placed Dave preoccupied talking with Jonathan. Worse, when Der walked up they both clammed up for a second, and then got nearly identical expressions of nervous innocence.
“Hey big guy, watcha up to?” Xav asked with a smile.
“About two meters or so on a good day,” Der answered, his forehead creasing. “You know, I’m beginning to feel like the man who fell to Earth today. I don’t seem to quite be making the right communication connections anymore. You think maybe something might be broken? Signals not getting through?”
“It happens sometimes.” Xav said. “I’m sure it’ll work itself out. I’ll see you guys later.”
Brandon watched him go. He knew Der was waiting for him to say something, but he really didn’t want to get into it. Xav and him had been talking about some of the difficulties of making open relationships work. It wasn’t that he didn’t want Der to know what they’d been talking about, he’d just wanted another person’s perspective.
Brandon slipped his hand in Der’s and kissed his cheek. “You okay?”
“No, by all the gods, no I’m not,” Der growled, though his fingers tightened around Brandon’s. “Drew wants me to tell him where we go when we die and then Anthony looks like he’s swallowed a whole flock of canaries and doesn’t tell me anything and then Jonathan tells me he doesn’t hate me after all, he misses me and why isn’t anyone talking to me in sensible sentences anymore?”
Brandon sighed, but it was directed at himself. “I’m sorry Der, I wasn’t trying to keep anything from you, sweetheart. I just needed a few minutes to think. I overheard you and Jonathan in the kitchen…” He paused. “I didn’t want to make anything worse, by walking in.” He paused again. “Maybe…maybe you should stay here tonight?”
Der flung up his hands in a gesture of helpless frustration and in an uncharacteristic moment of pique, stalked out to the patio to be alone. No one, but no one, not even his sensible, solid Brandon was making any damn sense. He flung himself into a chair, pulled a beer out of the cooler, flicked the top off with a claw and sulked.
Brandon sighed again, but didn’t go after him. He was still sensible enough to know when a man needed some space.
“What did you do?”
Xavier looked at Jonathan with wide eyes and put an offended hand to his chest. “Me? What makes you think I did something?”
“You were talking to Brandon, now Der’s out on the patio pouting.”
“Jonathan, I swear, I didn’t start anything. I didn’t even give Brandon any advice. Didn’t have time to. If Der’s upset it’s not anything I did.”
“Right. Such an innocent. Even if you didn’t do it yourself, your fingers are so in it,” Jonathan said with a little snort. For a moment Jonathan debated going out after Der himself. Something about that didn’t seem like a good idea, though.
He glanced over at the sofa. Drew and Vincent were still wrapped in each others’ arms, sharing a moment of soft laughter. Oh, that did his heart good to see the two of them smiling. They needed their peace for a moment more, too.
Instead, he sauntered over to Brandon. “Hey.” He nodded towards the lanky figure sprawled in the patio chair. “Big guy all right?”
Brandon opened his mouth, seemed to switch whatever he’d been about to say, and said, “I don’t know.” He sagged a bit with worry. “He’s mad because nobody’s making sense to him today.”
“Oh. Crap.” Jonathan took a long drink of water. “Here I am trying to blame Xav and I’m probably the one who upset him, huh?”
Brandon cleared his throat. “Well, it’s probably not just one thing. I think he’s had a tough day.” He glanced out and watched Der studiously not looking inside. “I suggested he stay here tonight and he acted like I suggested he move out or something. I didn’t mean it as a bad thing.”
Jonathan gave him an odd, sideways look. So that was it. “OK, let’s see if I got what happened here. You have Der all to yourself for, what? Two nights? And then you hear me whining to him in the kitchen, right? So you get all confused and think you’re doing a good thing and he feels like you’re shoving him away when he needs you to unconfuse him. Sound about right?”
“No.” Brandon said, although it was obvious Jonathan hit it on the head. “Shouldn’t you go apologize to Xavier?” he suggested.
“Oh, hell, no. I’m sure he did something he needs to be blamed for today.” But Jonathan took the hint and moved off in that direction anyway.
Brandon stepped out onto the patio, snagged a bottle of beer from the cooler and sat down next to Der. “Hey there,” he said hesitantly. “I, uh, didn’t mean to chase you off, hon.”
Der waved a clawed hand in his general direction, his moment of anger quickly sinking into melancholy. “S’alright, hon. I know…what you were trying to do. I think. And I should be really happy today, shouldn’t I? It just feels like I’ve made a mess of everything right now. I can’t seem to piece things together. Maybe I’m just tired.”
“Luckily I know the perfect remedy for too much tension,” Brandon said with a far too serious expression, which he then ruined with a lecherous grin.
Der managed half a smile though he didn’t exactly rise to the bait. “You are, without a doubt, the best remedy for relieving all sorts of things. Stress. Tension. Headaches. Bouts of depression. But it doesn’t help me solve what I’m wrestling with right now.”
He took a pull from his beer, then stared down into it. “Bran? How do you feel about Jonathan?”
Brandon’s eyes lifted, sort of a casual glance around to make sure they weren’t being overheard. “He, um, reminds me of one of my ex’s,” he answered, perhaps a bit too honestly. “It’s the fussiness.” He cleared his throat. “I like Jonathan, though.” He paused. “It made me feel bad for him, that he misses you.”
A little chuckle rumbled in Der’s chest. “The fussiness…yes, well. It’s partly a front, when he doesn’t want to deal with something and it’s partly a way of keeping his world in order. It’s no secret; Jonathan was an addict before he met Vincent. Rushing down a long, dark hallway to horror and oblivion. Keeping things in order helps him…keep on track, if you like.”
He reached over for Brandon’s hand. “I don’t want him to miss me. And I don’t want you to feel bad. And I don’t want you to miss me. What I want…” What did he want? His problem had always been that he wanted everything. Which flavor? Yes. Red or blue? Both. “I’d like you to be comfortable with each other. Enough that one doesn’t feel like they have to leave the room for the other.”
Brandon blinked. “You think I’m… I’m not uncomfortable around him. Do I seem that way?” he asked, genuinely surprised. “Or, do you mean he’s not comfortable with me? That, I can see. I don’t know how to fix that, Der. I thought when they were staying with us that…that he’d get used to me, but it didn’t seem to happen.”
Actually Brandon got the impression that Jonathan had to suppress a flinch every time he talked to him. He had no idea why. He didn’t consider himself all that intimidating, and he’d gone out of his way to try and be casual and friendly with Jonathan.
“Ah. Now, as to that.” Der heaved a slow breath. “That has more to do with history than it does with you, love. You’re tall, dark and handsome, and, no, I’m not kissing up. You are. Broad-shouldered. Strong. Unfortunately, Jonathan suffered long-term abuse and finally a kidnapping and near deadly beating at the hands of someone who shares many of your physical features. Now, never mind that you don’t share any other damned thing with this bastard, Pretty Jon can’t help the twitch. It’s almost hardwired.”
Der’s fingers drummed restlessly on his bottle. “He doesn’t react that way around Vic. But he’s known Victor for years and through a lot of shit. I think it’s a matter of…familiarity. Of having other associations. And he really has always kept a polite distance with you. Maybe the three of us should have dinner later in the week. And we’ll see if we can’t make things better.”
“Sure, Der. Although, I don’t think there’s going to be a sudden change of heart on his part, you know? If you’re right, I think it might just take time. I meant what I said, though. If you want to stay, spend some time with them… I do understand.”
Of course, by ‘dinner’ Der was hoping there might be more than just going out to eat but he kept that to himself for the moment. “Not tonight, love.” He lifted Brandon’s hand to kiss his fingers. “They need their time tonight. Drew needs his rest and his Dom and his Jonathan and they don’t need any interference, even from me.”
Brandon saw the logic of that, and he couldn’t say he was unhappy about it at all.
“Hey, sweetie.” Jonathan slid onto the sofa on Drew’s other side and wrapped his arms around him gently. “What can I get for you?”
Drew leaned back into him and closed his eyes, resting his head on Jonathan’s shoulder. “I got everything I need.” Which was a corny as hell thing to say, but Drew didn’t care. It was true.
Jonathan drew in an uneven breath. It felt so damn good to hold the boy again. “You say the sweetest damn things,” he murmured and kissed the top of Drew’s ear. “But you have to be starving. You need to eat some real food.”
“Don’t move, J, you stay right where you are.” Cody appeared before them with a huge plate of carefully selected items, little sandwiches, cucumber and carrot slices, and the bacon wrapped scallops Drew liked. He set the plate on the coffee table in front of them. “Drew looks so comfy, so sit still for once in your life and enjoy the moment.”
“Thanks, Codes,” Jonathan said with a soft smile. Family, yes, it was nice to have family around at a time like this.
Drew ate, but more because it made Jonathan happy than because he had any real appetite. Although, it was certainly worlds better than hospital food. Filling his belly had an unwanted side effect. He was yawning by the time he finished. They had a house full of people who had come to see him, to wish him well, and he could hardly keep his eyes open.
Victor and Elric had their heads together across the room. Katya soon joined them in low, earnest conversation. Victor snagged Ethan as he wandered by, Elric beckoned Jerrett over and Der was flagged down as he came back inside. It all looked rather official and ominous, this heads-of-household conference.
Finally, Elric broke from the group and approached the sofa. He placed a hand over his heart and offered Vincent a little bow of courtesy. “Brüderlein, ve are honored thet you chose us to be here vith you on this joyful day. But ve are in agreement and vill not be persuaded othervise.” He waved towards the group of Doms, who formed a steadfast and unanimous wall. “Ve hef decided not to overstay our velcome so thet you may hef the rest of your evening in peace and privacy.”
“Oh, sir, you don’t have to,” Jonathan protested. “I mean, I could put Drew to bed and–”
“I don’t believe I invited debate,” Elric said with a chill smile. He looked over at the group. “Did I?”
They all shook their heads as one, far too stern and serious, the lot of them.
Vincent chuckled. “Very well then, we surrender to such a well-coordinated conspiracy. And we’ll have a proper party at some later date when everyone feels better rested.” He gathered his crutches and rose to make the rounds, to thank everyone for coming.
Drew was uncomfortably embarrassed that he’d lasted only an hour before looking like he might keel over, but way down he was relieved that this little gathering was being cut short. He was more exhausted than he’d thought he would be.
Everyone came to wish Drew well before they left with lots of hugs and kisses, even a quick peck from Jerrett, which raised a few eyebrows. Der and Brandon waited until last and Der came down on one knee by the sofa to gather Drew close.
“You’re home, safe and sound, sugar bear,” he said softly. “You feel a little better now?”
Drew had his arms wrapped around Der, his face nuzzled up to the crook of his neck. He breathed in his scent, warm skin and the leather smell of his jacket. “Yeah, I feel better.”
“Good.” Der pulled back to give him a soft kiss. “Me, too. You sleep tight, sugar bear. I’ll call you tomorrow.” He turned to kiss Vincent goodnight as well and then rose, swept Jonathan up in his arms and planted a ravenous kiss on his lips. “You hold onto that, pretty Jon. We’ll talk later.”
He put a stunned Jonathan down, took Brandon’s hand and left.
“Dammit, why does he have to be so weird sometimes?” Jonathan grumbled.
“Maybe he misses you.” Drew said, completely unaware of the irony of this statement. He yawned again. “I think I’m gonna go lay down.” He said, because it was really way to early to say he was ‘going to bed’. He kissed Jonathan and Vince and got up, heading for the bedroom.
“Would you mind terribly if I did as well, beloved?” Vincent asked as he watched Drew walk away.
“Go on, babes, you’re barely keeping your feet,” Jonathan said softly. “I’ll just put the food away and finish cleaning up in the morning.”
“Don’t be long.” A hint of a smile tugged at Vincent’s mouth and he followed Drew down the hall.
They hadn’t discussed it, but Drew instinctively headed for the master bedroom rather than his own. Vincent followed slowly, one crutch at a time, too tired to swing himself along as he normally would. “You don’t mind, my kestrel, if I lie down with you?”
Drew smiled as he pulled his clothes off and threw them in the hamper. “I was hoping you would, but it’s so early I didn’t want to ask.” He pulled back the covers and slid between the sheets.
“I’m afraid I’ve been spending almost as much time in bed as you have lately,” Vincent said as he eased down onto the mattress with a sigh. “Though it’s much better to have company.”
He toed off his slippers, glad he hadn’t bothered with socks, pulled his shirt off over his head without undoing the buttons and hoisted himself up on the bed to shimmy out of his jeans. He left the boxer briefs on, a wave of heated impatience taking hold of him. He simply had to have his skin against Drew’s without another moment’s delay.
Drew was only too happy to snuggle close. He was so tired of sleeping alone in an uncomfortable hospital bed. He tried to think of the last time he’d slept with Vince and couldn’t remember, he’d been so…weird before he’d finally freaked out and went into the hospital. The thought suddenly hit him that it had been quite a while since he’d had any sort of intimate contact.
He breathed Vince in, holding him close as his hand drifted over his skin. He had been so tired, he was still tired, but his body was responding to Vince’s warmth and closeness anyway.
Vincent’s throat tightened. He had been so afraid he would never have this again. The times when Drew’s eyes had radiated such unreasoning rage or looked at him with dread and panic had nearly made his heart shatter. He buried his face against Drew’s shoulder, his hand stealing up the back of his neck to stroke his scalp where just the slightest hint of fuzz had begun to grow.
He lifted his head, trying to control the hitch in his breath, and pressed his lips to Drew’s in a tender, searching kiss.
Drew returned the kiss with tender warmth, his lips moved softly over Vince’s, his graceful fingers stroking lightly along Vince’s chest. He thought he knew why Vince’s breath was catching in his throat, and he did not need to ask what was wrong. Instead he concentrated on making sure Vince knew he was here with him wholly and reconnecting with him after they’d been through so much. “I love you,” he whispered between slow kisses.
“Drew…my Drew…” Vincent murmured against his skin as he moved his kisses down his jaw. “I love you so.”
He turned to press them closer, chest to chest, thigh to thigh. His hands wandered down the contours of Drew’s back to cup his lovely butt, pulling him in tighter so their shafts rubbed together. The heat was only beginning to rise, a comfortable warmth, but Vincent knew it wouldn’t take long.
“Hey,” Jonathan’s voice came from the doorway. “Oh, so not fair starting without me.”
“We were just keeping the bed warm.” Drew said, placating. “Come join us,” he suggested, sliding his hand down Vince’s body to stroke the stiffening member rising under his touch.
The way Vincent moaned in response almost made Jonathan faint as the blood all did a sprint from his head. His hands shook as he tore off his clothes, which he draped over the chair but didn’t bother to fold for once. His stomach trembled with need and desire too long denied as he slipped in under the sheets behind Drew.
“So hot,” he whispered against Drew’s shoulders as he licked and kissed. Straight from the hospital, Drew didn’t quite smell like Drew yet but he didn’t care. He rubbed against Drew’s ass, Vincent’s hand finding his cock in the bargain. “Oh…god…missed you so much…”
Drew groaned and pressed back into Jonathan. “I missed you, too,” he whispered heatedly. The slow and tender warmth he and Vince had been building suddenly seemed as if they’d just been waiting for the third in their triad to set the spark to such carefully laid and ready tinder. Drew bent his head to lick and suck at Vince’s nipple, his fingers curling around his erection and stroking more firmly.
Vincent’s hips rocked in time with the strokes. “Drew…oh…” he gasped out.
“Tsk.” Jonathan reached over and stilled Drew’s fingers. “Getting Vince all out of breath. You know he hasn’t been well.”
He rolled Drew onto his back and pulled him down until his head was almost level with Vincent’s crotch.
“Beloved, what are you thinking of?” Vincent asked with a chuckle.
Jonathan leaned over Drew to give him a scorching kiss. “I want to please you both at once. I’ll do all the work. You two can lie back and relax. Please?”
“All right, since you’ve asked so politely,” Vincent said as he rolled to his back.
“Oh, good.” Jonathan began by running his hands over both bodies laid out before him, kissing and licking here and there. He spread Drew’s thighs and dove between to lick at his balls while he reached in the nightstand drawer for the lube.
Drew shivered under Jonathan’s caresses and spread his legs farther in invitation. “God, I want you…” Drew said in a needy murmur. His hand moved to his own cock for a few sensual strokes, both because it felt good, and because he knew Jonathan liked the view.
“Mmm,” Jonathan purred, his eyes, full of heat and tender mischief, traveling up to meet Drew’s. He licked along Drew’s fingers while his own lube coated finger teased at Drew’s back door.
Vincent shoved pillows behind his head, content to watch, knowing he wouldn’t be forgotten.
Drew hissed a little breath and a heated moan escaped him as Jonathan slid his fingers into his tight passage. Oh yes, it had been awhile. Jonathan’s two fingers were squeezed tightly and Drew thought he was going to melt with the pleasure of it. His head turned and he nuzzled at Vince’s hip, despite Jonathan wanting him to just lie back and relax. He was so stimulated he had to do something.
Though he wanted desperately to rush forward, Jonathan took his time. Drew was so tight and tense with need, it took a little coaxing before he relaxed properly and opened enough to take another finger. He reached up and stroked his forefinger up and down Vincent’s shaft in the meantime, just to keep him warmed up.
When he felt Drew was ready, he exchanged fingers for the head of his aching erection. “Christ, sweetheart…so tight…” he panted out as Drew’s puckered entrance practically pulled him in. He had to stay still and concentrate on breathing for a moment so he wouldn’t go over too soon.
Drew bent his knees up farther with a needy little whimper and Jonathan sank farther in. Now he was in position where he could complete the circuit. With his cock buried deep inside Drew’s tight heat, he leaned over and swallowed Vincent’s waiting erection down to the root.
“Jonathan…oh, so good…” Drew murmured as he kissed and licked the side of his throat. His fingers found Jonathan’s nipples to pinch and tease while he eased in and out of him. He nipped his skin and sucked the spot into his hot mouth.
Vincent’s fingers sank into Jonathan’s curls, urging his head up and down. Jonathan’s cheeks hollowed as he increased the suction and Vincent didn’t care how long he held out. It simply felt too damn good. He guided Jonathan’s still-lubed fingers down between his own cheeks and cried out when he was breached, molten pleasure surging through him.
“Beloved…faster…harder…gods, you’re so wonderful,” Vincent got out on heavy gasps.
Naturally Jonathan obliged, keeping the same rhythm for both of them, hips, mouth, fingers, all dancing to the same heavy, thumping beat.
Drew eagerly stroked his achingly hard cock as Jonathan bucked hard between his thighs. The muscles of his abdomen tightened down as the pressure built. He panted, hips rocking in time with Jonathan until he couldn’t take any more. “Ohhh…I’m gonna come!” He got out in a desperate rush. “Gonna…uhhhh Jonathan…yesss…” His tight little hole clamped and spasmed around Jonathan, and he moaned with pleasure.
Jonathan groaned hard around Vincent and drove his fingers in a little harder. Vincent cried out and gripped his head so tight, he couldn’t move. The little, gasping cries came closer and closer together and Jonathan had his second reward when Vincent came hard, hot seed spilling across his tongue.
The taste, the sounds, the hard squeeze of Drew’s orgasm clamping around him and the hard hold Vincent had on him flung him up and over, a tsunami-crash of a climax roaring through him. His hips bucked and jerked through the first spasms and then he lay still, moaning around Vincent’s cock while he rode the last spasms deep inside Drew.
Drew lay unmoving as Jonathan’s weight settled on him. For a moment he wasn’t sure if he was going to stay conscious. There was a fine tremor in his muscles that was partly from the pleasure of release and partly sheer exhaustion. He couldn’t have moved if his life depended on it. He felt Jonathan’s soft lips press to his. He couldn’t open his eyes, but he did respond, his lips caressing back and tasting Vince’s flavor on Jonathan’s mouth.
The tremors telegraphed to Jonathan and he eased back carefully. “Poor sweetheart,” he murmured and settled at Drew’s side so they could hold him between them. He snagged the blankets from the foot of the bed and covered them all for good measure, afraid Drew would get chilled.
Vincent snuggled close and settled Drew’s head on his shoulder, a weight he had missed more than he could have imagined.
Drew fell asleep almost immediately, feeling safe and secure for the first time in weeks.
“Welcome home, my love,” Vincent whispered and kissed the top of his shaved head. “Welcome home.”
Keit retrieved a pair of leather cuffs and buckled them in place on his wrists. Usually when they had the Prince’s permission to be together without him there were limits to their play. The thought of Orion’s large hands caressing him while he was restrained had him so excited he felt his cock kick against his zipper.
When they were together with the Prince they both deferred to him, of course. When they were alone they came together as equals, or Keit would subtly take the lead. He was wondering if tonight Orion might enjoy having a little more control.
Orion stared at the cuffs with a little frown. “I can’t…hurt you, little one.”
“I know,” Keit reassured him softly, letting him work through things.
Finally he came back from whatever thoughts he wandered in, one hand coming up to cup Keit’s chin, a hand large enough to crush his skull but always so tender and gentle with him. He kissed Keit’s forehead, pulled the shirt off over his head and went to the chest where the cuffs had been. “Clothes,” he said simply without turning from his perusal of the chest’s contents.
Elric slipped out of his shoes and placed them neatly parallel, toes to the wall. For the gallery, he had put on his outside face, hair pulled back, black Armani trousers and a good silk dress shirt. Not that he minded ‘normal’ clothes now and then but it was a relief to shed them.
He came to Katya and went down to one knee to take up a dainty foot and undo the strap on her high-heeled shoe. His hands moved with great delicacy to slide the shoe off without snagging her stockings, then he bent his head to kiss the fine bones of her ankle. Such beautiful ankles, so slender, so perfect.
Kat’s eyes moved over his lean whipcord frame as he moved toward her. He was quite beautiful, although she would have said he was handsome aloud. When he knelt and took her ankle with a warm, gentle hand she was a little surprised, more so when he bent his head to kiss her there. His manner was not submissive, and yet the gentle gesture could have been seen as such.
So far the sparks between them had been cautious, and she had wondered if they might finally clash when this moment arrived. Neither was unwise enough to push their dominance on the other, but there was that unspoken tension between them, a careful wondering if either would bend to the other.
Elric continued on to the other shoe and ankle. Born of old nobility, in a tradition where station was never questioned, he had never made the male Dom’s mistake of confusing boorish behavior with dominance.
With the hazard of spike-heels removed, he rose and sat back against the headboard, making no attempt to hide the hard erection pressed against his black boxer briefs. With a twitch of a smile, he opened his arms to invite the lioness in his bed to come to him.
Katya smiled at him, but she stood instead of sliding up further on the bed. Watching him watching her, she slowly unbuttoned her blouse and let it slide from her arms. Then she unhooked and unzipped the sleek pencil skirt and let that slide off as well. The bra she wore was an emerald green satin trimmed in black lace that matched the tiny black lace panties with a green satin ribbon threaded at the top. Her thigh high, sheer, black silk stockings were also trimmed with a thin green satin ribbon at the top, tied into tiny bows in the front.
She left the lingerie in place as she knelt on the bed and crawled sinuously across to Elric. The smile on her face held a wealth of heat and promise.
His eyes had devoured her every movement, raptor sharp in their undivided attention. Now the slightest hint of guarded anxiety lurked there, the anticipation of the electric shock to his nerves of her first touch on bare skin. “Slowly, my dear,” he whispered. “If you please.”
Katya’s gaze as it traveled up his body was definitely hungry, but she tried to keep from seeming too predatory. And, she did go slowly. Her head lowered to place a soft kiss just above the top of his foot, the side of his calf, his knee, the top of his thigh, hip, bottom of his ribcage, sternum… a slow trail of soft kisses as she moved up into his arms and their lips met again in a gently seeking kiss.
By the time his arms closed about her, the little shocks and twitches of nerves had calmed and he was able to concentrate on her again. He traced a finger over the lacy strap of her bra and let her settle between his legs. The silk of her stockings against his thighs made his breath hitch but the twitch turned into a purr of pleasure.
“You hef the most exquisite taste in clothes,” he murmured against her jaw.
“Mmm…I’ve always thought what’s underneath is as important as what’s on the surface,” she answered against his skin.
“True. Though males are so visual. Ve like nice wrappings.” He smiled when he received a little laugh which vibrated against his chest. With a practiced flick he undid the hooks at the back of her bra and slid the straps down her shoulders.
Downstairs Orion had found what he was looking for and pulled two long lengths of silk from the chest. Keit had taken his meaning and shed his clothes quickly. When Orion returned to him it was to first take his naked body in his arms for a hungry kiss.
“I hope you like this game,” he said softly and turned Keit to bend him forward over a red leather ottoman. With gentle pressure, he urged Keit’s hands behind his back and clipped the cuffs together by their D-rings. Then he spread Keit’s legs and began to wind a length of silk around each ankle before he passed the cords under the ottoman and over Keit in a cat’s cradle designed to keep his legs spread wide and to fasten him down tight.
Keit moved, testing the give of his bonds. There was not much room to move at all and he squirmed with arousal. “Oh yes… I like this game very much, Orion,” he said in a softly breathy voice.
“Good.” Orion curled forward to lick at the shell of his ear while his large hands traveled over his shoulders and arms.
He stood and moved to where Keit could see him to strip out of his jeans to reveal a mocha-colored thong which struggled to contain his enormous equipment. When he knelt beside Keit again, he brought the carved wooden box they both knew contained a sinfully large collection of oils. The soft scent of almonds and honey drifted up when he uncapped his choice and drizzled a generous line over Keit’s beautifully exposed cheeks.
Keit tried not to squirm but he couldn’t help it. It felt deliciously good to be so tightly restrained. He didn’t know many others who would trust Orion, alone, in this manner, but Keit knew his large friend would never hurt him.
Huge hands cupped his cheeks and kneaded his backside, working in the first offering of oil, teasing him and soothing him all at once. A second drizzle of oil followed, this one down the crease, and Keit felt something smooth and cool press against his back door.
The set of plugs in graduated sizes lay under the oils if one lifted the drawer out. Orion started with the middle-sized one, easing the bulb in gently, hoping to work Keit up to his girth.
Katya eased back so he could release her ample cleavage. She watched his expression turn to something almost reverent as his fingers caressed ever so softly over the curved slope of her breasts all the way down over her ribs, following the dip of her slender waist.
In a smooth movement he lifted and turned, rolling her smaller frame under his in the first show he’d made of something other than carefully controlled restraint. Katya didn’t mind a bit, slipping her arms around his neck and opening to his seeking kiss.
He edged a knee between her thighs and she let him settle between, their hips moving in an instinctive, gentle rhythm. With a soft moan, he dipped his head to kiss a heated trail down her throat and then on to the firm globes so enticingly offered. His lips closed around one peaked nipple, his tongue flicking over the tip.
Katya’s fingers combed into the softness of his hair as her back arched. Her soft full lips parted on a sigh of approval as a tingle of desire flowed through her. She let him take the lead, for now, enjoying his explorations and the slow build of passion being fanned in them both.
With a soft growl he slid lower, the scent of her arousal as he kissed down her flat stomach made his head spin. He slid his thumbs under the top lace of her panties, his eyes lifting to hers with a quirked brow, just in case she would refuse. She did not so he slid the satin and lace confection down her thighs and off over her stocking clad feet.
Katya slid her calf along his ribs when he moved back. She bent her knee and let her silk clad toes glide down his hip and the back of his thigh. Her eyes held a wealth of heat and desire as she gazed at him. When he caressed up her thigh to the top of her stocking he hesitated just slightly again. “You can leave those on, if you like,” she murmured.
“I do like them,” he purred. “Very much.” He covered her hand with his and slid her fingers down to the waistband of his boxer briefs, silent permission and plea all at once while he leaned in to place a line of fiery kisses along her throat.
Keit moaned softly and writhed in his bonds. Orion stretched him slowly and carefully. Almost too slowly. He rocked as much as he could to try and encourage him along but the big man would not be rushed. When he reached the point of feeling unbearably teased he begged, “More, Orion… please…more…” Orion finally pushed the plug past its widest part and Keit moaned sweetly. “Yesss….mmmm”
Orion curled forward to kiss the top curve of Keit’s backside. Such a lovely curve. Such wonderful sounds the little one made, ones that ran fir-needle prickles over his scalp and down his spine in shiver cascades. He eased the plug in and out a little longer, deliberating.
His original thought had been to increase the size gradually, from one plug size to the next until the largest one which came close to approximating the circumference of his member. But the otter’s impatience, his increasing desperation made him act instead of over-think. With a slow pull, he removed the plug with one hand while he oiled his shaft with the other, a slow hiss escaping as his own strokes along his length sent sparks through him.
“Stay still, little one, stay still,” he murmured gently and placed the head of his cock against Keit’s little doorway.
Keit groaned and did his best to comply and stay still as Orion rubbed and pressed the thick head of his cock over him. The muscles in his thighs and stomach quivered with anticipation.
Slowly, with his thumbs spreading Keit’s cheeks wide, Orion eased forward, pushing through the resistance until his head popped through the breathtakingly tight ring of muscle. Panting, eyes shut tight, he held there a moment to let Keit adjust and to seize tighter hold of his control.
Keit yelped and then groaned in ecstasy. He didn’t think, he just pushed his hips back as much as the bonds would allow, wanting more and wanting it now.
“Sh, sh, otter,” Orion murmured as he stroked the golden back before him. When Keit kept squirming, he took firm hold of his hips and held him still. “We must not plunge. I will hurt you. I know you wish it but I will not.”
Keit whimpered, trying to behave. He had no choice but to let Orion go at his own pace, he wouldn’t let him do otherwise.
By small degrees, Orion rocked in and out, small fractions that allowed his well-oiled shaft to slide deeper. He trembled with the effort not to thrust but, oh, it was heavenly torture with Keit wrapped so tight around him.
Katya’s delicate fingers slid further inside until the elastic caught on her wrists and she pulled his shorts down with a caress. The member that sprang free she could not help but pay attention to, bringing one hand back up to lightly caress along the underside.
He closed his eyes and hitched a sharp breath through his nose. His body stilled as lightning jolts shot through him at her touch. For the moment, he waited for her, to see how she would like to proceed, though his member told him precisely how it would like to proceed in no uncertain terms.
Katya’s hands slid back up over his chest and to his shoulders, her fingers kneading in tiny circles there as she guided him back down so he lay nestled between her legs. She returned to a slow sensual kiss, her fingers still gently gliding over his skin. He was being cautious, she knew and she hoped she could ease some of that tension. He’d let only a tiny degree of his control go, and perhaps that was all he would allow, but part of her wanted to coax more from him. There were deep wells of passion within this man, just as there were within herself, she could sense them.
His hips rolled in slow circles until the head of his cock rested in the wet heat of her entrance. His kiss caught fire, lips and tongue devouring her luscious mouth as he sank in one steady thrust into her. The velvet walls gripped him tight and he felt as if sparks leaped from his fingertips while his hands traveled her body.
Katya’s back arched, a throaty moan parting her lush lips. Her fingers tightened on the muscles of his back and then released, sliding down his smooth skin and gripping him lower. Her hips rolled to meet him, a low purr of pleasure humming though her body.
He didn’t rush, though he seemed likely to devour her in every sense. His thrusts were calculated to hit every hot spot, slow and sensual at first, alternating between shallow and deep. A younger man might have lost his head and hammered away, seeking his own pleasure, but for Elric, his pleasure was largely in the reactions of his lovers. He sipped at them, sampled them, drank every drop he could.
Katya’s fingers slid into his hair and caressed over his skin as she kissed him passionately. Ever a creature of sensual pleasures she appreciated both his passion and his skill as a lover and let herself be immersed in each sensation.
They had both been so careful of each other, neither wanting to press the other for dominance, but as it turned out they needn’t have worried. This coupling wasn’t about who could top who, but simply about enjoying and giving to one another. Perhaps a little surprising that they could each give up just enough control to allow a sensual experience to bloom rather than a power struggle.
They shifted on the bed together, rolling so Katya was astride and Elric’s lean body stretched out beneath her. Her long, honey-colored hair tumbled around them as she leaned in to kiss him again. Their rhythm stayed a sensual pulse between them, bodies rising and falling in harmonious counterpoint. Katya leaned back once more, and Elric’s hands caressed over the flair of her hips and followed the smooth curves of her waist and up to the fullness of her breasts.
Her eyes closed and her head tipped back as her pace quickened, a softly feminine moan parting her lips as she crested the wave of pleasure rolling under her and spreading though her body in tightening spasms.
“Katya,” he got out in a tight whisper, his eyes devouring the erotic wonder of her climax. His fingers gripped her hips even as her velvet walls gripped him tight. His hips pressed up in quick, deep thrusts as she pulled him with her over the edge.
A soft cry escaped him, more than he often allowed, lost in her beauty and her passion.
Katya fell forward, her hands going to either side of Elric’s head and her hair making a golden curtain all around them. Her soft lips hovered above his for a moment, and then kissed him tenderly. She smiled at him softly as their lips parted again.
A little chuckle escaped when Elric returned her smile. “I hef the distinct feeling I hef been made a conquest of.”
Kat touched the tip of her nose to his playfully. “Perhaps a little.” Her voice was still low and throaty. “But you know you are much more than a notch in the bedpost, my dear.”
“So careful vith my fragile male ego.” He smoothed a stray wisp of hair from her forehead. “I vould not mind so terribly much. Being a notch in a goddess’ bedpost.”
Katya chuckled and kissed him lightly once more before she slowly moved off of him, sending little tremors and a tiny groan through them both. She lay beside him for a time, both content not to fill their satisfied silence with idle chatter. She let her hand rest on his chest and he let his fingers idly trace over her soft skin.
Keit’s body relaxed under Orion, having no choice but to let him go at his own pace. He shivered when that huge member was buried more then halfway, and Orion felt it safe enough to let go of his hips and slide his hands up his back to this shoulders. Keit moaned, still relaxed and letting himself sink deeper into the sensation even as Orion sank deeper within him.
With the easing of resistance and the little one so pliant, Orion felt it safe to begin long, slow thrusts. A deep moan rumbled in his chest, it felt so wonderful. His hands caressed golden skin, his body felt surrounded by golden light.
Keit’s body moved with Orion, his hard cock stimulated with each thrust where it was trapped underneath him. “Ohhh…so good…” he whispered, his body humming with pleasure.
The little whisper set brushfires along Orion’s skin. He gripped Keit’s hips again, this time for leverage, and increased the force of his thrusts to a steady, prostate thumping beat. “Oh, little one…if only the winds could carry us…”
Despite the lubrication and Orion’s careful preparation taking Orion’s very large cock was always a bit of a stretch for him. A deliciously warm stretch, at the limits of what his little orifice could take. Orion’s thickness breeching him caused discomfort no matter how careful they were, not enough to create any real or lasting damage, but enough to color Keit’s vision in shades of dark red and make him nearly incoherent with pleasure.
The ropes biting into his skin as he tugged at his bonds added another dash of spice. Keit’s excitement grew as Orion relaxed some of the tight rein he’d kept on himself while making sure he wasn’t going to hurt him. Another partner might have found it too much, both his size and the forcefulness of his hard thrusts. Keit nearly drowned in ecstasy.
His fevered moans and murmured words of pleasure expressed his desire as much as his taut clenching body as Orion covered him and put good use to his strength and stamina. Later he would pay for their long exertions, he probably wouldn’t walk right for a week, but the incredible pleasure was well worth it.
He felt Orion’s breathing change, the heat from his body rolled off in waves. Keit knew he was close, the powerful thrusts becoming just a little harder and faster and made his eyes nearly roll up in his head as Orion let him have the last couple inches of his full length. Two short cries of ecstatic pleasure welled up past Keit’s lips and his whole body spasmed with the sudden burst of his orgasm.
The sudden tightening gave Orion a moment’s warning but the sudden, rhythmic vise-grip and release around his the length of his cock sent him hurtling headfirst into a hard wall. He gripped the ottoman tight so his huge hands wouldn’t bruise his smaller lover. A long groan rolled from his chest as he held himself at the deepest point, letting Keit’s climax take him over, the pulses thudding up from his sac to release his seed deep inside that heated sanctuary.
He tried his best not to collapse on top of Keit but the room danced around him and the Earth lost all mass and gravity at once.
The weight settling on him sent aftershocks of pleasure racing though Keit as his cock was ground into the leather beneath him. His chest rose and fell in hard pants for a moment but as breathing began to slow the heavy body pressing him down made it difficult to draw air. This added its own layer of deliciousness as Keit’s head began to spin.
“Collisions,” Orion murmured as he recalled in which direction the floor could be found. He eased up with a grunt and slowly withdrew his softening member, drawing another long, breathy moan from Keit.
He sat down on the floor with a puzzled frown. The intensity of the orgasm, the position and feel of the moment had jarred something far below the surface. “I had another name once,” he whispered to the floor.
Keit stopped breathing, his breath caught in his throat. Now was so not a good time for Orion to have an epiphany. What if he thought he was somewhere else in the past again and ran off? At the same time he didn’t want to do or say anything that might ruin Orion’s chances of regaining his memory. What if he remembered who he was? If he had a family somewhere worried about him?
He was caught between two fears, but after a few moments more of Orion simply sitting there staring at the floor he figured if he was going to go running off thinking there was a fire, he probably would have done so by now. He took a tiny breath. “Do you remember? What your other name was?”
Orion ran a hand back through his thick mane of honey-blond hair. “He calls to me. In the yellow room. With the blue glass shadows. His voice…soft as snowfall. ‘Thor,’ he says. ‘Thor, what’s wrong?’”
His hands trembled as he rubbed them over his knees in agitation until the shakes spread to the rest of his huge frame. “Whispers. The shadows whisper to me. But I have no faces for them. Who is this other? Why can’t I see him?”
Thor? Was that a real name, or just a nickname or something? Keit had to admit it did sort of suit him, though at the moment the memory he was trying to surface seemed to be disturbing him a great deal. Keit started to worry again that he might slip away and run off. “Orion…” he called gently, regretful that even though the memory was upsetting him, Keit might ruin his chance of ever retrieving it. “Untie me, please.”
Orion lifted his head to blink at him. His lashes were wet, his gaze troubled and distant. Finally he heaved a ragged breath and leaned forward to tug free the two knots which pinned Keit to the ottoman. His hands still shook as he unclipped the cuffs and pulled the web of cords free before he sat back with his head in his hands.
“Little otter,” he whispered. “I can’t…reach it. I try and it slides into the dark. Why won’t they leave me alone?”
Keit slid, a bit stiffly, from the ottoman and into Orion’s lap since he couldn’t very well gather him up and hold him in his own lap to offer comfort. He wrapped his arms around Orion’s neck and let him hold him instead, smoothing his hands over Orion’s hair and murmuring soothingly. “I don’t know, hon, I don’t know. Maybe it would hurt too much to see.”
Orion sniffed, his breathing uneven, but he didn’t dissolve into tears as Keit feared. “You are sunlight on dark water, little one,” he whispered. “I did not wish to frighten you.”
“I know you don’t, Orion, I know,” he said, a little relief creeping into his voice. “It’s ok, I’m not afraid, only worried about you. I love you.” His arms tightened around him.
“You do?” Orion set him back a bit, searching his face for something, the puzzlement returned. “The otter loves me…how odd, the way things bend.”
He stroked a hand through Keit’s hair and found words he had lost for so long. “I love you, too.”
Keit leaned in to kiss his lips tenderly. “Are you feeling better now? Do you want to go upstairs?”
“Yes,” Orion said on a slow nod but then his eyes traveled around the room. “But we must put our toys away. Or the room might be always closed to us.”
Keit chuckled, some of the merriment returning to his eyes. He stood, and knew he was right about walking funny for a week. They cleaned up the room and headed upstairs hand in hand.
When Katya’s eyes began to grow heavy, she sighed. “I must go home. Richard and Liam will start to worry.”
“Ah. Of course. Vould you like me to drive you to your car or hef vone of the boys come pick you up?”
Katya smiled lazily. “I’ll see if Victor is ready to leave yet. He was giving you a pretty good stare down as we were leaving. I’m sure he’d like to know we haven’t killed each other.”
“I suppose he vill not sleep tonight othervise. Though I do vonder who he vas more concerned over.” His voice held such a serious note she had to raise her head to look at him and see the little twitch of his lips. He waved a hand towards the master bath. “The en suite is yours, Prinzessin, if you vish to freshen up.”
As it turned out, Victor was just getting ready to leave the museum when Katya called and he was happy to go and pick her up.
Cody, of course, would stay until close but the crowds had proved too much for Victor, especially when some of the museum-goers started to put the photographs together with the real article.
Thunderclouds still furrowed his brow when Keit opened the door.
Keit seemed completely un-phased by his apparent ill temper and showed him graciously inside. They didn’t quite make it to the sitting room before Katya and Elric appeared, the former looking fresh as morning dew despite her hair being more tussled than it had been earlier, and the latter looking sharp if well satisfied.
Katya’s smile was genuinely warm as she came forward to kiss his cheek. “Thank you for coming to get me, Victor. Are you keeping the scowl for my benefit or has something happened?”
“What?” Victor looked sharply from her to Elric and back but they both looked pleased as cream-fed cats. He took a deep breath and tried to smooth his expression. “Sorry, no. That is, yes, things happened. I should have left with you.”
He ran a hand back through his thick, black hair. “I think if I had to hear one more little twit squeal ‘oh, you’re in the pictures, aren’t you?’ my head would have exploded.”
Katya’s lips curled in a completely unsympathetic grin. “Oh, my poor darling.” He glowered at her and she laughed one of her rare completely spontaneous and uninhibited laughs, the sound warm and husky and meltingly sweet around the edges. “I’m sorry, Victor. I shouldn’t tease you. I know you don’t like the attention. At least this time your admirers weren’t fawning over you while you were still mostly nude.”
Victor grumbled something under his breath but her laugh had made his foul mood evaporate.
“A glorious evening as I recall,” Elric offered from where he leaned against the banister. “Both for the glorious sights and the valuable lesson in, ah, personal space.”
“Always glad to provide a public service,” Vic said at his driest.
“Well, let’s go where you needn’t worry about prying eyes or rabid fans.” Katya winked. She turned back toward Elric and placed a soft kiss at the corner of his mouth. “Good night, my Prince.”
“Gute nacht, Prinzessin. Träum süss,” Elric answered with a hint of wistfulness.
Katya took Vic’s arm as he led her out and to the car. A small smile played about her lips as he opened and closed the door for her, got in himself and started the car, then pulled out and down the street all without a word. She wondered how long it would take him to find the right words to ask her what he wanted to know, or if he would finally just blurt it out.
“Katya–” he got out at a stop light, both hands gripped tight on the wheel. “Did you…never mind, I won‘t ask that. That is…do you think that was truly a good idea?”
Katya bit back her automatic reply. Had it been nearly anyone else that had asked she would have told them to mind their own business. Victor, she knew, was only concerned for her. She thought about it for a moment, then cleared her throat. “There was more of a power struggle between you and I, Victor,” she admitted. “I think…I think it will be alright. He’s a good man.”
Vic’s fingers drummed once on the steering wheel. “I didn’t doubt he was a good man.”
She turned her head to look at him. Her expression was puzzled for a moment, and then cleared as she realized what he was truly worried about. “I don’t think he was using me as a substitute,” she said softly, to show she wasn’t dismissing his concern.
He pulled in a slow breath as at least some of his suspicions were confirmed. There had been a loss then, and under all that beautiful, Teutonic frost lay a world of hurt. Maybe Cody was right and it had been good for each of them to find someone who understood. But what if Elric wanted more someday?
“Just be careful of each other, all right? I know you both have enough prickly spots to make a cactus jealous.” He allowed himself a little smile at her snort and went on in a softer tone as he drove on. “So what’s he like? When he’s not being so blasted careful of every breath.”
Katya chuckled, “Are you asking me to kiss and tell?”
“I’m just curious,” he grumbled.
“Mm-hm.” She grinned. “He is very considerate…very passionate.” She smiled.
“Ah,” Vic managed on a hard swallow, the tips of his ears tinged red.
Her smile grew. “Victor Szoldos — you have a crush on him.”
“Nonsense,” he growled, his ears turning redder. “I…admire him.”
“I’ll bet I know what you admire.” She made a lecherous leer that was a fairly good imitation of Xavier and made him laugh. She leaned over to kiss his cheek, chuckling. “I love you, Vic.”
“Not sure what I did to deserve that but I’ll take it,” he said with a soft smile. “I love you, too.”
“You’re a good friend Victor,” she said by way of explanation. “And I just wanted to steal another kiss.”
“Ah. I see.” He looked altogether too serious as he went on, “I suppose we can allow unscheduled kisses once in a while. But, please…” He cleared his throat and caught her hand when her finger trailed up his thigh. “Don’t distract the driver.”
Katya’s warm chuckle was a purr over his ear, but she did relent.
The cavernous open space of the university gallery’s top floor had been divided into three rooms for Cody. The installation had been strictly under wraps, without graduate student assistance or anyone unauthorized permitted inside. Victor had helped with the heavy lifting, Derelict with some of the more hazardous items, like the ceiling work, and Nightshade with some of the more delicate things.
The official opening would be that evening but the afternoon was for a special showing, for two notoriety-shy Doms who would not appreciate the stares and inane questions of gawking gallery crawlers.
Elric tucked Katya’s hand into the crook of his elbow, an odd nervousness lodged in his stomach. “Are you ready, Prinzessin?”
Katya gave him a warm, sensual smile as she curled her fingers around his arm. “I am, my Prince.”
The plaque outside the installation read ‘Dominion of Ice and Diamonds’, a title Elric felt a bit ostentatious until he stepped through the doors. Two steps inside he stopped, struck speechless in wonder. Here were Cody’s palaces, writ large, floor to ceiling constructs of shapes fantastic enough to have made even mad King Ludwig drool. Lights shone behind the palaces, the myriad prism effects pulling the eye this way and that.
Amidst these soaring, glittering palaces were the pictures taken in Elric’s front room. A sign on the wall declared the room’s title to be ‘The Prince’s Court’ and he had to chuckle at how Cody had created just that feel, with Orion kneeling at his feet and Keit at one point on the arm of his ‘throne’ and Anthony coming to kiss his hand in greeting.
Katya had of course stopped with Elric, as bemused as he at the fairytale feel of the room. Cody created such lovely things. However, she was more drawn to the Prince’s reaction. She watched him from the corner of her eye as he looked around.
“Amazing, is it not, my dear?” he said, the slight tremor in his arm belying the cool irony of his voice. “Vhat position should they all hold, do you think?” He nodded to the photograph that showed Orion standing behind the throne, arms folded over his massive chest. “Ceptain of the guard, perheps?”
Katya chuckled softly. “Hmm, I think your lovely Keit would look adorable as the harlequin.”
He let out a short bark of laughter. “You may be right. Though I might hef picked Anthony as more the jester sort.” He cocked his head to one side. “My Keit has the physique for a harleqvin but the temperament of a chancellor. Anthony vill simply hef to be content vith a knighthood. He does look good on horsebeck.”
The plaque for the next room held the title ‘Mentor’ and the change in mood became immediately apparent as they stepped through the doorway. Huge mirrors lined all four walls, reflecting the photographs and the onlookers into infinity. Sharp stalactite shapes hung from the black ceiling, lending the room an air of danger. Here the pictures were all from the gallery, the ones with Elric and his huge, antique sword followed by the shots where he showed Victor how to wield the monstrous blade.
“He is such an impressive specimen,” Elric murmured in appreciation, able to see now what Cody had captured so perfectly.
“Yes, he is,” Katya purred, but she wasn’t looking at Victor, for a change.
One white brow arched at her tone and the direction of her gaze but Elric was too polite to inquire further. They moved on into the third room where the world of glass and light changed yet again. Here crystal streams and diamond waterfalls flowed over the floor and down the walls, an optical illusion of constant motion. Tiny pieces of polished glass adorned the ceiling, hundreds of them like stars on a cold, clear night.
Here Cody had arranged the photos in a double narrative. Along the right wall, the pictures showed Elric being undressed and getting into bed. Along the left, Katya floated down the hallway, the pictures manipulated to appear as if snow fell around her, giving her a soft, mysterious outline. On the far wall, the two came together with Katya approaching and settling on the bed.
They looked at them all but Elric stopped longer in front of the one where their lips met in a soft kiss. He fought against the feeling, once again, that the woman beside him was someone else.
They both stood for a few long quiet moments. Katya tried not to intrude into his thoughts, but it was hard not to be infected with his pensive mood. “Elric,” she finally said softly. “I am not her, I’m sorry,” she said with the infinite empathy of one who knew loss as well.
“I know, Katya. I do know.” He turned to her to say something, then shook his head and looked up at the ceiling instead, at the little stars. “Despite my taking the name of a prince out of a fantasy novel, I do live very much in the real vorld. I hef lost. So hef you.”
Katya’s gaze moved from him back to the image of them together. Cody had captured perfectly a feeling of yearning between them, and also strangely a certain innocence. The spill of Katya’s honey blonde hair as she leaned forward shone as a bright spot of gold amid all the white and silver and dark wood in the background. He had used the shot where their lips barely touched, top and bottom, a small space still between the crease of their lips, as if those lips would part in the very next moment for a more passionate endeavor.
Katya knew she must look an awful lot like the woman Elric had lost, but she couldn’t imagine she was much like her otherwise. She would probably have been soft and sweetly submissive, not weak though. Elric did not choose weak. Probably someone who was a mite better at offering comfort, too.
He lowered his head to give her that twitch of an ironic smile. “It vas long ago, my dear. More than helf your lifetime ago. I hed both a wife and a husband. Did you know thet?”
Of course she didn’t. Only Keit knew. He didn’t wait for an answer before he took a step away from her and offered his hand in a courtly bow. When that perfect, elegant little hand settled in his, he straightened and swept her up in a strange, silent waltz.
“Another time. An older vorld. My Annalise and my Kurt,” he said with a soft smile. Strange, when he had spoken to Keit about them, he had collapsed with grief. Now, with Katya, it felt…better to talk about it all, something of a relief. “He vas strong. A prectical man. Good vith his hends and much more sensible than I at thet age. But he vas sweet and gentle and needed somevone to follow, to believe in. She vas beautiful. But thousands of girls are beautiful. She had a sharp mind and a sharp tongue sometimes. Sharp enough to push an arrogant young buck off his high horse vhen he needed it. But she could not stend to see me hurt. She–”
He stopped abruptly, both speech and movement. “She vas my shield against the vorld.”
Katya lifted her fingers to his cheek and he looked at her with a small, sad smile. “They sound lovely, Elric.”
“Yes, they vere lovely.” He brushed a stray strand of gold behind her ear. “I hef kept them locked safe in my heart all this time, esking the universe vhy I, the one I felt the least deserving of us, vhy I hed survived and not them. Perheps it is not fair to their memory to keep them in a cold, sterile vault any longer.”
Elric’s fingers brushed her cheek as he moved his hand from tucking the tendril behind her ear and Katya turned her face so her lips brushed against his palm. A small spark passed between them, undeniable electricity.
He let out a soft chuckle. “Vill you rebuff me again, my dear? It is your right, of course…”
Katya’s warm fingers slid to the back of his neck as she turned her face up to his. “It was not a rebuff so much as it was… the right thing to do. For you, and for me,” Katya said, knowing he would understand precisely what she meant. He had been seeing her as someone else that day.
Her lips were so close now a breath would bring them together. “Do you see me now, Elric?”
“I do, Katya,” he whispered across her lips. “And you are glorious.” He tilted his head a fraction and closed that breath’s distance to claim her lips in a tender, searching kiss.
The sweetly questing kiss was answered with tender warmth that swiftly caught fire. Kat let him draw her closer, her other hand sliding up his chest to twine around his neck as well. Her soft curves pressed against his body as they kissed passionately amid the sparkling frost of the room.
His hand slid down, long, white fingers spread across the small of her back. The other hand slid into her hair as he deepened the kiss, tongues fencing in imitation of the swordplay in the previous room. His heart hammered against his sternum when he finally pulled back.
“I do not think Cody would appreciate our christening his exhibit. Or perheps he vould not mind but the museum might.”
Katya laughed, a sound like a hand smoothing over warm fur. “Shall we go and tell him how wonderful he is, then?” Katya suggested as they turned to exit.
In the second floor foyer, Cody waited for them, trying not to fidget.
“Sweetheart, you know it’s perfect. Stop worrying so much.” Victor grumbled from where he leaned against the wall.
“I’m happy with how it came out but it’s so important that they are.” He ran his hand back through his hair. “Baby, if they don’t like it, that’s it, I can’t open. Not with a clear conscience.”
He heaved a sigh of relief when his principles emerged from their tour all smiles. Of course, what he hadn’t expected was that they were smiling at each other and that their bodies no longer had the formal, careful space between them.
“Holy crow,” Victor whispered, echoing Cody’s sentiments.
“So? How was it?” Cody asked, bouncing on the balls of his feet.
“It is magnificent, my dear,” Elric said with an odd little smile. “Completely magnificent.”
“It is beyond beautiful, Cody. As if you would do anything less,” Katya said and leaned in to kiss his cheek. She did not, however, relinquish Elric’s arm as she did so.
“I shell return on another day to bring Orion. He so admires your vork.” Elric bussed his cheek as well. “But for now, the day is getting on and your other admirers vill soon be here.” He patted the hand so firmly latched onto his arm. “Ve should depart, Katya, don’t you think? Before the mob arrives.”
“I agree.” Katya said. She lifted up on tiptoe to kiss Vic as they passed and she did not miss his look, somewhere between bemused and concerned, but she did not acknowledge it either.
Vic’s brow furrowed as he stared after her.
“She’s a big girl, baby,” Cody offered softly. “Not like she’s your little sister or something.”
“Heaven forbid,” Vic muttered. “I’m just not sure it’s a good idea. They’re so…I don’t want to say the same. Of course they’re not. But in many ways, similar. She has some very sore spots and I have the feeling, for all his chill calm, that he does too.”
“Well, maybe it’ll be nice to have someone to talk to, then, right?” Cody came to snuggle into Victor’s huge embrace. “Not a club I’d want to belong to but maybe it’s a good thing for them.”
“Sweetheart, I hope to God you’re right.”
In the parking lot, Elric waved his hand on a helpless laugh. “My dear, if you vere anyvone else, I vould simply put you in the Mercedes. Obviously, thet is not appropriate here. Vould you be comfortable in my dominion or do you prefer your own?”
One corner of Katya’s mouth curled. “I’ve already left two men worried back there.” She said. “I think a visit to your home would be better.”
They took Elric’s Mercedes after all and chatted amiably on the ride of people and places they both knew. It was an easy comfortable conversation, and one that seemed naturally to lead to discussion of their subs.
“Orion hes truly blossomed since Keit came to live vith us,” he said in answer to her question. “I do still hef concerns about the day he might regain who he vas before.” He shrugged, gloved hands never leaving the steering wheel. “But I suppose vone should not vorry about the tree limbs vhich hef not fallen.”
“Very true.” Katya agreed as they pulled up into the driveway.
They were greeted at the door by the very boys they had been discussing. Obviously surprised by their guest, Keit was still flawlessly polite and deferential. He was confused, not sure if this was a social call or business as it were and held back, not sure if he should offer to bring them tea or if his presence was required at all.
“Keit, vould you bring a tray to us in the parlor, please?” Elric asked as he led Katya in that direction.
“Yes sir.” Keit felt better with some direction and set off to bring them tea and put together some tidbits to snack on.
Katya and Elric sat, again settling into comfortable conversation. It might have seemed odd they got along so well, each with a somewhat temperamental personality. The careful respect for one another could have been stiff and uncomfortable, but instead had settled into a genuine affection.
Their conversation turned to art, Cody’s in particular, the magic he made both with film and objects he shaped, and their personal feelings about the work he’d done with their images. This of course rekindled the earlier warmth that had brought them back to the Prince’s domain to begin with, and neither could resist another taste of sweet lips.
Keit entered at that moment, and was so stunned he froze at the door not knowing if he should continue or back silently out. Before he could though, Katya noticed him and broke the kiss that had begun to gain heat. She began to tell him he could come forward and stopped herself with a smile. They were being very careful of each other’s toes, and she left it to Elric to give him direction. Keit did look adorably confused at the moment.
Elric allowed his confusion to continue a moment longer since the expression was so fetching. “Come, herzchen. Three,” he finally said and waited for Keit to place the tray down and kneel at his feet. He combed a finger back through Keit’s hair. “Take Orion down to the red room, mein herz. You may hef full use of the room, its contents and each other. You hef my permission.”
“Yes sir, thank you,” Keit said, his expression still slightly bemused. He rose gracefully and turned his head toward Katya, eyes still lowered. “Have a lovely evening, ma’am,” he said and then disappeared quickly.
He closed the door quietly behind him. In a way he wished he had been invited to stay. Not that he was really all that attracted to women, but that woman… well, Katya was something else. And with the Prince…mmm. He’d left Orion in the kitchen and hurried to him now. He slid into his arms and kissed him warmly. “Would you like to go downstairs with me, Orion? The Prince has given his permission.”
Orion held him close, though his expression was puzzled. “Downstairs? Only… you and I?”
“The Prince has a guest. Ms Katya,” Keit said, by way of explanation.
“Yes. I saw her.” Orion blinked at him in confusion. Then a chuckle rumbled in his chest. “Ah. I had thought they would want to play together. But they only want to play with each other. She burns so bright.”
He swept the otter up and carried him downstairs. Not that he needed to but the little one felt so good in his arms.
Keit wrapped his arms around Orion’s neck with a happy grin. He kept thinking about the image of the Prince and Ms. Katya on the settee, the way she touched his face, his hand resting lightly on her thigh, their lips together. He couldn’t help wondering what they were doing at that moment, surprised to find how excited it made him. As soon as they crossed into the red room Keit arched his neck to catch Orion’s lips in a searing kiss.
“Mmm,” Orion purred into the kiss while he devoured Keit’s mouth. Oh, how he loved the spark and crackle of the otter’s passion, like flames dancing on pinewood. He set Keit down with a smile. “What would you like to play?”
Up in the parlor, Elric pulled back from a fiery kiss of his own. “Perheps ve might adjourn upstairs? The rugs are nice but I vould prefer a bit more comfort myself.”
Katya’s warm purr of a laugh thrummed just below his ear as she agreed and rose with him to move upstairs. He led her not to Keit’s room this time, but to his own. A single glance around the chamber and Katya knew this room suited him perfectly. The heavy dark wood and rich colors were very masculine. In contrast she looked ultra feminine as she perched on the edge of the solid bed.
“Do you think he would?”
The call from Cody had been unexpected and now Keit had to think what to say. What did you tell such a pretty artist when he asked in such a sweet, plaintive voice? No, my Dom’s way too private a person to want to sit for you?
“I don’t know, Cody,” Keit finally answered. “I can only ask.”
“Would you? I mean, kinda let him know that I don’t have things all mapped out beforehand. It doesn’t have to be anything like the Woods installation. That is, I know it won’t be. He’s just so…sculpturally beautiful. And he’s inspired me. I have some pieces started if he wants to see them first…”
“Really?” Keit asked, suddenly very interested. “Can I see them, too?”
“Sure,” Cody said with only a slight hesitation. “Just keep in mind that it’s WIP stuff, you know, work in progress.”
The Prince was cautiously intrigued when the idea was presented to him. He agreed to give it a hearing with the caveat that he wasn’t agreeing to anything. Since Cody insisted his pieces had to be viewed in daylight, he bundled up for a trip out into the sun and allowed Keit to drive him.
“It’s not a whole concept, it’s just a start,” Cody explained as he led the way to his studio. His hands crept into his pockets and back out, fluttering here and there, his nerves telegraphing to everyone within a mile radius. “Just to give you a sort of feel for the flavor of it.”
He eased the door open and stepped aside. “For right now, I call it ‘Ice’.”
While crates and boxes of materials still littered the floor, the mundane, practical items of the studio detracted little from the wondrous scene which greeted them. Glass, in hundreds of individual, carefully ground and shaped pieces, rose in towers and spires from the studio floor, evocative of fairytale castles and icebergs. Delicate stalactites hung from parapets, forms which imitated tumbling, rushing rivers danced about their feet.
Pale blue, clear and green glass, all cleverly placed, caught the sun and sent it back as thousands of diamonds creating the illusion of an ice field on a clear winter day.
“Wow…” was Keit’s awestruck response. “I mean, well that’s exactly what I mean. Wow.” He laughed and then smiled. He glanced at Elric from the corner of his eye but didn’t say anything more. He hoped his Dom would agree to work with Cody, he could tell already it would be spectacular, but he didn’t want to seem overeager and jinx it.
His gaze as piercing as the eagle for which Orion named him, Elric’s red eyes swept the room slowly. “You say thet I hef inspired this vonder? It is difficult to understend.”
“It’s not like it’s portraiture, sir,” Cody answered softly. “Not this part. It’s more like your, um, presence? Aura? What it’s like to stand in the same room with you.”
Keit found himself nodding, understanding perfectly what Cody portrayed here, and made himself stop. He bit his lip and stayed still.
Elric stalked slowly about the room, hands clasped at the small of his back, one white brow raised. “It is breathtaking, my dear. But you cannot need me for building ice castles.”
“No, sir.” Cody gave him a shy smile. “Mixed media installation is what I like best. I’d like to start with some photos of you. See where they lead. Orion’s shown me some of his, sir. You, um, photograph very well. Stunning, really.”
“Do you alvays stroke your models’ egos so shamelessly?” Elric said on a soft chuckle. “Perheps I should think on it. I hef such full schedules these days. To make the trip here, and I’m certain you would esk for more than a single sitting…”
“Oh, sir, no! I’d never ask you to do that. I’d come to you. We want you in your own, you know, environment. Where you’re comfortable. Whenever it’s good for you. Not like I’m on a deadline or anything.”
Elric regarded him with that steady, unnerving stare for a long moment until Cody dropped his gaze and squirmed. “So. Good. I shall allow it. Though I must hef final approval of any likeness thet vould be on exhibit.”
“Of course, sir.” Cody’s smile rivaled the sun-dappled glass. “I never show any person’s image without full consent.”
Keit beamed and told Cody when the best times and days would be, noting them down on a piece of paper for him.
The next Friday afternoon Cody came with his equipment. In his sweet, polite way, he managed to coax the Prince into changing four times, from black to red to silver and finally to a full-sleeved shirt of soft blue-gray with the charcoal calfskin pants. The first series of photos were done as formal portraits with Elric installed in the oversized carved walnut chair, a fitting throne for a Black Forest prince.
When his subject became a bit more comfortable with the camera and his style of working, Cody simply let things evolve. Orion brought in an odd seed pod that had to be shown and discussed, conversation became more natural, and Cody’s camera’s whirred and clicked throughout.
Anthony arrived at the appointed hour and Cody insisted they keep to their usual routine, enlisting Orion and Keit’s help to carry his equipment upstairs to the gallery for fencing.
Keit set the equipment down carefully, then went to see if the Prince needed anything from him before they began. He didn’t, of course, but he appreciated Keit’s diligence. He lifted his chin with the edge of his finger and brushed Kiet’s lips. A click let them both know Cody had captured the moment.
“So what’s it all about, pretty Cody? Is it like a thingy, you know, commission or a project or some public beautifications work or just ‘cause your couldn’t resist? And where’s it gonna be? Are you just starting? Is it gonna be like the one with Derelict? Oooh, I loved that one, it was so damn hot–”
“Anthony!” Sasha laughed and kissed him on the cheek before handing him his face mask. “Shush. Cody won’t remember the first question if you ask him three hundred.”
Cody chuckled though he kept looking through his lens. “I was inspired, it won’t be like Der’s, I don’t know where and when it might show and it’s hard to say how far along it is. Please, do what you always do. Don’t let me stop you.”
For the first ten minutes, the camera distracted Anthony in the worst way. A natural ham, he simply couldn’t help playing to the lens. After he’d lost the first five points in a row, though, his competitive side kicked in and forced him back to business.
As a subject for photography, fencing in the mirrored gallery was marvelous. Cody played with exposure times and framing and the infinity effects of the glass but soon he realized it wasn’t doing it for him. Wonderful in its own right but not the right feel for the current piece.
When Elric called a momentary halt after winning twice, the first match easily and the second by a spare point, Cody had a thought.
“Sir? Do you have any actual weaponry in the house? Family heirloom maybe? Something that’s, you know, yours and looks like it is?”
The Prince handed his fencing mask and foil off to Keit and stripped off his gloves before he answered. “Yes, there are such things. A few things I kept.”
Cody winced. The temperature in the room had dropped twenty degrees. “It’s just a thought, sir. If I’m poking into things I shouldn’t, please tell me.”
A long silence followed in which Elric stared a hole into the far wall. Then he waved a hand and shook his head. “No, Cody, forgive me. They are only things.” He strode to the door to call out, “Orion, liebchen, could you go up to the attic, please? Die Zwiehänder erhalten, bitte?”
Keit came forward to help Orion unwrap the package where he’d carefully laid it on the floor. Inside were several long scabbards. It was a bit like unwrapped forgotten treasure, Keit thought with amusement. There was definitely a sense of anticipatory wonder in the room.
“A bit of nostalgia and hubris all at vonce,” Elric said softly. “As if these hef held any relevance or hed any real use for three hundred years. And yet, father insisted vone should know how to use them.”
“God, sir, they’re beautiful,” Anthony breathed.
“They are not toys like your modern-forged blades,” Elric warned.
“No, sir, no, absolutely not. Antiques. I know. Won’t lay a finger on them. Even I wouldn’t let me touch them.”
Cody leaned over Keit’s shoulder. Two of the weapons were obviously ceremonial. Parade swords in ornate scabbards, one was sheathed in black leather decorated with flowers and vines, the other in brown painted with a fierce, black-winged angel holding a flaming spear. The third, though, was unadorned and huge.
“Sir? What’s that one? A pike…or something?”
“No, my dear.” Elric chuckled. “The two-handed sword. A particularly…difficult veapon. I suppose thet is the vone you are interested in?”
“If it’s all right, sir,” Cody answered with a little smile.
“Ah, the things I do for art,” Elric said with a little shake of his head. He stripped out of his shirt, drew the scabbard off with great care and lifted the sword with both hands. The light sparked off its blade as if it had been newly forged the previous day. When the Prince grounded it in front of him, the hilt nearly overtopped him.
“Cripes,” Cody breathed out before he remembered to take a few shots. “It’s monstrous.”
“Hmm, yes. There are good reasons not many vere forged. The reach is unrivaled. The power of its strike frightening. But in terms of control, simply due to the veight and momentum, it is deficient.” Elric motioned to them all. “Beck, my dears. Against the valls. I do not vish to hef any of you harmed.”
Keit drew Sasha along with him and Orion as everyone backed off to give the Prince some room. He had the oddest sensation as he looked at Elric, standing there shirtless wielding a broadsword from a long ago era. For a moment it seemed as if this were truly the Prince’s element, and everything else was simply… pretend, a play he was acting. Sasha shivered next to him and Keit knew he must be thinking something similar.
He had a sudden urge to hug him, like he wanted to protect him from harm and had to shake his head at himself. Not only was there no need, it was an odd feeling. His attention came back to Elric as he went through his paces, looking like he performed an intricate dance. Surely not an easy thing with a weapon that size.
The camera never ceased its whir and click, Cody careful to keep himself at the room’s perimeter. Muscles strained in hard relief as the Prince lifted the sword to whirl it over his head. His face set in fierce concentration, he stepped into the forward swing in a move that surely would have decapitated an opponent.
“Oh, sir…could we have that one again? That was amazing,” Cody called out.
Elric lowered the sword to the mat, sides heaving. “You vish to have photos of me collapsed on my beck as vell?”
“Please, sir? So I can get a different angle.”
With a slightly aggrieved look, Elric raised the sword again and repeated the movement, not once, not twice, but four more times at Cody’s desperate urging.
Keit’s eyes followed every movement. The little smile that usually played about his lips definitely had a more sensual cast to it. He shifted as his thoughts turned to other things he’d like to see that magnificent body doing, and tried to unobtrusively rearrange the sudden discomfort centered on his crotch.
“Enough,” Elric finally panted out, leaning on the pommel. “It becomes too dangerous to hendle exhausted. Another reason it vas an impractical blade. Perhaps a man could endure through an entire skirmish if he vere built like Orion. Or your Victor, my dear, lurking there in the doorvay.”
“Sorry, sorry.” Victor held up both hands in apology. “Just came to pick up Cody and didn’t want to distract you in the middle of a swing. Good God, that thing’s huge.”
“Something you say to all the boys, Herr Szoldos?” Elric said with a dry chuckle.
Victor ignored the little jab. “Could I, sir? Would you mind?”
Tired as he was, the Prince waved him over and placed his hands on the hilt correctly.
“Shirt, baby,” Cody said from behind his tripod.
“I’m not sewing up any ripped shoulder seams.”
“Oh, right.” Victor yanked his t-shirt off over his head and tossed it to the side, making several hearts in the room flutter.
With Elric’s guiding hands, often with his arms around him, Victor was led through the basics while Cody’s camera clicked away. It was an absolutely magnificent image, something out of another time or another plane entirely, Victor, tall and heroically built, mentored by the somewhat shorter, more compact Elric, his alabaster skin a stark and lovely contrast against Victor’s tan.
Keit was torn. His eyes wanted to eat up every flex and bunch of muscle going on and at the same time he kept trying not to watch so he wouldn’t embarrass himself. He supposed it was too late for that. It wasn’t like he could conceal the hard-on pressing an outline along the front of his tight pants. His face felt flush and he wondered if the thermostat was actually broken.
A quick glance around showed him he wasn’t the only one, though. Anthony tugged at the leg of his pants, his large, grey eyes transfixed by the pair on the mat. Orion stood with his arms crossed over his chest, a little smile on his lips, making no effort at all to hide the huge bulge in his painted-on shorts. Sasha’s mouth hung open and he looked as if he might faint at any moment.
With one hand on Victor’s right arm, the other on his shoulder, Elric took him through a lunge, their bodies moving in tandem in a strange, fierce dance. At the full extension, Victor let out a little laugh. “Well, that certainly yanks on the hamstrings, doesn’t it? It’s almost–Elric, you’re shaking.”
“Ja, so, it is enough I think today,” Elric said with a wry smile. “Your lovely spouse hes pushed me farther than I thought possible.”
“Special talent of his,” Victor said. He thanked the Prince and helped him put the sword away before he gathered Cody and equipment up and said their goodbyes.
In the truck Victor sat without turning the key, brows drawn together in a pensive frown.
“What’s wrong, love?” Cody stroked his arm.
“Hm? Oh, nothing really. It was just an odd feeling. I read all those books when I was younger, you know, the Eternal Champion stories with the fictional Elric and all the others. Standing up there, with that huge sword and his voice in my ear, it was like having someone step out of a book. As if, maybe, fictional characters really do exist somewhere and the writer just borrows them for a bit.”
Cody laughed, though there was a nervous edge to it. “Now that’s a bizarre thought. Come on, baby, let’s get home. I’m dying to get some of this stuff in the dark room.”
Up in the gallery, Orion gathered the rewrapped bundle to put away while Elric struggled to get back into his shirt and gave up the effort with a disgusted snort. “I do hope vhen Cody comes again next Friday he hes something less strenuous in mind.” He took a step towards the door and had to catch himself on the wall before he glanced over at Keit. “Herzchen, a good rub down is a necessity, I think.”
Keit thought that was a marvelous idea. “Yes, sir.” He followed Elric to his bedroom and helped him with the rest of his clothes, trying not to appear too eager. He had the feeling he failed on that score.
Elric lay down across the bed and Keit knelt next to him on the mattress. Elric didn’t really like scented oils so Keit had brought home a non-scented massage cream he seemed to like better. He scooped a good dollop into his hands to warm it and then began to knead the overworked muscles along Elric’s back, shoulders, and arms.
“Ah…heaven,” Elric murmured. Keit’s touch was the perfect blend of gentle care and firm pressure, one of the few which didn’t make his skin twitch and crawl at first contact. Over time he had become much more at ease with Keit touching him in any situation, a stolen kiss, a spontaneous hug, a soft caress on his shoulders, all came without the sudden chill stiffness that such unsolicited touches brought with almost everyone else.
A soft grunt escaped when Keit hit a knot at the back of his neck. “I am out of prectice, mein herz. Grown soft from too much indulgence.”
Keit smiled and leaned down to place a soft kiss at the back of Elric’s neck. “Not that soft, my Prince,” he said, his tone warm but not overt.
“Shameless,” Elric said on a soft chuckle. “But it is true thet I hef not held a true blade in years. Heidelberg style fencing is all very nice but it lecks the extra challenge. Father vould never hef allowed me to let things go so long.”
He lay silent for a long stretch, brooding over things he had set aside long ago.
Keit was happy to continue in comfortable silence. He would never tire of running his hands over Elric’s sleekly muscled body. Sensitive to his Prince’s moods he let himself become a soothing part of the background, there but not intruding. The hint of arousal stayed with him though, he could not help it with the smooth, naked body lying before him.
Elric closed his eyes and allowed himself to be soothed. No doubt he would pay for overtaxing his body in the morning but for now the shaking subsided and the warm hands on his skin did marvelous things. Eventually he rolled to his back so Keit could work on his front.
He ran a finger up Keit’s golden arm. “Is there a reason you are still dressed, herzchen?”
“Only that I didn’t want to presume, sir,” Keit answered as he began to undress. He stripped down quickly until he wore nothing but the gold ring around the base of his cock and balls. Elric had recently instructed him to wear it daily, and he was glad now he had remembered that morning.
“My good boy,” Elric said with a twitch of his lips. “Come here.” When Keit came to the side of the bed, he lifted his lovely package in one hand to see the new accessory. He ran a finger around the ring as a spike of desire shot through him. “How do you like it?”
Keit shivered at the intimate touch. “I like it, sir,” he answered in a slightly breathy voice. “I like it very much… although, it can be a little distracting.” Which did not displease Keit at all. The ‘distraction’ was more like a constant reminder, the feeling that he belonged to his Prince. His collar did that as well, of course, but this was more private.
“See thet it does not distract you too much,” Elric murmured. He took Keit’s hands and pulled him up onto the bed to kneel beside him. While he didn’t have the energy for anything elaborate, Keit enjoyed simple pleasures from time to time as well. He stroked one thigh, drinking in his beautiful, firm body.
“Up here, mein herz, face down,” he ordered as he hitched himself up to lean against the headboard and patted his lap.
Keit moved smoothly across the bed and settled across Elric’s lap. “I enjoyed watching you today, my Prince.”
“Did you?” Elric smoothed his hand over Keit’s back to the top curve of his butt. “Seeing me put through my paces, ja?” He slid lower to cup one firm cheek and squeezed gently. “And vhat did you enjoy, herzchen?”
Keit smiled, looking up from his crossed arms serenely. “Watching you move, every flex and turn…seeing the way you affected everyone in the room.” Elric would certainly be able to tell how much he enjoyed watching from the way he pressed hard and ready against his thigh.
“Wie beruhigend zum herzen,” Elric murmured. He curled forward to place a soft kiss at the small of Keit’s back, breathing in his musk. When he sat back again he lifted his hand and brought it down with a sharp crack across both Keit’s cheeks.
Keit let out a small sigh as the tingling warmth spread through him.
The white hand rose and fell again with another sharp smack, then slipped between Keit’s thighs to stroke his sac. Elric’s cocked twitched at the way his Keit spread his legs and moaned for him. Some subs felt they had to put on a show to please their Doms. This one’s reactions were so nakedly honest, so achingly sincere, how could one not leap from interested to burning in a matter of moments?
He allowed a few more hard slaps simply because Keit enjoyed them so much. Then he took a firm grip on Keit’s hair and tugged him around, head in his lap, while he reached for the jar of massage cream.
Keit eagerly nuzzled into Elric’s crotch. He breathed in the musky aroma of aroused male and that alone was enough to make his knees weak and his mouth water. He moaned softly as his lips caressed his Prince’s sac and licked up his shaft to take him in his mouth.
“Mmm, perfect,” Elric purred. He stroked Keit’s hair to let him know he had leave to do as he pleased for the moment. His left hand stole down to smooth the cream between Keit’s rounded globes and stayed to circle and tease at his puckered entrance.
He drew in a slow breath as Keit sucked hard on the head of his cock, his eyes sliding half shut. Then his forefinger slipped inside the tight confines of Keit’s body.
Keit opened quickly for him, he was so turned on between watching that fabulous body working, the sensuality of the rub down, wearing the ring around his cock… the spanking to warm him up, the scent and feel of him in his mouth… he was almost drowning in sensation.
“Turn,” Elric ordered in a husky murmur. He kept his finger sliding in and out while Keit rose and shifted around on hands and knees. A second joined the first before he finished facing the foot of the bed.
Keit arched his back, rocking as Elric fingered him. He wanted to beg him to take him already, it felt so good.
The Prince took his time, though. While he wasn’t always gentle, he was always careful. Pain was one thing, damage quite another. When he finally rose up on his knees between Keit’s legs, the boy was moaning and squirming. His red eyes held as much amusement as heat as he pressed his cock against that lovely, tight entrance and thrust in.
Keit’s shoulders dropped lower as Elric took his hips in his hands and impaled him with a deep thrust. He groaned and breathed out, “My Prince…you feel so wonderful inside me.” He lay his cheek against the rumpled sheet, his ass lifted high, rocking with the slow pace Elric set. This position always made him feel very submissive, the surrender and vulnerability of it almost as much a turn on as the sleek body covering and filling him.
Elric simply growled softly in response and laced his fingers through Keit’s, holding his hands while he held them down. Few things in the world were as sweet as his surrenders, so complete, so willing. He increased the force of his thrusts, wanting more, wanting heat and desperation.
Keit spiraled upward, the feeling of being lightly restrained, and the increased leverage combined to ratchet up his desire. “Oh yes, oh yes, oh, oh, oh…” He whimpered and writhed with pleasure as Elric fucked him hard. So perfect. Exactly what he needed.
Too much of what he needed. The fast pace and hard driving thrusts had him ready to come within minutes. He could hold off just a little more… just a little longer… oh he wanted it to last and last and go on forever and… “Mmmm-my, oh god, oh my Prince, I…” Too late, he’d waited just a little too long, the orgasm caught him by surprise and robbed him of speech before he could get the words out to ask for release.
“Uuhhhh! Oh!” His body clenched and shuddered as intense waves gripped him. So good, so sweet, and he couldn’t help it, couldn’t stop it, and it had been a long time since he’d lost control like that.
“Tsk,” Elric managed in a tight whisper as his body tightened in a sudden rush. The hard spasms of Keit’s body proved too much and he clenched his teeth, a soft grunt the only indication of the hurricane force of his orgasm.
He rested against that lovely, slender body as he rode down through the aftershocks, then held him a bit longer simply because he didn’t want to let go. When he did ease out, he flopped onto his back, dizzy and sated. “Ve shall hef to address your failure to obtain permission another day, herzchen. Not today.”
“Yes, my Prince.” Keit said in a softly sated voice tinged with both wonder and shame. Not too much shame. He couldn’t have held back if his life had depended on it, and it felt so good he was little more than a boneless puddle of goo. He would take his punishment for the transgression gladly, and he would try harder next time.
When he could function again he rose and went to retrieve a towel, cleaned both Elric and himself up, then tucked his Dom into bed. He curled up happily beside him for a little while, until Elric rolled over to sleep and Keit did the same, snuggling down into the blankets with a contented sigh.
The next evening, Cody called again and asked to speak to the Prince, his voice filled with excitement.
Elric paced slowly as he listened, asking the occasional question, a bemused expression on his face. When he handed the phone to Keit to put back in its cradle, he ran a hand over the side of his face, a sure sign something had caught him completely off guard.
“Sir?” Keit asked softly. “Didn’t he like the first set of pictures?”
“Hmm?” Elric blinked at him twice before the question seemed to register. “Ah. Yes. Oh, very much. Cody used vords such as ‘fierce’. I presume from the tone he vas pleased. But for the next set he vishes me to…disrobe.”
Keit’s eyes widened in surprise, though he wasn’t sure if he was more surprised Cody wanted nude photos or that he’d gotten the nerve to ask the Prince to pose for them. He succeeded in keeping a straight face as he asked, “And…did you agree, Sir?”
“I hef said I must think on it. He vishes to stop by and discuss possibilities. ‘Venues’, he says, and ‘settings’ and…vhat is the other he used? ‘Narrative‘.” Elric shook his head as if astounded at his sudden indulgence. “I hef alvays thought Victor in clear control of their relationship. I find myself no longer so certain.”
Keit gave him a soft smile. “Well, I wouldn’t doubt Victor is the one in control within their relationship, Sir, but Cody is the one in control of the camera… or canvas, or sculpture…” he ventured.
Keit paused, not sure if he should say more, and then decided he would nudge just a little. “You know, my Prince, Cody would never do anything you would find distasteful… look at the beautiful things he did with the photos of Derelict. If you let him take the photos and you didn’t like them I think you could trust Cody to destroy every copy.”
“It is not a metter of trust, herzchen–” the Prince began and then stopped when Orion dropped to his knees before him.
“I am your shield, mein herr,” Orion offered softly, one large hand resting on Elric’s hip. “As you are mine. I would never let you stand alone in the storm. But I think the little artist understands.”
Elric combed his fingers through Orion’s hair. “So. You mean to say I should not be so anxious over this sort of exposure, ja?” He let out a little snort. “I suppose I should simply resign myself since it seems I’m destined to be stroked and soothed into agreeing.”
Keit beamed and moved closer to kiss Elric’s cheek. Orion still knelt at the Prince’s feet and when Keit came close he slid a warm hand up the outer curve of his thigh, coming to rest on his hip, his fingers curling around in a caress. Keit leaned down to kiss him as well and gave him a grateful squeeze for knowing just the right words to say.
When Cody came again that afternoon, he nearly bounced about the house, poking in this nook and that. The garden was wonderful, he declared, but he needed light and certainly wouldn’t risk the Prince’s health. The library had a certain charm and he even toyed with the idea of setting up in the dungeon but neither felt right.
He moved on to the bedrooms. “This is yours, sir? Oh, it’s perfect, it’s so you–”
“No,” the Prince said, arms folded over his chest.
“All right. Not a problem.” Cody took a quick swallow and moved on. He recognized a Dom in I-shall-not-be-moved mode all too well. The guest rooms were all lovely, each impeccably and tastefully decorated. He particularly liked the one with the huge sleigh bed where Vincent had stayed and the one with the wrought iron queen size where Der had recovered but neither quite fit the mood.
Finally he opened the door at the end of the hall across from Elric’s room. Light and airy, the four poster held enormous possibilities. “OK, whose room is this?”
Keit, who had been tailing along behind Cody with a bemused expression as he examined the rooms, spoke up, “This one’s my room.”
“Oh, hon — sorry.” Cody stroked his shoulder. “I don’t mean to bulldoze over you or anything. It’s such a fabulous space, though. Could I borrow it for some shots? I’m seeing a gauzy white lace canopy and bed curtains…”
Keit smiled indulgently. “You don’t have to be sorry, Cody, and you can use my room any way you like.”
Cody let out a little whoop of joy and flung his arms around Keit to hug him tight. Belatedly, he straightened and asked the Prince, “Does it work for you, sir?”
“After your jubilant celebration? I vould be cruel to say no,” Elric answered with an ironic half smile. He waved a hand, dismissing his own sarcasm. “Yes, yes, it vill do. A comfortable place.”
“Thank you, sir. I’ll need to get some things together. How does Tuesday sound?”
With Tuesday morning set and Cody’s mind whirling through shots, he hurried home. He’d had another thought and this one, depending on her mood, could be a tough sell or an incredibly easy one.
“Hey, Liam? How’re you? Can I talk to Katya, please?”
Katya listened to what Cody wanted to do with some amusement. She could hear the excitement in his voice despite how he was trying to contain it and be cool. She wasn’t sure this was a good idea, but for Cody she’d do just about anything. Not good to let him know that however, and she took her time before she agreed.
“Oh, thank you, thank you!” If she had been there, Cody would have given her a kiss in gratitude. “It’ll be gorgeous, you’ll see. Do you know where the Prince‘s house is?”
Katya told him she did and with all the arrangements made she arrived at the appointed time. Richard accompanied her, carrying the garment bags. Not that Cody had requested anything elaborate, but she brought several changes to give him the choice of what he wanted for her.
How to start had kept Cody up the night before. He’d toyed with the idea of letting Katya and Elric sit and talk first over tea or cocktails, a civilized scene in the parlor. The more he thought about it, though, the more he wanted to preserve some of the mystery.
“Sir? If we could start with you upstairs?” he suggested. That provoked not even a raised eyebrow, so he nudged a little farther. “And if you could get undressed? Just like you were getting into bed, sir.”
Now one elegant white brow arched. “I am to hef an audience?”
“Ah…well, maybe Richard and everybody could go back down? Richard, do you mind?”
“Of course not, Cody,” Richard said.
“Why don’t we get a snack while they’re working?” Kiet offered and led the way out to leave Cody and the Prince alone.
Orion momentarily blocked the door simply because he had been on his way in while they were on the way out. In the inevitable odd dance of people trying to get out of each other’s way, even Richard appeared small next to him.
“Now there’s a sparring partner for you, Richard,” Cody said on a laugh.
“No.” Elric said, that flat, single syllable Cody had begun to realize signaled a rising anger.
“I’m sorry, sir. Just a joke,” Cody offered in a soft murmur.
The Prince gave him an odd look and then a sharp nod. “So. Yes. But not a thing to joke about, my dear. Orion does not spar and does not hef limits vonce the fight seizes him.”
“Oh.” Cody fiddled with his tripod, cheeks flushed. Then he recovered with a little smile. “Since you’re here, big guy, you want to help me out? You’re good just like you are. Sir, maybe we’ll start you in the big chair and let Orion take your boots off?”
They proceeded one item of clothing at a time with Orion doubling as valet and screen so the camera caught glimpses of Elric’s gorgeous body but never the whole thing.
When Elric stood unclothed, Cody had to take a few deep breaths. “Sir, you’re absolutely stunning.”
“Thenk you. I do not feel stunning, though. I feel…uncomfortable.”
“I know, sir. I’m sorry.” Cody had his hands in plain sight, removed from every piece of equipment. “We’ll do it just as I promised. No full frontal. No overexposure. If you could climb into the bed, sir? And just hold it there…”
With a few side shots to capture the long, clean lines of Elric’s body, Cody let him proceed. He had to part the filmy lace curtains that now hung round the bed. Once inside, the lace allowed tantalizing hints while hiding enough so promises would be kept. The Prince sat in the center of the mattress, one leg stretched in front, his other knee bent up while he leaned back on one hand.
When Cody turned on the fans he’d placed with exacting care, the shots took on the ethereal, otherworldly character he’d been looking for.
“Perfect. Beautiful,” Cody murmured. “All right, sir. Go ahead and lie down, make yourself comfy.” He turned to Orion, who had stayed to watch. “Could you maybe ask Ms. Katya to come up? With her bags? Oh, I hope she brought the dress I’m thinking of.”
Katya looked up when Orion entered the kitchen and guessed that he was there for her. “Cody ready for me now?” she asked with a little smile.
“Yes, Fräulein Löwin.” Orion answered, his nod for her though his eyes traveled over Richard.
She stood from where she’d been sitting on Richard’s lap, gave him a kiss and Orion a little pat on his arm as she passed. Upstairs she knocked politely and Cody let her in. She glanced once at Elric, who sat on the bed with a sheet over his lower half. Then Cody had her attention while she showed him what she had brought with her. She had thought it might take awhile for him to decide but he went straight for one of the dresses she had brought, obviously knowing exactly what he wanted already.
“This one, will you change into this one please, Ms. Kat?”
Katay kissed the tip of his nose and disappeared again to go change. It wouldn’t have bothered her to change right there, but she had a feel for what Cody wanted now, and she thought making an un-staged entrance would be best.
The dress was an ivory cream color, soft satin folds in a heart shape over the bodice and wispy trails of silk and gauze filled the skirt. The waist sat low and it was slightly old fashioned the way it was cut, something from a different era. Tiny sparkles like glittering diamonds dusted the bodice and skirt. It could have been the dress of a princess.
When she was changed, she stood outside the door and turned the knob slowly, to give Cody plenty of time if he wanted to snap pictures of Elric as she came in.
The door opened while Cody turned from doorway to bed, shutter clicking away. He felt he could have reached out and touched the sudden static charge that permeated the room. The camera caught the single moment of unguarded shock on the Prince’s face. He might not be allowed to use that one. Difficult to tell even then whether there had been actual anguish in those eyes, they shuttered so quickly.
He reached out a hand to the Ice Princess in his doorway and waited as she floated across the room to place her delicate hand in his. “Katya,” he murmured as he looked up at her. “I think if I could blush I vould be crimson. I feel so foolish.”
“Ah, my Prince,” Katya smiled warmly. “Why should you feel foolish? Think of the beautiful art Cody will make. It’s a small price to pay, no?”
He managed a soft chuckle. “It most certainly vill be beautiful now thet you are here. The dress is exquisite.”
“Sir?” Cody hesitated to interrupt the interaction. “If we could fold the sheet back again? Not as if you have anything Ms. Kat hasn’t seen before. Ms. Katya, maybe settle on the edge there next to him? Oh, that’s perfect.”
Kat sat down as Elric rearranged the sheet. Neither were exactly comfortable, Katya mostly because she felt Elric’s discomfort. She thought they were spoiling Cody’s work, but he kept clicking away. After a few moments though he started to give little bits of direction again. He wanted Katya to lean a little closer. Elric to lift his hand.
When he did so it felt natural to brush his fingers along a strand of Katya’s long hair and Cody took several rapid shots. Katya was still leaning close, but looking away from him. When she turned her head back toward him Cody asked her to move closer yet, as if she were going to kiss him.
Bending slowly at the waist she closed the distance between them until her lips hovered a scant breath above his, her eyes almost closed, dark lashes casting shadows on her cheeks. Her hand had automatically come up to brace herself lightly on his chest.
His fingers touched her cheek, breeze soft. He lifted his head a fraction. Their lips brushed, then met in a soft kiss. “Anna,” he whispered against her lips as his chest hitched on a breath under her palm.
Abruptly, he pulled back and reached for the sheet. “Cody, no more. Please.”
Katya sensed the sudden distress, even if his voice was steady. “Cody…” She looked over at him. “Would you…?” She inclined her head toward the door and he nodded quickly, and left them alone, closing the door behind him.
Kat gave Elric some space, but she still held his hand lightly. “Are you all right?”
The corner of his mouth twitched up in an ironic half-smile. “Forgive me, Katya. A moment’s dislocation. In thet dress, in this light, vith your hair just so, you bear an eerie resemblance to someone else.”
Katya looked down at their hands and ran her thumb gently over the back of his knuckles. “I’m sorry.”
“Ach, my dear, it is not something you could help.” He lifted her hand to kiss her fingers. “You should never apologize for your beauty.”
Katya looked into his eyes. He hadn’t worn the contacts today so they were a pale pale blue. She liked his real eyes better. “I was… offering my sympathy. She must have been very special to cause you to react like that.” It was her turn to lift his hand and she brushed the softness of her cheek across the back. It was a gesture of friendship, comfort, maybe something more, she wasn’t sure.
“She vas,” he answered softly. Though reserved and inward turned, something about Katya inspired trust, or perhaps it was because of her reserve that he trusted her. So like him in certain ways. “My Annalise, my wife.”
He turned his hand to cup her cheek, surprised at the softness. She had always seemed made of ice and steel.
Katya turned her face, soft lips kissing the thick part of his thumb ever so softly. She wasn’t sure this was a good idea, but there was a definite attraction. He was beautiful, yes, but she knew many gorgeous men. Maybe it was they were both so strong, and yet neither tried to out-Dom the other.
He sat up slowly as if afraid sudden movements would drive her away. His hand slid into her glorious hair, spun gold in his fingers. He leaned in for a soft kiss, a whisper soft brush of lips. “Katya, vith me no is no. At any point. If you tell me ve should not, I shall not pursue or sulk. Ve are…complicated, you and I, our reactions perheps a bit different from others.”
Katya’s fingers glided in a silken caress over his arm. She had only to move the slightest bit to close the distance between their lips again, another whisper soft kiss, and then a little deeper and the kiss suddenly caught fire, hot enough to melt the room.
They came apart both breathing hard, the spark ignited between them like a fierce bright flame. For a moment it seemed they would let it consume them, and then they both eased back at the same time, flowing apart like silk on silk until they no longer touched. “Elric…perhaps this isn’t a good idea.” Katya said in a soft, reasonable tone.
In a soft rustle of silk she stood, ethereal as she moved through the gauzy curtains around the bed. She paused at the door and turned back. “However, one never knows when it might become a good idea.” She slipped though the door and left him with that warm purr of a chuckle floating back to him.
The Prince let out a soft snort, frustrated and amused at himself for it. She was all too right, though. The mood he was in would have made lovemaking with her more a conjuring of ghosts than truly a connection with her.
Out in the hall, Cody waylaid her for a few more walking shots of his Ice Princess and then called it a day. “I think I’ve got plenty to work with. Is he all right, Ms. Kat?”
Katya wrapped her hand around Cody’s offered arm and she kissed his cheek. “Yes.” She answered without hesitation. “He will be fine, my dear.” As they neared the stairs she paused to give Cody a warmer, sweeter kiss at the corner of his mouth. “Do you need to run home and develop those right away?” She asked. “I was hoping you and Victor might come for dinner.” Her tone wasn’t suggestive, but it didn’t have to be.
“Oh, I’ll have to ask Vic. You know how he gets,” Cody said all too seriously. He laughed when she swatted his arm. “You know he’ll say yes to you, Ms. Kat.”
Elric’s hips lifted to let Orion peel his leathers down to mid-thigh. He had no idea what had possessed the big man to beg for this but it was a pleasant sort of surprise. On his knees, Orion moved closer between his thighs and breathed along the swiftly-hardening alabaster shaft.
A soft sound of pleasure vibrated in Elric’s chest as Orion closed his lips over the base, sucking gently. He combed his fingers through the honey blond mane, encouraging him to continue as he pleased.
The knock on the library door should have annoyed him but it was after six in the evening, so no one was in the house except Keit. He eased a booted foot into Orion’s lap to tease him and called out, “Come.”
Keit slipped through the door and came halfway into the room before he noticed Orion was doing more than just kneeling behind their Dom’s desk. He had been distracted by his own thoughts. “Oops…” he said, coming to a halt. “I’m sorry, Sir, I didn’t mean to disturb you.”
Half-lidded red eyes regarded him with sultry heat, the Prince’s voice soft and cool as silk when he spoke. “If I hed not vished to be disturbed, I vould not hef told you to come in, mein herz.”
He shifted, fingers tightening in Orion’s hair as those soft lips took him in farther. “Do you hef anything on the stove?”
It took a heartbeat or two for the question to register and for Keit to formulate a response. With one thing after another and having extended guests and everything else that had been going on, it had been a little while since Elric had invited him to his bed.
“No, sir,” he said, trying not to sound too eager and hopeful but it came out that way anyway.
“Strip for me, herzchen,” Elric said with a little half smile tugging at his lips. “Two.”
He watched with hungry eyes until Keit stood naked, feet spread, hands behind his back. While he had been glad to be able to help his friends and, in a way, had enjoyed having a full and bustling house, the relief of having his privacy returned was an astounding aphrodisiac. He debated taking his boys right there on his desk but decided he wanted more.
“Liebchen, undress,” he told Orion as he tugged his head up from his eager ministrations. “I think ve shall forgo sitting down to dinner tonight. But ve must go to the kitchen and hef a little something. My boys need to keep their strength up.”
It was a lovely little snack with both Orion and Keit stark naked except for their collars, Orion‘s heavy black leather and Keit‘s softer brown. He encouraged them to touch and kiss between bites of sandwiches, teasing each other and the Prince as well if he were willing to admit it. So beautiful together…
“Downstairs,” he ordered softly after they had eaten. He smiled at the way Orion scooped Keit up in his arms and practically ran for the basement steps.
Keit chuckled and wrapped his arms around Orion’s neck as he headed for the stairs. He was so glad the Prince was in a good mood, he hadn’t had too many of those lately. He hoped he could provide some much needed stress relief and was looking forward to some of his own.
Orion set him down on the floor and Keit lifted up on tiptoe to kiss him before they both took up the position.
Elric took his time on the stairs, thinking on his way down. So much he wanted, physically impossible to have everything at once. Although one could have several things in succession.
He stopped in front of Orion to stroke one huge arm. “Liebchen, nothing I do this evening is punishment. You understend this, ja?”
“Yes, mein herr,” Orion rumbled softly, his erection coming to full attention at his Prince’s touch. “You wish to play.”
“Yes, even so,” Elric said on a little laugh and then beckoned Orion over to his frame. Once he had him fastened in, spread eagle with his wrists and ankles manacled to the corners, he beckoned Keit to him. “And do you vish to play also, herzchen?”
“Yes, sir,” Keit said softly, though his body thrummed with anticipation.
“My good boy.” Elric took Keit under the chin and kissed him softly. “Orion hes his frame. You shall hef Orion.”
He put Keit up on the stepstool and had him wrap his arms around Orion’s neck. Red nylon cord wrapped around Keit’s forearms from elbow to elbow to keep him snugly in place. Then Elric helped him wrap his legs around Orion’s waist and used another long length of red cord to harness Keit to Orion’s body, leg’s tied behind the broad back, intricate knots joining their torsos together.
Keit’s erection lay trapped against the hard muscles of Orion’s abdomen; Orion’s lay along the crease between Keit’s lovely cheeks.
“You may kiss if you like. You may move as much as you are able,” Elric purred as he shrugged out of his shirt and took his bullwhip down from its hook. “You may make any sound you like. But you may not come vhile you are bound together.”
He cracked the whip in the air, the joy of being able to use it as he pleased again singing through him. “Are there qvestions?”
Keit kissed and nuzzled along Orion’s throat. “No, sir.”
Orion’s only answer was a soft, pleased rumble as he tipped his head back to give Keit better access.
“Good,” Elric whispered. He spun and struck, the whip’s end kissing along Keit’s bare foot. A taste, just a taste to warm them all up. He pulled the whip back and let it crack again, this time in a spare line along Orion’s hip. Paddles and floggers and such were all very nice but the whip was an instrument of precision and artistry. In an expert hand, it became an extension of the body, a brush with which to paint upon skin.
He put the whip down for a moment and retrieved two plugs and a tube of gel lubricant from the little chest on the table. He lubed the larger one first and stood behind Orion, stroking his back and shoulders as he eased the tip inside. Orion twitched and moaned and then relaxed nicely so he could push it in to the flange which would hold it in place.
The smaller one, the special one, was for Keit. He stepped around to show it to him, little silver studs winking on the end. “Do you know vhat this does, herzchen?”
He was betting it did wonderful things. “Does it vibrate, sir?”
“Ach, wie normal,” the Prince murmured in his ear. “No, süsselein, it gives electric shocks. Little vones at random moments. Does this interest you?”
Keit went still for a moment as he processed that information, the prospects intriguing and very arousing. “Yes, my Prince…” he whispered huskily.
“You are so perfect,” Elric murmured against his lips and kissed him soundly. He had tried the device out on his own skin, the level of electric stimulation just short of uncomfortable on his wrist. He could only imagine how it would feel inside. Gently, slowly, he eased it into Keit’s tight little channel, turned it on and picked up his whip again.
Now he was ready to begin in earnest. He cracked the whip on the floor twice, fair warning, and then hauled his arm back and struck. A delicate, reddening line appeared high on Keit’s thigh.
Keit drew in a sharp breath and then relaxed with a soft moan. A little roll of his hips rubbed the underside of his cock against Orion. That might become a problem, too much stimulation and he was going to have a hard time not coming. And then the plug inside him administered a sharp pulse and he was no longer as worried about overstimulation to his cock.
His whole body went taut. “Ohhhhh ffffu…” He compressed his lips.
The whip landed a stinging kiss to Orion’s shoulder. He jerked and let his head down to nestle in the crook of Keit’s neck. Another crack of the whip, this one brought him no sensations so it must have gone to the otter. The next licked along his inner thigh, the snap registering half a breath before the pain.
The otter moved against him again with a sharp moan and the pain underwent that strange shift, enveloping him, wrapping him close. The next fall of the whip caught him along the left biceps and he groaned, his hips pressing towards Keit, rubbing his shaft along his lovely backside.
Keit moved in sensual little rolls within the confines of his bonds. Every time the whip touched him it added another layer of sensation. Each little flex and press moved the plug inside him just a little and when it delivered an electrical pulse it was literally quite shocking. It was… intense. His whole body reacted to the charge, going rigid and then relaxing in such utter relief when the pulse stopped, only to be taken by the kiss of the whip again.
He didn’t think he’d ever dropped quicker into the deep quiet, where nothing existed except the pleasure and pain. He clung to Orion, kissing him feverishly wherever his lips touched.
He didn’t know how long it went on. Long enough for a light sheen of sweat to form on both his body and Orion’s, long enough for him to lose track of everything. Long enough for him to be very close to disobeying the Prince.
“Mm, mmm…” He whimpered, unable to make words come out for a moment and then managing to find his voice. “My Prince… ohhh… oh, please… I c-can’t.” His voice took on a panicked breathy pitch, “I’m gonna come…”
“No,” Elric ordered softly. “No you vill hold on.” He put the whip down, came to Keit and turned off the electrified plug. He waited until Keit’s breathing had slowed from all-out panic to simply overheated, then pulled the plug out slowly.
Though he had been quieter, Orion appeared in much the same state, glassy eyed, barrel chest heaving. Elric undid the ropes, helped Keit down and led him over to bend him over the side of a padded table. Then he unfastened Orion and bent him over the table next to Keit.
He leaned down to whisper in Keit’s ear, “You must vait, mein herz. Hold out for me.” When he straightened, he undid the buttons on his leathers, removed the plug from Orion and plunged inside.
Orion grunted and moaned, eyes squeezed shut, hips rolling against the leather-covered table.
Relief and a measure of control returned to Keit, and also that strange feeling of disappointed elation that came with having been brought so close only to be denied. He was glad he had not disobeyed his Dom and at the same time was in a desperately ecstatic agony of need watching him take Orion.
“Orion,” Elric whispered into the skin of Orion’s back. “Talk to me.”
That simple command was perhaps the most difficult thing he could have demanded while Orion was lost and floating. Orion struggled, ribs expanding in uneven breaths as his mind’s writhing matched his body’s.
“My angel…” he finally managed. “My love…”
“Yes, liebchen, vhat vould you ask of me?”
“Please…” Orion groaned and pushed back as Elric drove into him. “My Prince… please… say I may…”
“Yes. Come for me. Now.”
Orion cried out, hips pumping hard enough to rattle the heavy table, as he came in a sudden rush and plunge. When he quieted, Elric pulled out carefully and kissed his shoulders before he moved over to stand behind Keit.
His hands slid over Keit’s back and down to separate his cheeks. “Tell me your heart’s desire, herzchen.”
“My heart’s desire is you, my Prince…” Keit answered, his breath catching a little as Elric’s thumb caressed between his cheeks. “…to come while you take me, fill me.”
“Was für eine reizende Antwort,” Elric said in a tender murmur. “So lovely…”
He curled over to kiss the small of Keit’s back and settled his well-lubed head at Keit’s puckered entrance. His approach with Keit was less precipitous, much more gentle, but Keit was ready and it didn’t take more than a few slow thrusts to bury himself.
“Uhh…oh, my Prince,” Keit breathed. “Thank you…mmm, thank you.”
A huff of breath escaped Elric as he leaned over and wrapped his arms around Keit, his hips describing a steady, prostate-thumping rhythm. “Süsselein…oh…come vith me…now you may.”
Keit moaned and bucked his hips urgently, letting his tight control slide away.
“Ohhh…oh, yes…” The orgasm rose up and washed down over him in achingly sweet pulses of relief.
A short, sharp cry was all the Prince allowed himself but the release was no less sweet. He held Keit for a long time afterwards, drinking in his scent, the feel of his smooth skin, the comfort of having him wrapped around while his shaft softened.
Finally he gathered the energy to rise and help his boys upstairs where they cleaned up and snuggled down in the master bedroom. They opened the faux wardrobe across from the bed which housed the electronics so Orion could watch a PBS special on dark matter he had been waiting for.
Orion lay on his stomach with his head towards the foot of the bed, chin on his hands, while Elric sat against the headboard and held Keit close.
‘Süsselein,” he murmured so as not to disturb Orion. “I need you to apologize to Jerrett.”
Keit did not stiffen, but he went very still in Elric’s arms, partly because Elric had caught him completely off guard. Apologize to Jerrett? Jerrett should have apologized to him. “Is that a request, sir…or an order?” he asked softly.
“I vould prefer it not to be an order, mein herz.” Elric kissed the top of Keit’s head. “But I do not vish for this to become a Romeo and Juliet affair for Sasha. I vould hef peace betveen our houses.”
He took Keit gently under the chin to raise his face. “And consider, my beautiful boy, the things you did. It vas not your place to tell Sasha to stay avay from him. Neither vas it your place to deny him entrance to my house. Nor your place to berate him on the front lawn. You overstepped by a good many steps, my dear.”
Keit turned his cheek into Elric’s hand, closing his eyes. He pulled his bottom lip between his teeth and then let out his breath. “No, sir. It wasn’t.” No matter that Jerrett had been a shit to Sasha. No matter that Keit had been appalled that someone he invited to their home behaved in such a way. The reasons were unimportant. “I will talk to him, sir.”
“Good, thenk you.” Elric caught his lips in a tender kiss. “I did not say Jerrett hes behaved in a blameless feshion, mind you. But there are times to intervene and times not to.”
Keit sighed and put his head on Elric’s shoulder. “I know, my Prince. I know. I just…I felt responsible, in a way. I brought him here. I introduced him to Sasha. And then he treated him so bad… I shouldn’t have let my emotions get away like that, though. I’m sorry, sir.”
“I accept your apology, herzchen,” Elric answered at his driest. “Now you simply must do the same vith Jerrett.”
A couple days later Keit did say nearly the same to Jerrett, and for once Jerrett did not make him twist and squirm before they made up. Keit at first thought that had something to do with Elric, but he knew that wasn’t it almost as soon as he thought it. Jerrett was not intimidated by anyone.
With no small amount of surprise he realized the change of attitude just might be Sasha’s doing. That was truly amazing because although Jerrett had been in love once or twice before he had never made an effort to change, for anyone. Could it be that he was mellowing a little? The question left Keit quite bemused.
That evening Sasha was in the midst of giving Jerrett a rubdown when a question occurred to him. He was so happy he’d made up with Keit, especially since the apology seemed to have pleased Jerrett so much. One bridge rebuilt, at least.
He smoothed his hands down the gorgeous, chiseled muscles to work on Jerrett’s lower back and asked, “Sir? Have you…have you decided? About Anthony?”
“I’d rather not think about him.” Jerrett sighed. He turned his head toward Sasha. He didn’t mean to make Sasha worry and stew, but he didn’t have an answer for him yet.
By Tuesday, he had decided. He called Elric and made arrangements and on Thursday, just as Sasha was getting ready to leave for home, he opened the door in the front hall to find Jerrett.
“Well, hello! What are you…I mean, it’s nice to see you. Did you need to talk to the Prince, sir?”
Jerrett smiled, slid his arm around Sasha, and kissed his temple as he turned and let him in. “I am here to speak to Anthony tonight, little one,” he answered.
“Oh.” Sasha looked up at him with anxious eyes. “Did you…want me to wait for you at home, sir?”
“You may have your choice, Sasha,” Jerrett said softly. “Our talk will take place downstairs, it has already been arranged. You may stay if you wish, or you may go home and wait for me…whichever will make you less anxious.”
“I…oh…” Sasha wrapped his arms around Jerrett’s ribs, drawing strength from him. He would much rather have been told what to do. “I’ll…stay, sir, if it’s all right. Though I’d like to…like to stay up here if I could.”
Sasha made for the back of the house when the Ferrari roared up the drive. Never hard to guess when Anthony had arrived.
Out in the car, Anthony drummed his hands on the steering wheel before he got out. Damn, damn, damn. He’d said he wanted to apologize, said he would do anything… now he had a knot in his stomach the size of a freaking blimp worried about what the ‘anything’ would be.
Pain, he could take. Lots. Tons. But from what he’d heard, Hawthorn was a bit of a thinker. “Such men are dangerous,” he muttered as he walked up the steps. He took a deep breath and rang the bell.
Keit let Anthony in and led him to the stairs. Sasha’s car had been in the driveway, but there was no sign of him. Keit led him down to the Prince’s dungeon, respectful and solemn. There were more people in the basement than Anthony expected, Sasha conspicuously absent. For that he was grateful.
The Prince and Orion stood to one side and Keit joined them, leaving Anthony to stand on his own. Jerrett was there, of course, looking smug. Derelict was there also, and Vincent with Jonathan, though Drew was missing as well.
He was most surprised to see Katya’s stunning beauty amid the small crowd. He did not know her well, only met her once. She sat on a chair next to Vincent, resplendent in a curve-hugging bodysuit in shiny black pvc and thigh-high leather boots laced up the back. She looked regal, a queen and her court, despite that this little ‘kingdom’ usually belonged to the Prince.
Again, he was surprised that he was not greeted or instructed by either the Prince, or even Jerrett, but the Lady herself.
“Welcome, Anthony,” Katya said in a sultry, semi-amused purr.
“Thank you, Ma’am,” Anthony bobbed his head in greeting, managing to stop short of a bow.
“I bet you’re wondering what we’re all doing here, hm?” she said. “I was invited here tonight as an impartial judge, everyone else here is prosecution, witness, and jury.” She let that sink in for a moment. “Before the dashing Mr. Hawthorn will accept your apology, we shall determine how great the offense, and your punishment. Will you agree to this?”
He paced back and forth twice, taking in the grim, set faces of people he thought of as friends. Oh, not good, not good at all, not one freaking shred…
“Um, all right. But doesn’t everyone know what I did? I mean, it’s pretty cut and dry, ma’am. Not like it takes investigating or anything.”
“Who said this was about one infraction?” Katya asked with a slow smile. She leaned forward, placing her elbow on her crossed knee and her chin in her palm. “Apparently, you’ve been a bad boy on more than a single occasion…”
“Hold up, wait a sec! I’ve never, ever gone after anyone with a sword before!” Anthony waved his hands one over the other in frantic negation.
“Not that particular infraction, my dear,” the Prince broke in softly. “But a pettern of reckless behavior. Do you agree to the terms?”
Anthony swallowed hard. “Yes, sir.”
“Secure the prisoner,” Elric said with a slight gesture. Orion stepped forward to stand behind Anthony and Keit in front. Between them, they had Anthony stripped, shackled and on his knees before he knew what was happening.
Elric waved a hand towards Jonathan. “Herr Prosecutor, the floor is yours.”
“Judas,” Anthony hissed.
Jonathan ignored him. “What the court proposes to establish today is Mr. Dupree’s blatant disregard for his own safety and those around him. That his actions over the years show a clearly defined pattern of reckless, impulsive, dangerous behavior.
“I would like to call as my first witness Derek Schiller.”
Derelict stood with his arms crossed over his chest. He glowered at Jonathan. “I told you I didn’t want to do this.”
Jonathan turned to Katya. “Your honor, may I have the witness classified as hostile?”
Katya tried to keep her lips from twitching. Gawd… Jonathan was just perfect for this. She cleared her throat, “You may,” she answered.
“Thank you, your honor. Does the witness understand what this means?”
“Hell, no,” Der growled.
Vincent reached up to pat his arm. “Sh, Der, goodness. It just means you don’t have to really testify. Just answer yes or no questions.”
“Oh. All right. I guess.”
“Mr. Schiller, there was a time last summer when you and Mr. Dupree engaged in ‘bicycle jousting’. Is this true?”
Der ducked his head on a chuckle at the memory. “Yes.”
“And as I understand it, this involves each individual holding a long pole with a padded end riding bicycles at top speed towards each other, with the intent of knocking the other person off. Is this correct?”
“Yes.” The answer came out more guarded.
“And is it also true that there was, one Saturday afternoon, a pedestrian, an elderly pedestrian, who was caught in the midst of this…activity?”
“Well, yes, but–”
“Yes or no, please, Mr. Schiller.”
“And a trip to the hospital was necessary for this woman?”
“Yes, but it was just–”
“Thank you, Mr. Schiller. That will be all.”
“Hey! Don’t I have a, like a, you know, public defender or something?” Anthony blurted out in desperation. “I mean, the old lady just broke a finger and it wasn’t that bad and… and…” He trailed off at the looks he got.
“Mr. Dupree will be acting as his own defense counsel, I understand,” Jonathan said, rocking on his heels. “Was there something you wished to add in your defense, sir?”
Are you sure?” Jonathan purred in a sugary-sweet tone.
Katya’s ankle rotated slowly, like the lazy swish of a cat’s tail. “Proceed, Mr. Kemp,” she said dryly.
“Yes, your honor.” Jonathan gave her a nod, all business again. “For my next witness, I would like to call Vincent Lastrada.”
Vincent held up a hand. “Present.”
“Thank you, sir. Now, Mr. Lastrada, do you recall a birthday party two years ago for a Mr. Tao Lien?”
“Yes, I do. Rather vividly.”
“And would you be so kind, sir, as to relate what happened at this party between Mr. Dupree and a young man by the name of Gem?”
“Ah, well, Gem was Tao’s lover at the time. I don’t believe Anthony, Mr. Dupree, was terribly fond of him.”
“I object!” Anthony called out.
“On what grounds?” Jonathan purred.
“’Cause it’s opinion and it’s not supposed to be evidence and all that and…speculation! That’s the word!”
Katya reached over to pat Vincent’s arm. “Please stick to the facts, Mr. Lastrada.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Vincent’s smile for Katya faded before he went on. “At about seven or so, Tao came out of the house with a black eye. When we asked what had happened, Tao said he had run into a door. Anthony yelled, the court will pardon me, please, ‘Bullshit!’ and rushed into the house where he proceeded to punch Gem in the face. Just once, thankfully, but it did put him out. It turned out that a certain young woman had opened the bathroom door too fast and had, indeed, smacked Tao in the eye and his lover hadn’t touched him.”
“Thank you, Mr. Lastrada, you’ve been very helpful,” Jonathan said with a soft smile.
Anthony yanked at his chains. “OK, so I didn’t know! It’s not like the guy hadn’t been beating on Tao! He had! I was just doing what someone should have done before!”
“There’s no need to shout,” Katya said to Anthony in a soft tone that nonetheless carried a sting of ice needles. She waited until he subsided and then waved a hand to Jonathan. “Continue, please.”
“Thank you, your honor.” Jonathan turned to where Elric stood. “I have one last witness to call, if he would be so kind. Prince Elric von Melnibone.”
“I am pleased to be of assistance, Herr Prosecutor,” Elric said with an ironic little bow.
“Thank you, highness. Could you please tell the court what happened at your Samhain celebration two years ago?”
“Of course. It vas vell attended. Perhaps a hundred guests or so. Some of the guests hed gone out to the front lawn since it vas a hot night. Out of the night, ve heard horses hooves and a frightening epperition appeared. The Headless Horseman, on his bleck charger. Brendishing his saber, he rode straight toward my guests, his steed rearing and pawing as they scettered.”
“And the identity of the Headless Horseman, your highness?”
“Anthony Etienne Dupree.”
Jonathan looked at Anthony to see if he had anything to say but he had hung his head and only muttered, “No one got hurt…”
“Thank you Jonathan, dear,” Katya said. “You may return to your place.” Which was of course by Vince’s side. She patted his arm affectionately, stood, and paced slowly to Anthony.
“Do you have anything more to say for yourself, Anthony?” she asked when she stood directly before him.
He shook his head. “No, ma’am.”
“It seems to me a bit of a pattern emerged, wouldn’t you agree? Whether you’re having a bit of a lark, or you’re full of righteous anger, you have a habit of endangering not only yourself, but also anyone nearby. Do you really think this behavior acceptable?”
“No, ma’am,” he said in a small voice.
“Neither do I,” Katya said. “How do you plead?”
“No contest, ma’am. I can’t defend my actions.”
She pushed her fingers into his hair and made him look up while she bent, almost as if she were going to kiss him. Her lips stopped short though, a few inches above his. “I find you guilty, Anthony. Guilty of reckless endangerment. Lack of forethought. And little to no self control.”
She released him and waved Jerrett to come forward. “I sentence you to be flogged until I am satisfied you are repentant. You may, of course, make your sincerest apologies whenever you are ready.” She turned to go back to her seat.
“You may begin,” she said to Jerrett.
He gave her a slightly arched brow at her ‘permission’ but then turned his attention to the task at hand, letting the tails of the flogger slide though his fingers. He stood directly in front of Anthony, his booted feet slightly apart, an easy, comfortable stance. “Put your forehead on my boot. Do not rise until I allow it.”
It was the first he had spoken and the tone was a marked contrast to most of the other Doms present. Where they exuded cool and calm, this one’s voice was full of heat and the threat of pain, unpredictable, like a lightening strike.
Jerrett waited until Anthony lowered his forehead to the toe of his boot. He pulled back and then came down with the full force of his arm behind the blow.
Katya straightened and her lips compressed. Lack of finesse was one thing, but that blow had been simple brutality born of anger. “Unless you want that to be the end of this punishment, I’d lighten your stroke, Jerrett.” The way she said his name was like an angry whip crack in the room.
Jerrett gave her a little nod of acknowledgment but his lips were curled in a sneer. The next fall of the flogger was by no means light, but was more artfully administered and with less force than the first.
Still, Katya had begun with a general idea to let him go about ten minutes or so, and ended up calling a halt after five. “Enough.” The word sliced through the room, but was still cool and calm. What she wanted to say was ‘Chrissakes, I hope you don’t treat your boy like that!’.
“Sit up,” Jerrett barked. “Look at me.” When Anthony complied Jerrett said, “Sasha counts you as a friend, which is the one and only reason I will accept your apology. Do not ever try to come between us again.” He dropped the flogger on the floor in front of him and walked away, a measure of the heat and anger that crackled around him drained off.
Tears ran down Anthony’s cheeks. His hands were shackled behind him and he couldn’t wipe them away, couldn’t pretend they weren’t there. The pain was pretty damn incredible but he could have withstood more. He wished Katya hadn’t called a halt since he deserved so much more.
“Please, sir,” he began softly, his voice a wispy specter of its usual overexcited exuberance. “Please…I am sorry. That I came after you like that. Threatened you. I…if you’d seen him…what he did to himself…I lost my head. It was a stupid thing to do and even though I didn’t mean to really hurt you…I could have. I’m very sorry…I hope you can forgive me someday. I won’t try to come between you, I won’t. I just want him to be happy. Please. Even if you tell me I can’t see him ever again…I want him to be happy.”
“You can ask him yourself if he’s happy,” Jerrett said without stopping.
Elric touched Keit’s arm, made a gesture and Keit immediately went to Anthony’s side to unfetter him and help him up. He held Anthony gently while he got the chains undone, wiping the tears from his cheeks and offering a bit of comfort because he knew Jerrett would not.
“Orion, will you help Anthony up the stairs to go see Sasha, please?” Keit asked quietly and Orion took Anthony’s other arm, pulled him up with ease and steered him toward the stairs.
Keit returned to Elric’s side, needing a bit of comforting himself. He kept his eyes firmly on the floor and his expression carefully blank.
It didn’t fool Jerrett, who was standing near Elric. “You don’t approve, Keit?” he asked unnecessarily. He knew by the way Keit was behaving he was not happy.
“It’s not my place to approve or disapprove, sir,” he answered mildly.
Jerrett smiled, very good, point for him. “But you don‘t approve, I can tell.”
Keit struggled with his words for a moment and then just stated the obvious. “You were…harsh, sir.”
“Not as harsh as I could have been, and you know that,” Jerrett said in a low murmur.
Keit only inclined his head in acknowledgement.
“You’ve made your point, Jerrett. There’s no need to belabor it,” Katya broke in.
Jerrett turned toward her, his brow arched and a little ironic smile on his lips. “You don’t approve either?”
Katya chuckled softly. “Do not try to play intimidation games where you are clearly out of your league.” She did not add ‘boy’, but the little pause was clear enough. “It might not be Keit’s place to call you on the carpet, but I certainly can. That was a pitiful display.”
Jerrett laughed, but it sounded a trifle uneasy. Everyone here had been in agreement with him that Anthony had gone too far and must be reined in. That sort of equated to them being ‘on his side’. Now he felt the tide turning. “I don’t believe I invited you to give me a dressing down, Ms. Katya.”
Kat smiled sweetly, at her most angelic, as she slowly stood. If Xavier had been there he probably would have frantically tried to tell Jerrett to start groveling, or maybe just run.
“I don’t believe I need an invitation, you irresponsible, arrogant, petulant child.” Katya took a few steps toward him, and somehow managed to make him look little and insignificant even though she was a full head and shoulders under his height. “He was contrite, he understood what was being said and why, you merely had to reinforce the lesson. Instead you took the opportunity to vent you anger. Stupid.” She spit the word out.
“You never, ever punish in anger. The line between domination and abuse should never blur. You want to teach a lesson about self control you damn well better first know what that is to begin with. If I ever hear of you going after someone with a flogger, whip, or even a bare hand in anger, Anthony coming after you with a sword will be the least of your worries. Is that perfectly clear?”
Jerrett cleared his throat. “Yes, ma’am.”
Keit’s head whipped around so hard his neck popped. His mouth hung open. Was that actual contrition in Jerrett’s voice? He had expected him to blast her back. He had been cringing inwardly, waiting for the backlash. He was frankly amazed that Jerrett could even bend this far to admit he might… just might, have done something inappropriate. He managed not to say ‘holy shit!’ out loud.
“Good,” Katya said. “Now stop playing with Anthony and go accept his apology for real. He earned it, and Sasha will pick up something’s not right unless you do.”
Jerrett sighed, but he inclined his head in a gentlemanly gesture and headed up the stairs to do as she asked. Keit stared after in utter amazement until he disappeared and then looked at Katya like she had just performed some kind of magic. Katya winked at him and gave him a warmer smile.
Up in the kitchen, Anthony had halted his escort.
“Hold up, Orion,” he murmured. “I don’t…want Sasha to see me like this.” Orion looked puzzled so he went on. “Dressed…wanna get dressed first.”
He tried, first with an attempt to sit in a chair to get his pants on. Big mistake. God. Ow. Then standing, which would have had him flat on his face if Orion hadn’t caught him. The big man took pity and helped him get his feet into one pants leg and then the other. Maybe he was hurt worse than he thought. Weird how that worked. The after-pain was often so much worse than the during-pain. Worked that way when he hit a bad landing jousting, too.
At the back of the house in the den, Sasha snuggled closer to Drew. They looked for all the world like two lost waifs in a storm, huddled together on the leather couch. Drew had reached for Sasha’s hand first, since he shook so badly, but they had both needed someone’s arms, the tension in the house palpable.
“What do you think they’re doing down there?” Sasha whispered. “All this time?”
Drew was kind enough not to say what he really thought was going on. “Probably talking, Sasha. Don’t worry, Vince told me they weren’t going to fight. No one’s going to get hurt.”
A moment later Anthony walked in with Orion. Perhaps hobbled would have been a better word. He had on a bright smile and straightened from Orion’s support to hold out his arms but Sasha wasn’t fooled one bit.
Though he wanted to rush into those open arms, he forced himself to a slow, gentle approach and reached up to smooth Anthony’s white-blond spikes when his arms folded him close.
“How bad, hon?” Sasha whispered.
“Oh, now, none of that, sweet thistle pie,” Anthony told him cheerfully. “I’m up, I’m walking, better than I do after work some days. It’s so damn good to see you, you just don’t know. I’ve missed you so.” He stopped to take Sasha’s face between his hands. “I’m supposed to ask you, and I would have anyway, are you happy these days, sweetie?”
Sasha wasn’t certain which answer would be worse for his poor Anthony. He settled for the truth. “Yes. I am.”
“Good. All right. Good.” Anthony nodded, his smile a little lopsided now. Sasha wasn’t going to see him upset though, no, no, no. And he wasn’t really. Upset. It was more of a tight, melancholy feeling, a bit of loss, a bit of realization.
“I’m even happier now that I can talk to you again.”
Anthony laughed. “Don’t you just say the sweetest things?”
Drew smiled; they were cute together. Personally, and very privately, he thought these two would have been a much better match than Sasha and Jerrett. He didn’t know what Sasha saw in him…well, other than his looks. Jerrett was gorgeous, no doubt, but Drew got uneasy whenever he was around, and he hoped he never had to be alone with the guy.
Speaking of which, he thought it might be a good idea to give Anthony and Sasha a few moments alone. He got up and took Orion’s hand to lead him back out into the hall.
Drew walked down the hall with Orion and as they neared the front parlor, Jerrett turned the corner. Drew moved out of his way and Jerrett gave him and Orion a little nod as he went past.
When Jerrett reached the den, he actually gave a polite tap on the door before entering. He tried not to bristle at the sight of Anthony’s arms around Sasha, and he was fairly successful. He didn’t snap and snarl although it was an effort not to pull Sasha away. He closed the door behind him.
“So, what’s the verdict?” Jerrett asked mildly. “Does he look well enough taken care of?”
Anthony backed off a step, unsure if he was being baited or tested or if the question was simply a prelude to something awful no matter what he said. “Yes, sir,” he offered softly.
Jerrett wasn’t quite sure what to say now. He wasn’t good at this sort of thing. He moved closer to them and lifted his hand to stroke Sasha’s cheek with one finger. unaware of the affectionate look on his face, or the way it softened his handsome features.
To Anthony he said, “I do understand losing one’s head. Especially when it stems from an overprotective streak.” His eyes moved from Sasha to Anthony. “No real harm was done, let’s just put it behind us.”
“Yes, sir.” Anthony tried to run a hand through his hair, an automatic gesture, but it pulled his back. He winced and put his hand down, trying for more casual as he leaned a hip against a nearby recliner for support. “I guess maybe I should ask for terms. Or at least rules of engagement, right?”
Here it was again, someone asking Jerrett to lay down the rules when he hadn’t really given it much thought. He crossed his arms and drummed his fingers restlessly. “I don’t mind if you’re friends with Sasha, call, hang out, hugs, whatever… but that’s about it. I’m a selfish, greedy bastard and I don’t share very well. It never seems to work out.”
“Selfish, greedy bastard, got it,” Anthony said with the crooked little grin he had when he wasn’t sure someone would take his teasing. It was probably way too early to be teasing Jerrett but he couldn’t help himself. “All right, good, good, I can do that. Is it all right if he stays after work Mondays and Fridays to watch the fencing? I, ah, always do better if he’s watching. The Prince has just been slaughtering me lately.”
“And that’s supposed to encourage me to let him stay and watch?” Jerrett asked.
Sasha spoke up when he saw Anthony’s face. “He’s teasing you,” he offered softly. With Jerrett it was often hard to tell, but Sasha was learning.
Jerrett raised an eyebrow at Sasha, but gave a small smile to Anthony. “Yes, he may stay and watch, if he wants to.”
“Thank you, sir.” Anthony’s grin turned up the wattage. “And you’re certainly welcome, too, sir, if you want to come on the nights his highness wants to use the epée so you can really watch him beat up on me.”
Downstairs, Elric turned to speak to Vincent and spotted Der leaned up against the wall. “Are you all right, mein schatz?”
“Yes, sir…grayed out there for a little. I’m better now,” Derelict answered on a slow breath.
“Good boy. I hed vondered if there might be a need to carry you beck up.” A little frown of concern creased Elric’s forehead. Jonathan had crawled into Vincent’s lap, his face hidden in the crook of his Dom’s neck. “Is he out?”
Vincent shook his head. “Simply distressed. He did so well, though.”
“I don’t feel like I did,” Jonathan muttered before he sat up to wipe a hand over his face. “Oh, man. That was rough. Is Sasha really safe with that monster? I mean, he’s so sweet and so…um…compliant. I just can’t see him speaking up to say no if something’s too much.”
“Sasha hed to be taught to say no,” Elric said. “And Jerrett is far from being a monster.”
Jonathan shivered hard. “I sure as hell don’t want him touching me.”
“Sasha is safe with him.” Keit said. “Jerrett might step all over his feelings, but he’d never hurt him physically.” Jonathan gave him a skeptical look and Keit shrugged. “That was probably the harshest I’ve ever seen him with a flogger, and he still didn’t leave any lasting marks. He chose a cat with flat tails when he could have picked one of the braided rawhides, or one with weights. Yeah, he beat the crap out of Anthony, but he could have left him a bloody mess.” Keit stopped with a tiny frown. Why the hell was he defending Jerrett? Again?
Katya watched the little exchange with interest. Whether she agreed with Jerrett’s methods or not, she had to admit it was creative. He could have just blasted Anthony with a list of wrongdoings, or simply flogged him until his arm wore out. Neither of which would probably have made any sort of lasting impression other than to leave Anthony feeling they were even. This way he saw it wasn’t just Jerrett who disapproved of some of the things he did and Jerrett was at least making a small effort to learn to be a better Dom.
Footsteps on the stairs drew her attention. Orion’s large frame appeared and then Drew right behind him. Such a little cutie that Drew. It was hard to picture him as he used to be. She had thought it would be more difficult to forgive someone who had hurt her Xavier so much, who had played a hand in disrupting their lives to such a degree. In actuality she found it hard to even think of him as the same person. She had to smile, he looked so incongruous dressed in jeans, jersey, and flip-flops.
If there had been any doubt left at all regarding Drew’s effect on people, the way every head turned towards him and the way three dark-haired young men lit up at the mere sight of him would have erased any lingering question.
Elric had to suppress a chuckle at the instant change in mood. He held out his hands for Orion. “All is vell upstairs, liebchen?”
“Calm waters, mein herr,” Orion answered as he lifted each white hand to kiss his Dom’s fingers. “The panther pulls his claws with the minnow near.”
“Ohmygod,” Jonathan stage whispered. “I understood what he said.”
“Prectice, kleine fuchs, it simply takes prectice,” Elric said on a soft laugh. He leaned up to kiss Orion’s cheek and then turned to offer his hands to Katya. “Thenk you so much, geehrte Dame, for agreeing to this. Jerrett hed requested thet I play judge but I am hardly impartial vhere Anthony is concerned. And your beauty is a much velcome sight in my rether grim dungeon.”
“Mm, you’re welcome. Always a pleasure to serve,” she said with a smile, making Jonathan choke on a stifled laugh and Der chuckle.
Elric was far too gentlemanly to do either. Ah, if he were younger, and if either one of them had even the slightest ability to bend– but he suspected Katya could not give up an ounce more control than he could, perhaps for many of the same reasons.
“So it is,” he said with a little smile, knowing she understood him perfectly.
The sun’s fingers curling around the curtains woke Der the next morning. He lay still for a long moment, piecing together where he was and why, and then he stretched cat-lazy and smiled at the cloud of blonde hair next to him. Content, sated…and hellishly thirsty. Too much of a good thing is wonderful, sure, but damn, I overdid it.
He eased out of bed, careful not to wake Katya, and slipped into his dress pants from the night before. Everything else he left in place not wanting her to think he’d snuck out on her.
The kitchen had every amenity imaginable with everything neat, tidy and accessible. He found cranberry juice and downed a glass and a half before he felt a little better. Now then, when one gets up first there are certain polite protocols…
He washed his glass out and started coffee in the gleaming black coffeemaker that had enough buttons to launch a space mission.
A soft masculine voice came from behind him. “I will share my Mistress because I must, but my kitchen? That, I think, is asking too much,” Liam teased as he came around the counter. He wore a pair of boxers and nothing else. His bare feet padded softly across the tiles, a slight shadow on his cheeks and the dark tousled hair coupled with a sleepy smile said he hadn’t showered yet. “What would you like for breakfast?”
“A thousand pardons, oh Lord of the Saucepans,” Der murmured with a little bow. He slid up onto one of the counter stools and folded his hands primly in front of him. “I will try to keep my dainty little paws to myself. As for breakfast, the answer is yes. You can’t name a breakfast food I don’t adore.”
“Chorizo and eggs? And pancakes. Mmm… and muffins, just in case.” Liam said. “Did you sleep well?” Liam asked, just a hint of a gleam in his eye when he glanced at Der.
“Ah, yes, like the dead,” he answered with a grin.
Liam rummaged around for items he wanted, laying them out neat and orderly on the counter. He set two apples, peeler, grater, and bowl in front of Der. “Grate these for the pancakes would you please?” he asked, while he got the chorizo going in the skillet. He probably didn’t need to make quite so large a meal, but Der looked like he could use it, and Liam was used to cooking for Xavier.
Pleased to be useful, Der cored, peeled and grated, falling easily into the role of mother’s helper. Not that Liam looked anything like his mother. Gods, no. He was stunning, especially in next to nothing and Der found his eyes wandering up and down that strong, sculpted body as he moved about the kitchen.
Liam made a simple thing such as making breakfast a sensual experience. He gave Der little tastes of everything as he made them. He made the apple and cinnamon pancakes and made sure there was a small one to come out of the pan first which he placed on a plate in front of Der. He whipped heavy cream with a touch of vanilla and sugar and gave him a spoonful with a freshly washed strawberry. He got to lick the beater from the banana nut muffins.
When the baked goods were done and set to warm he started adding chopped mushrooms, onions and peppers to the skillet along with eggs whipped fluffy and cheese to make an omelet.
By the time everything was just about done Katya joined them both. “Good morning,“ she said as she came into the kitchen looking scrumptious herself in a dark green silk robe, her long locks still sleep mussed. She kissed Der’s cheek and then Liam’s as she headed for the coffee pot. She looked out the window as she poured. “I think breakfast on the patio would be nice; it’s beautiful out.”
“It’s beautiful in, too,” Der said with a soft smile as he watched them both. He laughed when she gave him a look. “Outside it is. Yes, ma’am.”
Completely unselfconscious in nothing but a pair of pants, he began to shuttle plates and silverware and food out to the glass table. The early morning sun on his bare shoulders felt marvelous, the cool of the stones under his bare feet equally so. Ah, it was a glorious morning.
Katya nibbled on a muffin and drank coffee. Normally she would have also been scanning the morning paper but today she chose to talk with Der and Liam instead. She even let Liam talk her into a bite or two of omelet and a bit of apple cinnamon pancake, which really were delicious. She just wasn’t a big breakfast person, preferring to enjoy the company of her boys and let them eat.
She was pleased with Liam this morning, and fed him an occasional strawberry she dipped in the whipped cream from her fingertips. She also did not miss the way Der watched her, and the smoky looks he cast at Liam. She deliberately smudged whipped cream across his bottom lip, caught his chin and brought it close so she could kiss it from his lips. “So sweet.” She smiled at him. “Thank your for breakfast love. Why don’t you go for a swim?”
“Yes, Mistress,” Liam said with a little smile, stood, and unabashedly slid the boxers off his hips, as he knew she intended. With an indolent stride he went to the pool and slid into the water, glad it was heated, and started his laps with an effortless breaststroke.
Der tipped his chair back on two legs, his eyes devouring Liam’s naked body as his muscles bunched and flexed. He was the picture of repose, munching happily on his third muffin, but his insides quivered.
“Ms. Kat, you are a supremely lucky woman,” he said after a long draught of coffee.
She shot him a bland, inquisitive look, though one corner of her mouth seemed to want to smile.
“All this.” He waved his claws at the property, then at Liam. “Such lovely eye candy. And to top it all off, he cooks well enough to bring a regiment to their knees. Just not fair. To have so much in one place.”
“Indeed… I do feel very fortunate to have such lovely men in my life..” Katya agreed. “And they are all so very talented.” She added with a possessive smile as she watched Liam slice cleanly through the water. She glanced at Der, the man was practically drooling. “Feeling your Top side returning this morning, are you?” she asked in an amused tone
Der laughed. “Ah, Ms. Kat, I am nothing if not flexible. I tend to, ah, adapt to the stimuli in my immediate environment.”
“Mm, and Liam is quite stimulating.” She chuckled softly. “Would you like to have him for the afternoon?”
He turned to face her, his expression a bit stunned. “Very generous, ma’am. Extremely.” His claws drummed a complex rhythm on his thigh. “I would love to spend time with him. But is he…you hinted he might…do you think I could satisfy him?”
Katya had to laugh, though she didn’t want to make him feel she laughed at him. She shook her head. “I’m sorry. Yes, you are most satisfactory, my sweet.” She gave him a warm smile as she rested her elbow on the table and propped her chin on her hand. “Liam tends to the extreme, at times, but this isn’t about his wants, now is it? He is also a very sensual creature, and he is at his best when he knows he has pleased his partner.”
She looked from Der back to Liam in the pool and called to him. He pulled himself, dripping and glistening from the water and walked over to them. From her tone and posture alone he knew to kneel before her. “Liam, I would like you to entertain Der this afternoon.”
No hesitation, and a hint of warmth colored his tone. She didn’t think she had read the signs wrong, for either of them. Liam was just harder to read, unless one knew him well. She stood, taking her cup of coffee with her. She caressed Liam’s cheek and kissed Der’s. “I will see you a little later, I have a few things I have to take care of this morning.”
Der watched her go, knowing she knew he watched the sway of her hips, the subtle slide of satin along her backside. He grinned. Such a pleasure, to be with such a confident woman.
He leaned back and let his clawed hands rest on the chair arms. “Well, now. An unexpected but lovely surprise, I have to say.”
When he crooked a finger, Liam came to him, still on his knees. He ran his claws gently through Liam’s wet hair. “One request. I’ll allow one. And then you leave the decisions to me, yes?”
A trace of a smile touched Liam’s lips that he was taking a leaf from Katya’s book. He reached over to the table, lifted the bowl of whipped heavy cream he’d made, and handed it to Der. “Don’t let this go to waste, please.”
“A very practical request.” Der gave him a solemn nod. “I approve. Terrible to waste food.”
He dipped a finger in, claw and all and held it out to Liam, partly to see if the claws gave him pause. They did not. With gentle, sensual enthusiasm, Liam licked the cream off, every last drop.
Liam’s soft moan set off every dominant and exhibitionist nerve in Der’s body. “Lie down,” he said in a husky murmur. “On your back.”
Liam complied, shivering slightly as he lay down on the cool stones, though whether it was from the chill or anticipation was hard for him to tell.
Bowl in hand, Der settled cross-legged next to Liam’s naked body. The water droplets gleamed in the sunlight, bejeweling his skin. “So lovely,” Der got out on a soft sigh. My kingdom for a camera.
He settled on creating a temporary piece of art and used one forefinger as his brush to paint tribal designs in whip cream starting at Liam’s collarbone and working slowly down his arms and chest. A thunderbird decorated his midsection. Kokopelis and Celtic knots danced along his legs. Liam’s cock lay thick and hard on his stomach and Der drew a design up its length that traced its fine veins. His sac received a spiral and then Der placed the empty bowl on the table.
“Temporary art,” he said with a soft smile. “Symbolic of the transience of all things.” He leaned forward and took Liam’s lips in a tender kiss before he nipped and licked downwards to begin devouring his work.
Liam lay as still as he could under Der’s ministrations. He brought a hand up to gently comb his fingers through the long silk of his hair, since he hadn’t been told not to move or not to touch. The flat of Der’s tongue brushed over his nipple and Liam felt it tighten and rise in response. He gave a soft sigh and then a little moan of pleasure as his tongue traced lower.
“Delicious, delicious,” Der murmured as he nosed against Liam’s armpit and began licking the cream from his right biceps. “You smell so good, gods, like someone cooked you up from some secret family recipe.”
He scraped his sharp teeth gently along Liam’s skin. The sudden thought of actually sinking his teeth in ambushed him and he twitched. He could never do such a thing, could he? No, Ms. Kat would surely skin him alive.
Liam’s gently caressing fingers stilled at the nape of Der’s neck. “Are you okay?” He murmured, noticing Der’s sudden little twitch.
“Sorry.” Der licked the cream from Liam’s forearm. “Just a strange, stray notion.” He lifted his eyes to see Liam’s face without moving his head. “Unless you happen to like being bitten?”
A flicker of heat flashed in Liam’s sea green eyes. “Sometimes…”
Der cleared his throat and felt the heat creep up from his belly under the warmth of his gaze. “Hmm, well…we’ll hold that thought for now, I think. Since I’ve already been so well fed.”
Even so, he let his teeth graze and scrape a little harder as he continued his progress down Liam’s body. The little scrapes had turned to nips as he reached Liam’s beautiful, flat abs. Just as he hovered over Liam’s cream-painted erection, though, he changed directions and started up from his ankles. “Can’t let the cream go bad in the sun.”
“No… can’t let the cream go to waste…” Liam said in a low husky tone full of innuendo.
“And we won’t, my dear,” Der purred as he worked his way back up Liam’s thighs. “Not one solitary drop.”
He slid a claw tip under Liam’s sac and lifted gently to lick in soft, quick strokes. The pebbled skin tightened under his attentions, eliciting another growling purr. He debated simply getting Liam off here on the patio stones but two things stopped him. One was that he wanted more and the other was that the sun was starting to bother him. Difficult for a nocturnal creature to be comfortable making love with the noonday sun beating a hard tattoo on his shoulders.
With languid strokes of his tongue, he cleaned the rest of the cream from Liam’s cock and then crawled up his body so they were eye to eye. “Do you have a room, handsome?”
“Yes.” Liam rose and took Der’s hand. “This way.” He led him back inside and up the stairs.
Der stopped at the head of the stairs and held up a claw. “Shower first. I don’t smell so good. Uh-uh, no, my sweet.” He shook his head when Liam tried to follow. “I’ll meet you in your room. You can clean up if you like but I won’t require it. You smell wonderful.”
Liam watched Der disappear into the bathroom and then he went to the bathroom off of Katya’s bedroom. As requested he used a washcloth to clean the stickiness from his body left behind by traces of whipped cream, rather than take a shower. When he finished he went to his room and didn’t have long to wait before Derelict joined him there.
He came in with a towel wrapped around his waist and Liam smiled, not trying to hide his admiring gaze. Der’s hair hung dark and wet down his back and he was attempting to pull a brush through it. “Would you like me to help you with that?”
Der hesitated half a heartbeat. Not that he minded having someone brush it for him but so few lovers ever offered, maybe thinking the long mane was off limits. “Why, yes.” He gave Liam a smile. “You read my mind.”
Liam took the brush from Der’s hand and with a slightly impish grin indicated that Der should sit in front of him. He waited until Der sat in the v of his spread legs, the only thing between them the towel wrapped around Der’s waist, and then he slowly and gently began to work the brush through the tangles of wet hair. He started at the bottom and worked his way up, as Katya had taught him when dealing with long hair.
“Mmm, such strong, gentle hands,” Der murmured. He relaxed, his hands on Liam’s knees and toyed for a moment with giving himself to this beautiful, gentle man rather than the other way around. Tempting. Oh, so tempting.
When the brush began to glide smoothly down the length of his hair, Der took the brush away and set it on the bed. He took Liam’s wrists and guided his hands to the towel, helping him unwrap it and fold it back. With a soft sigh of pleasure, he turned and took Liam’s face between his hands, gazing for a moment into those blue-green eyes before he seized his lips in a passionate kiss.
There was the slightest moment of resistance, and then Liam melted into the kiss. There was no sense that Liam was at all reluctant, it was more like the moment’s resistance was simply to make the surrender that much sweeter.
For a few minutes Der knelt between Liam’s knees, letting those wonderful hands roam over his back and shoulders. He did love the feel of them on his skin and he waffled again between letting him have them free or not. In the end, the recurring image of Liam bound to the bed won out and with a soft growl, Der bore him backwards onto the mattress. He didn’t have any illusions. Liam outweighed him and could have taken him down without much effort. But that he allowed this, welcomed this without a serious wrestling match made Der’s heart pound.
Liam lay as passively as he could, but it was difficult. His hips rolled when he felt Der’s shaft pressing against his. His semi hard-on expanded with the stimulation, especially the feel of those little metal balls. A thought occurred to him that made him almost painfully erect in an instant. Would Katya think of piercing him, perhaps? “Did Mistress like your piercings?” he asked a little breathlessly.
“Oh, yes, very much.” Der lifted his head from where he’d been devouring Liam’s throat. “I can demonstrate better than I can explain, of course.” He tapped Liam’s nose. “But you’re way too wriggly at the moment. We need to take care of that.”
He rose from the bed and sauntered to the bureau, which he gave a little ‘may I?’ wave. When Liam nodded, he opened the top drawer and found some lovely lengths of silk rope. “Roll on your front for me, hands behind your back.”
With Liam’s wrists tightly bound, Der rolled him back over, heaved him up farther on the bed and then took his ankles to spread his legs wide. A little discomfort in the position, he reasoned, probably would be welcome. He planted a soft kiss on the tip of Liam’s cock and hummed to himself while he tied his ankles to the bedposts.
Quite by accident Der discovered how ticklish the bottom of Liam¢s feet were. He had one ankle secured and was working on the other when he drew the end of the silk rope up his instep. Liam’s toes flexed and his body went taut for a second. He had to bite his bottom lip to keep from laughing.
“Ooh, we found something here,” Der murmured as he tied off the second rope. He sat on the end of the bed and watched Liam intently while he ran a claw tip ever-so-gently up the bottom of Liam’s foot.
Liam tried to jerk his foot away, an automatic reaction, but of course he couldn’t. His toes curled again, and he pressed his head back into the mattress, holding his breath. It lasted all of five seconds before a laugh burst forth and he squirmed around in earnest. “Stop! Stop it!” He gasped between helpless giggles.
“Tsk.” Der shook his head with a frown. “I didn’t receive either a ‘please’ or a ‘sir’.”
When he persisted, he got a frantic, “Please! Oh, please, sir, please stop, please!” between gasps for breath.
“So sweet when you plead.” Der licked his teeth and left off tormenting him. “I expect to hear more of that in a bit. You look simply delicious, all trussed and ready…”
He surged up from the bed and turned to face Liam, flung his arms wide and his head back. In a feral voice he called out, “On a hot summer night!” Then he lifted his head slowly, his voice softer as his eyes met Liam’s with a nearly audible sizzle. “Would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses?”
A smile curled Liam’s lips and he decided to play along. “Will he offer me his mouth?”
Der grinned and lowered down over him. “Yes.”
“Will he offer me his teeth?”
They didn’t get to finish the rest of the lyrics. Der nipped him and Liam laughed. The nip became a bite, not hard enough to break skin, but hard enough to hurt and Liam’s chuckle ended on a soft moan.
The sound knifed right through to Der’s balls. A soft growl escaped and he worked down Liam’s body again, his kisses harder this time, his teeth closing over skin again and again, just enough for a little edge. When he gripped Liam’s thighs, he let his claws indent the flesh and then his kisses became more gentle as he slid up one muscular thigh to the puckered treasure waiting for him. Without claw sheaths, he couldn’t oil Liam up but his tongue would do quite well as a substitute.
Liam hadn’t realized he was holding his breath until he released it. The wet heat of Der’s tongue circled his rim and made him quiver. He couldn’t help remembering the first time someone had tongued him there. Xavier had delighted in how hot it got him.. Der’s slick tongue felt every bit as wonderful.
With a growl of pleasure, Der drove his tongue inside, hard and deep, pleased at the shudder and moan he received. His nose nuzzled up against Liam’s balls and the spice of his musk made his head spin. All kinds of turned on. He didn’t think Liam needed too much preparation.
After he’d gotten everything good and wet, Der rose again on all fours and crawled back up Liam’s body, planting hard sucking kisses along the way. He angled his cock with one hand and supported himself on the other, tall enough that he could seize Liam’s lips in a fierce kiss while he pushed past the deliciously tight ring in one steady thrust of his hips.
Liam’s head tipped back and he cussed softly in Spanish. Der was not little and it had been awhile. The sudden full, impossibly stretched feeling was breathtaking. The added stimulation of his jewelry was amazing.
Der had stopped moving, letting Liam become accustomed to him. When Liam opened his eyes again he saw concern on Der’s face, but there was nothing put pure erotic heat in Liam’s gaze. He lifted his head to kiss and nibble Der’s lower lip. “Thank you, Sir.”
“You’re very welcome,” Der whispered, feeling as if he might fall into those eyes. Fire crept along his skin, a slow roasting from passion. He managed a crooked grin. “Does that mean you want me to stop?”
He chuckled at the look on Liam’s face and he pushed in farther. A long moan rumbled in his chest as his third ladder rung bumped past the entrance. “Oh…Liam…you feel so good.” He smoothed Liam’s hair back and took his face between his hands. “I’ll give you one more choice today, because I’m feeling generous. Would you like it slow and sweet? Or hot and hard?”
“Both.” Liam answered without hesitation. “Whichever… feels good… to you… at the moment.” He said between slow hot kisses and little grinds of his hips.
“Huh.” Der stared at him a moment, and then decided he was quite serious and not merely saying it because he didn’t want to make a decision. “All right, then. One of everything it is.”
He rolled his hips in slow, teasing circles while he suckled on Liam’s earlobe. Sweet first, hard later. And, oh, the boy was sweet. He couldn’t seem to get enough of the taste of him.
Liam purred for him, delighting in the sensual pace and tender kisses and nips. He rolled his hips up with each of Der’s strokes, rubbing the underside of his throbbing cock along Der’s belly. The head brushed against Der’s belly ring. “Uhh, gods, I love your accessories,” he said in a heated whisper.
“They’re rather fond of you, too,” Der murmured against his shoulder. A hard groan caught in his chest when Liam’s stomach muscles tightened against him and he rolled just the right way to press against his balls and tease all his ladder rungs at once.
He rose up on his elbows to watch Liam’s face as he lengthened his strokes, building speed in a slow, steam-locomotive climb. With a sharp cry, he flung back his head and thrust in hard, from tip to hilt, his strokes suddenly fierce and forceful.
“Uhhh! Oh, fuck…” Liam’s body arched as far as he could. The muscles of his thighs bunched under Der’s hands. If he touched his cock he was going to come. He wanted to beg for it and wanted to prolong it at the same time.
“You have such a sweet voice,” Der panted out as his body heaved, his muscles clenching. “Let me hear it…ask me for it…plead for me…”
“Please, Der… you’ve got me so hot, please get me off,” Liam pleaded in a husky tone.
Der shifted, his legs taking more of his weight as he drove in harder. “With the utmost pleasure,” he whispered against Liam’s throat as his hand wrapped around his cock and pumped in time to the driving rhythm of his hips.
A bonfire raged in his groin, the flames licking up his body to consume his brain. As he soared towards his peak, he let out a hoarse growl and sank his needle-sharp teeth hard into Liam’s shoulder.
Liam made a strangled sound of pleasure behind clenched jaws. The orgasm hit him like a sledge hammer and he cried out with mingled pain and pleasure as Der bit him. He came hard, the quivers and spasms lasting for a long time.
The flesh between his teeth muffled Der’s cries of ecstasy, his body jerking and twitching with every pulse of molten seed he pumped deep inside Liam. A small, distant part of him was shocked at his ferocious reaction to Liam’s needs but he was, as he had told Katya, adaptable.
He drifted back down, eyes closed, head resting on Liam’s chest. When he finally sat up, it was because he thought he was drooling on him, so he withdrew gently and wiped the back of his hand across his mouth.
Crimson colored his skin when he pulled his hand away. He stared for a moment, wondering if he’d bitten his lip. Then he looked down. Scarlet drops in the shape of his teeth decorated Liam’s shoulder.
“Oh…gods…” he staggered up off the bed, eyes flicking frantically back and forth between bloodstained hand and shoulder.
“Der…” Liam tried for a soothing tone, seeing the panic and feeling what was coming. “Der, breathe.”
“Hells….” Der’s eyes rolled and he crumpled.
Liam swore softly. He shifted his arms but the rope was tight, he wasn’t going to get undone on his own, he needed some help. He was only slightly embarrassed as he yelled for Richard.
Richard poked his head in a moment later, and the light smile on his face faltered as he took in the scene. “What the hell happened?”
“Its not as bad as it looks.” Liam said, feeling absurd tied to the bed covered in blood and semen. “His love bite was a little hard, when he saw the blood, he fainted.”
Richards lips twitched and Liam glared at him. “If you laugh, I’ll never forgive you.”
Richard broke into a huge grin, but managed not to chuckle. He got Liam untied first and then they got Der up on the bed before cleaning up the blood and the wound. By then they had both come to the sobering realization that Kat was going to be seriously annoyed. He could have done any number of things to Liam, but marking him like this was strictly forbidden.
A soft moan from the bed announced Der’s return. He rolled to his side, curled up with his head buried in his arms, the picture of dejection. “I’m so sorry…oh, damn, I’m so sorry.” The threat of tears made his voice thick and hoarse. “I hurt you. I didn’t want to hurt you.”
Liam and Richard shared a look, and then Liam put his hand on Der’s back, making soothing circles. “You didn’t hurt me,” he said softly. “It would take a lot more for you to actually hurt me.” He paused, hoping he wasn’t about to offend him. “I think the blood made you… overreact a little, Der. I’m perfectly fine, the bite was a turn on.”
Der snuffled and swiped a hand over his eyes. “I’m not very good with…things like that. I…oh, dear gods. Katya’s going to use my hide as a rug, isn’t she?” He leapt up and scrabbled around the floor for his pants. “I need to go apologize.”
“Hold up.” Richard said. He put his hand on Der’s shoulder, not holding him back, just steadying him. “Calm down first. If you go and panic her, Katya will be the least of your worries.” Richard made him take a few deep breaths, which did seem to calm Der at least a little. “Katya’s in her office. You can go make your apologies, but make sure you explain what happened and that Liam is alright first. Okay?”
“Yessir.” Der scrubbed his hands over his face. He pulled on his pants and then went to Liam to wrap him in a tender embrace. “Thank you. That was wonderful. You’re wonderful. I’m sorry I’m such an excitable boy sometimes.”
“Don’t be sorry, it’s quite alright.” Liam said with a smile and folded him into a return embrace. “Do not be upset Der, I’m not.”
Der wandered down to her office, feeling sick and guilty. She had given him this gift, had trusted him to be careful, and he had to mess up like this. Damn. Always such a screw up. Something about Liam had awoken a ferocious, primal side of him, though, that no one else had before. He’d simply lost control.
He knocked on the doorframe since the door stood open. “Ms. Katya? Could I–”
She was on the phone but waved for him to stay, so he leaned against the doorway and tucked his hands under his arms to hide their shaking.
Katya listened to the speaker on the other end but kept her eye on Der. Something had happened, she could tell. Something that had shaken him. What could her Liam have done? Unless Der tried to force him into something dangerous Liam would have been completely submissive… “Haj, I’ll have to call you back, something just came up. Yes.” She glanced at the clock and made a note in her laptop. “That’s fine.” She hung up the phone.
“Come in here Der, what’s happened? You look white as a sheet.”
“Ah, well, I never did tan well,” he tried to joke but it came out a little wavery. She had offered a chair, he knelt by her instead. “Ms. Katya, I need to start out saying that Liam’s fine, happy as a kitten with his first piece of string. But I’ve made a mistake and you’ll be annoyed with me. And you’ve every right, of course.”
He took a deep breath, unable to meet her eyes any longer. “I, ah…while Liam was entertaining me, I got a little carried away.” He felt her patience waning so he rushed on. “I bit him, Ms. Kat. I drew blood. Marked him with my teeth. It wasn’t intentional, but I did it just the same.”
Katya was silent for several long moments. Instead of addressing him when she finally spoke she called out just loud enough for her voice to carry beyond the still ajar door. “Richard?”
He moved through the door, “Yes, Mistress?”
He halted and turned back around.
Der started to say something more and Katya held up her finger. “Silence.”
He subsided and shortly Richard was back with Liam.
Liam came in and knelt beside Der. Katya looked him over, had Richard move the bandage so she could see and then she sat back in her chair, drumming her fingers restlessly on her desk top.
“Liam, go downstairs and ready yourself on the spanking bench,” she said.
“Yes, Mistress.” He started to rise and she stopped him..
“No. Crawl there.”
“Yes, Mistress.” He did as he was told.
She turned her attention to Der. “I trust you won’t get carried away with him again?” she asked mildly.
“No, ma’am, I…please.” He raised his head to look at her. “I don’t understand. Why would you punish Liam?”
“He allowed himself to be injured.” The smallest of smiles touched her lips.
“But…but he…” His throat felt tight and raw. “I’m the one who screwed up, Ms. Kat, not Liam. How could he help something that happened when he was tied to the bed? Please… I should be the one on that bench, not him. It’s not…it’s not right.”
Katya crossed one leg over the other, which made the robe she was wearing part and show a good deal of shapely legs. “I know you do not find pleasure in pain, my dear. And besides, you are not mine to punish, really. I accepted your apology, it was an accident…” She trailed off. He looked so stricken. “Alright Der, what punishment would suit do you think? I will not use corporal punishment with you, and I wouldn’t put you in chastity unless you lived here. Pick something agreeable to us both.”
Der’s hands twisted together in his lap, his claws clicking against each other. He hadn’t felt this miserable since he’d gotten trashed and slammed Drew against the wall. What the hell was wrong with him that he had these strange moments when he couldn’t control his baser urges?
“I don’t know what to say,” he whispered, fighting tears. “If you won’t beat me like I deserve…I know I wouldn’t enjoy it but it’s punishment, after all…” He sniffed and heaved a long breath to steady himself. A sudden thought trundled it’s way through his muddled brain. “There is someone I do belong to. Sometimes. Who does have the right to do what he pleases with me. Vincent.”
Katya nodded and picked up the phone. She chatted with Jonathan for a moment and then asked for Vince to whom she offered a brief explanation.
“Tsk, our bad boy needs a leash,” Vincent said when she had finished, though his soft voice was amused. “Or perhaps a muzzle if he’s become a danger to the community. We’ll be right over, Ms. Kat.”
Katya hung up and took Der by the chin. “Go downstairs and keep Liam company while we wait for Vincent.” She paused. “I want you stripped and ready, you may touch Liam, but no talking. You are to keep that mouth closed until I say otherwise… got it?”
He nodded and began to rise. “No, you can crawl down there as well,” she said
As if his legs were made of straw, he dropped back to his knees and obeyed, the muscles of his long, lean body bunching and flexing as he crawled from her office.
After he had gone, Katya went upstairs to dress. Vincent didn’t keep her waiting long.
He’d opted for casual goth, tight leather pants with silver rivets up the legs, heavy jack boots and a tight black t-shirt. Jonathan and Drew were a matched set on either side of him in chocolate suede and velvet button-down shirts, all easily removable. Vincent had no illusions about how long his lovely boys would stay dressed.
“Good afternoon, Ms. Kat. You are breathtaking, as always,” Vincent said with a soft smile as Richard let them in. “So, how would you like to begin?”
“Well, let’s go downstairs first and we can decide from there. I think they’ve been waiting long enough.”
Downstairs, Der stripped back out of his pants again. Why he kept pulling them on was beyond him at this point. He crawled over to Liam where he lay naked, face down on the spanking bench, and rose up on his knees to nuzzle his shoulder. He shook already at the thought of someone so beautiful being punished for his stupid mistake but he knew nothing he could do would change that.
“It’s alright Der.” Liam said. When Der didn’t respond other than to stroke a hand through his hair he guessed, “She told you not to talk?”
Der nodded. Together they waited until they heard steps on the stairs.
Katya’s shapely legs appeared first and Der knelt where he was, head bowed, hands in his lap. More people followed and his face grew hot with shame when he saw by the feet, too small to be Richard’s, that both Drew and Jonathan had come as well. Last came the heavy thud-thump of Vincent navigating the stairs with his crutches, last because he wouldn’t want anyone to have to follow his slow progress.
“There’s my bad pup,” he said softly as he approached. “You know what they do in this city with dogs that bite, don’t you?”
Der nodded without raising his head.
“I suppose we won’t call the authorities this time,” Vincent went on with a little sigh. “Would be a shame to have such a pretty dog euthanized. I suppose a little obedience training is in order, though.” He whistled as if calling a pet. “Come! Here, boy!”
On all fours, Der came to him readily. If a little humiliation in front of everyone was what Vincent wanted for him, he’d gladly comply. He did wish certain people weren’t here to see it, Drew because it was a specific kind of shame to be humbled in front of their lovely Drew, and Jonathan because he’d never hear the end of it.
He nuzzled and licked the hand Vincent held out and received a soft pat on the head.
“Now then, this city has leash laws as well. We need to see to that. Jonathan, if you please?”
Der looked up and met Jonathan’s bright green eyes, carefully blank and neutral for the moment. Out of the messenger bag on his shoulder, Jonathan drew a leash and collar, one probably meant for a bull mastiff. Certainly large enough to be comfortable but Der stared at it in undisguised horror. It was pastel pink with little pink rhinestones. Unfortunately, the leash matched.
Drew brought a chair so Vincent could sit down and fasten the collar around Der’s throat. He nearly balked but in the end told himself firmly that he deserved it and bent his head to receive the wretchedly ugly thing.
“Good boy.” Vincent murmured and petted him again. “Jonathan, take the leash, please. Get him up on that table over there to display him. His leash can be fastened to the stand next to it.”
When Der was positioned as ordered, on all fours on the table, Vincent pulled out his last bit of humiliation from the messenger bag.
“Oh, yes, and since a certain pup can’t keep his teeth to himself, I’ve brought him a toy.” He retrieved a toy bone, also nauseatingly pink, and tossed it onto the table in front of Der. “Go ahead. Give it a try.”
Der lowered his head and torso puppy fashion to fasten his teeth around the bone. He cringed when it let out a high-pitched squeak.
“I expect to hear that from time to time so I know you’re enjoying your present,” Vincent said with a soft smile.
Katya leaned on her arm, resting in the center of Liam’s back while she watched. Der looked fairly uncomfortable, but taking it well. Now she straightened and ran her hand lightly over Liam’s back from shoulder to the swell of his nicely shaped butt where she patted him. “Do you think pink suits him, my dear?”
“Er… not really, Mistress,” Liam answered hesitantly.
“Ah, but it’s better than the muzzle he should have.”
Drew shifted uncomfortably. He wasn’t sure he liked this, even if it was done lightly. He startled when Katya spoke right behind him. “And what about you, sweetling… do you think pink is his new color, hm?”
“N-no, ma’am.” he said, barely above a whisper.
“Mm, perhaps not. But I do think the next time he might be about to lose control of himself, he might remember how much he dislikes pink rhinestones.” She looked over at Der. “Won’t you pup?” She got a squeak in response.
Jonathan snickered and clapped a hand over his mouth.
“Already my Coyote forgets what he promised,” Vincent said on a dramatic sigh. “Forget again and you’ll have to wait upstairs until we’re finished.”
The snickering ceased abruptly.
“Much better. Drew, love, Jonathan looks a bit warm. Would you like to undress him for me?”
Drew stepped over to Jonathan, his fingers a little more hesitant than usual as he lifted them to the buttons of his shirt. It just felt a little… weird, with so many people watching.
Jonathan offered his beautiful, white-toothed smile and put a finger under Drew’s chin. He lifted his face, mouthed ‘I love you’ and took Drew’s lips in a tender, sensual kiss.
Drew’s hesitance lasted only a few more moments before he melted into the kiss. He just couldn’t resist Jonathan. His fingers automatically finished with his buttons and he slid his hands inside Jonathan’s shirt, running his hands up his ribs to his chest where he paused to brush his thumbs over his nipples. A small pleased sound came from Drew’s throat as Jonathan’s nipples hardened and he deepened the kiss to smoking hot.
With a soft moan, Jonathan pulled him close, letting him feel the hard bulge at his crotch. The thought of going down to Katya’s playroom had gotten him hard on the drive over. He caressed Drew’s back, the velvet soft and inviting under his palms, while his tongue drove into Drew’s hot little mouth to play with his tongue stud.
He broke off the kiss to turn his head and ask, “Sir, may I?”
“If Drew allows it,” Vincent said softly. “It would please me to have you both undressed.”
Jonathan grinned and went back to kissing Drew stupid while his nimble fingers flicked his buttons open and slid his shirt off his shoulders.
Katya had returned to Liam’s side, but for the moment she was content to give him an occasional caress and watch. Anything else would only be distracting at the moment, and besides, Vincent’s boys were so damn hot it would be a shame not to give her full attention. Apparently Derelict thought so too. His eyes were glued to the pair and he had a lovely erection jutting between his legs already.
She couldn’t blame him. Jonathan had turned Drew so his back was to Der, his hands caressed the boy’s long smooth back and cupped the pert little globes of his ass while Drew made the most sensual little sounds and got completely caught up in his kiss. Jonathan knew exactly what buttons to push on the boy and how to display him to best advantage and Drew was a surprising little minx under his quiet exterior.
Jonathan moved down to kiss the base of Drew’s jaw. “I love your butt, sweetie,” he whispered as he cupped both cheeks in his hands. Then he slid his hands around front and undid Drew’s fly while he devoured Drew’s graceful, pale throat.
Drew’s little moan turned his insides molten but he forced himself to go slowly. He eased the suede halfway down Drew’s backside, stroking and squeezing as the lovely, smooth skin was revealed bit by bit.
Soft, rhythmic squeaks came from the table as Der gnawed on his chew toy in obvious frustration.
Drew slid one hand around Jonathan’s neck, his long fingers caressing into the back of his hair. The other hand slipped down to undo Jonathan’s pants as well. Jonathan’s warm hand caressed him, his fingers sliding inside his pants to stroke along his shaft and Drew felt dizzy with the rush of blood from head to groin.
Without giving it much thought he dropped to his knees, and nuzzled into the opening of Jonathan’s pants so he could lick and kiss his way along his shaft.
With a dramatic groan, Jonathan let his head fall back as his fingers dug into Drew’s hair. He wriggled a bit and his pants slid to his knees, the expanse of his tight, muscular little body abruptly exposed. Without dislodging Drew from where he licked at him as if he were a piece of rock candy, Jonathan pulled his pants off the rest of the way with his toes.
Drew wriggled out of his as well and there they were intertwined in nothing but their collars, Jonathan’s green velvet and Drew’s links of silver. Jonathan spread his feet, urging Drew to take him in his mouth and then he went one better. His smoldering eyes locked on Der’s and he lifted one foot, perfectly balanced, to slide his leg over Drew’s shoulder to caress his back with his toes.
Silver and green, dark and light, they were so perfectly matched. Der thought he would die of frustration. So gorgeous, so perfect…and naturally Jonathan had rub it in how flexible he was. A whimper escaped and Der attacked his chew toy with renewed zeal. The noise was awful but it did help to gnaw on something.
Drew knew Jonathan was enjoying showing off, and showing him off. Just how much he enjoyed it was evident to Drew as he tasted the saltiness of his pre-cum on his tongue. Drew quit playing around and took Jonathan down his throat. The groan that tore from Jonathan’s throat made Drew’s toes curl.
“Such good boys,” Vincent murmured, his chin resting atop his hands on his crutch. “But my kestrel, you’re going to make Jonathan come that way and then where would you be?” He paused, considering the room’s possibilities, and settled on a spanking horse near Der’s table.
“Beloved, why don’t you bend Drew over that item there? Hopefully you were farsighted enough to include the oil you like in your bag but if not, I’m sure Ms. Katya has something.”
Jonathan hadn’t forgotten the oil, and neither of them wasted any time switching their position. Drew felt the touch of hesitation creep back, not only because they were being watched but because he felt bad they were teasing Der like this.
Jonathan leaned him over the bench, running his hands over his heated body, paying particular attention to kneading his cheeks, which he knew would make Drew arch and groan. But Drew was closer to Der now; he could see his expression up close, see the heat and frustration in his eyes. He was about to turn to Vince and plead for leniency for Der. His lips parted to speak and Jonathan slid a slippery finger inside him. All thought fled. He closed his eyes and only a breathy “Ohhhhhh…..” came out of his mouth.
The chew toy let out a squeal of protest as Der bit down hard. Drew’s face when he got turned on was so smoking hot, it was enough to melt a man’s bones. It didn’t help that Jonathan peppered Drew’s back with tender kisses and murmured heated little things to him as he teased and readied him. He knew how much Der liked to be talked to during sex, knew it would make him crazier. Dammit.
“You like that, don’t you…” Jonathan whispered as he slid two fingers in and out of Drew.
“Oh, yesss….uhhh…” Drew whimpered.
“Are you ready for more, sweetie?”
“Please… please, Jonathan.”
The fingers slid out of him and were replaced by the fullness of Jonathan’s turgid cock. He pushed forward slowly, but Drew was more than ready and wanted him now. He pushed back until he was impaled fully, and they paused like that with a chorus of moans.
Der’s view couldn’t have been better, the side view allowing him to see every inch of Jonathan plunge into Drew’s tight little sleeve. He whimpered, his jaws aching as he chewed the hell out of his toy. A sound escaped his chest that sounded suspiciously like a puppy whine. Gods, he was pitiful.
Jonathan panted; dizzy with need. He eased his hips back a fraction and then forward again, teasing them both. “You’re so gorgeous, love,” he murmured and began to knead Drew’s cheeks around his buried shaft. “So hot. So tight…ohgod…”
Watching porn was one thing, watching two lovers that knew just what the other partner wanted and needed was so much more erotic.
Drew was putty in Jonathan’s hands, all except for the hard cock he reached around to grip with his still slippery fingers. They moved together in sensual undulations that gradually became faster. Drew spread his legs a little farther, leaned over a little more as Jonathan began to drive into him harder.
The hand stroking him knew just how he liked it, exactly how tight, how fast, which places were most sensitive. He was getting close, so very close. Panting he opened his eyes to ask Vince if he could come, but Der was the first thing he saw and the request didn’t make it out in time. He managed a strangled, “uhhh….” As the first wave hit. “Jonathan…oh, god…” he said breathlessly as he came in hard jerking spurts.
“Well, done, beloved,” Vincent purred, his eyes heavy with desire. “You may.”
A hoarse cry leapt from Jonathan. His head flung back, hips shoved forward, his cock buried deep inside Drew’s trembling, clenching body, he went over, soft sounds of pleasure issuing from him with each hard pulse.
Drew stood on shaky legs with his head hung between his shoulders while he panted and waited for his heartbeat to slow. He turned his head when Jonathan curled over him so he could kiss him tenderly. “I love you.”
Katya had quietly come up behind Vincent. She slipped her arms around his shoulders where he sat and leaned down to place a soft kiss just below his ear. “They are so lovely, I can almost be jealous.” ‘Almost’ because she had such lovely men of her own.
He covered her tiny hand with his and let out a soft, warm laugh. “Thank you. They are divine. I never was much of a voyeur until I had such beautiful lovers to watch. It‘s–”
A loud squeak interrupted him. The look on Der’s face made him believe someone might truly be able to die of frustration. “Poor Der. I suppose we shouldn’t prolong things too much longer?”
“Mm.” Katya agreed. She withdrew her hands slowly, making it a caress and walked over to Der with deliberately placed steps. The toy between Der’s teeth squeaked softly as she stopped in front of him, almost sounding like a question, and she had to fight not to laugh. She took the toy from him and examined it for a second, then tapped him lightly on the nose with it. “Now see this is a proper chew toy, not my Liam. You’ll remember that from now on, won’t you?”
“Speak!” Kat said, although not too harshly.
Der cleared his throat, “Yes, Ma’am.”
“Good boy.” She kissed his cheek and the corner of his mouth and stroked her hand over his head and down his back. Taking the leash off the hook she told him to get down, and then had him get on all fours again before walking him over to where Drew and Jonathan were cuddling. “You may show them how much you enjoyed watching.”
He looked up at her, one eyebrow quirked, and then sat back on his heels, a little smile tugging at his lips. He spread his knees and leaned back so his erection rested against his stomach. With a soft moan, his placed his hands at his throat and slid them down his body, over his chest and his hard abs, to frame his cock.
He glanced up to make sure he had their attention and, yes, two sets of eyes, green and blue, watched him with rapt fascination. One hand slid down to cup his balls while the other closed around his shaft, fingers flat to hold his nails out of the way. Slowly, hips gyrating in time, he began to stroke himself.
Katya grinned down at him and let him go just long enough to start feeling really good. She gave a little tug on the leash and Der groaned, but his hands stilled. “Yes, I’d say he’s very appreciative.” She bent so her lips were close to Der’s ear. “If you think you can be a good boy I’ll let you off your leash, and you can go greet them properly.” She kissed his cheek again and unclipped the end of the leash from the collar as she straightened.
Rather than move, Der stayed on his knees with his thighs spread wide. A sharp-toothed smile transformed his expression though and he flung his arms wide in welcome.
Neither Jonathan nor Drew could resist such a lovely invitation and they disentangled from each other to fling themselves into his embrace.
Drew wrapped his arms around Der and kissed him while Jonathan nuzzled the underside of his jaw. The kiss was meant to be soft and sweet, but practically seized his lips in a fiery kiss that reminded Drew that while he had been enjoying himself with Jonathan, Der had been forced to watch. He decided he would make that up to him in any way he wanted.
“Oh, gods, that’s so much better,” Der breathed against his lips. He had an arm around each of them, his hands caressing in desperate circles on their skin. “Sugarbear… pretty Jon…you feel so damn good.”
He lifted his head to turn towards Vincent. “Am I forgiven, milord? May I?”
“You are forgiven, my troubadour,” Vincent answered with a smile. “And go right ahead.”
“You wanna make a daisy chain, sugar bear?” Der asked with a mischievous grin. “You, me, Jon in front?”
Drew smiled, “Okay, but…” He reached around and unbuckled the straps on the collar. “Let’s get rid of this first.” He tossed it aside. He kissed Der again, and then made a slow line of kisses down his throat and chest, pausing to circle a nipple and his navel before sinking down on the hard shaft pointing at him.
Jonathan pretended to pout. “I thought it looked just fierce,” he said in his best queen lisp. “Pink is just oh-so you.”
Der took him under the chin and gave him a ferocious kiss. “You can shut up for now beautiful, unless you have something hot and sexy to say.” He moaned as Drew’s mouth found his ladder rungs. “Oh…sweetness. That won’t take long that way.”
He pulled Drew up and urged him behind him while he pulled Jonathan in front. “This kind of daisy chain,” he said with a chuckle as Jonathan wriggled his cute ass into his crotch.
Drew kissed and licked and nibbled along Der’s shoulder, the side of his neck, and studded earlobe. He glanced over Der’s shoulder and caught Vince’s gaze. He watched them, but there wasn’t any of the frustration Der had shown, maybe just because he knew he could join them if he wanted, but he didn’t make a move to.
Drew felt a jolt of heat run though him as they locked eyes for a moment. Vince might not be joining them right now, but that look held a lot of promise. He liked what he was seeing… Drew scraped the edge of Der’s ear with his teeth, his eyes closing halfway as he held Vince’s gaze. Where as he had felt a little awkward before, knowing other people were watching, having Vince’s eyes on him like this was different, a huge turn on.
Der had Jonathan on all fours now. He debated a moment how to get Jonathan ready. With a grin he took the oil and poured some into Drew’s hand. It pulled Drew up tight behind him, which was lovely, as he guided Drew’s fingers to tease and probe at Jonathan’s tight entrance.
It hadn’t taken Drew long to recover from the first time and his cock lay like a steel pole nestled between Der’s cheeks as he slid first one and then two fingers into Jonathan’s heat. He pushed slowly in and out, turning his hand and curling his fingers so he could stroke his sweet spot.
With a heartfelt moan, Jonathan lowered his head and shoulders to the floor, offering himself completely. Der stroked his back with his free hand and let out a soft laugh.
“What’s so funny, tall, dark and trouble?” Jonathan gasped out as Drew added a third finger.
“It’s just such an appropriate position for this afternoon,” Der said with a huge grin. “Downward dog. Downward doggy-style.”
Jonathan chuckled and rolled his hips invitingly.
“All right, sugarbear, your hand is yours again,” Der murmured as he turned his head to give Drew a tender kiss. He gripped Jonathan’s hip with one hand and guided himself with the other. The resistance was sweet but brief as he pushed forward, his moan joining Jonathan’s as his head popped through. “Yoga must do things to your insides, too,” Der panted. “Gods, you’re a tight little thing.”
Drew kissed and nibbled his way across Der’s shoulders and back. He reached the spot just above the crack of his ass and dipped the tip of his tongue into that little dimple, then ran the stud in his tongue over that sensitive spot as he eased two oiled fingers inside him. He moved with him for a moment but was too keyed up to spend as much time in preparation as he had with Jonathan. He straightened and rubbed the head of his cock between his cheeks, pressing into his entrance gently.
“Atta boy,” Der whispered. “Give it to me…” Too far submerged in pleasure, a little pain wouldn’t bother him, not at that point. He groaned and sank farther into Jonathan as he felt himself impaled.
Drew’s gripped Der’s hips as he slid home in one smooth lunge. “Oh… fuck…” He curled over Der, nuzzling into the nape of his neck and humming with pleasure. “You feel so good Der,” he whispered against his skin.
“Mmm, so do you, sugarbear. So sweet…sweet dreams are made of this,” Der murmured as he pushed back.
The way the words whispered hot against the back of his neck, the heavy body on top of him, yanked Jonathan into a moment of dislocation. He whimpered, suddenly tense and shaking.
Der wrapped an arm around him gently, stroking his stomach. “Hey, sh, Jonathan…. Jonathan…” He kissed Jonathan’s shoulders, keeping the rest of his body still. “It’s just me, the big doofus, right? Just me. Talk to me, pretty Jon. Tell me how hot I am.”
“About as hot as lukewarm tomato soup,” Jonathan got out in a strangled voice.
“Oh, dear. We’ll have to do better than that.” Der wrapped his hand around Jonathan’s cock and teased the underside in soft caresses. “How about now?”
Jonathan moaned and squirmed, returned to the moment. “Ohgod…slow and sweet, big guy…please…christ, yes, you’re hot…sizzling, scorching…white sand in August hot…”
Drew closed his eyes and turned his head, resting his cheek between Der’s shoulder blades. He curled around him and moved with him, stroking in as he entered Jonathan, pulled out as he withdrew. Slow and sweet, oh yes, they could do that.
Unaccountably, Jonathan whispered, “Sing to me, Der…please?”
“But I thought–” Der lost his rhythm in his shock.
“All right…” He cleared his throat and sang in a soft murmur, “In the still of the night,
Jonathan moaned and relaxed to the strains of Cole Porter, his body taking up the slow, sweet tempo of the song. He rolled back against Der, wriggling to get the most out of each little silver ball buried inside him. He wouldn’t often say it, but, yes, the goofball was damn hot sometimes.
Der stroked him inside and out, pushed back against Drew and slid with tender care back into Jonathan. His song cut off abruptly on a soft cry of pleasure. “Such sweet things…oh, my sweethearts, I’ve dreamed about this,” he panted out. “Having you both at once… oh…gods…I’m coming…”
Always sensitive to his lover’s passion Drew was only a step behind him. He tried to hold back but he didn’t have the best control to begin with, and even less when he was buried in a tight hot passage squeezing and bucking against him. His whole body quivered as the choice was made for him and he went shuddering and moaning over the edge, clinging to Der like he was the last solid thing in the room.
Jonathan spread his knees and arched to push his butt up farther. Der’s silver-enhanced shaft plunged deeper to hit hard against his gland. With a series of short, sharp cries Jonathan bucked against him. His seed splashed hot over Der’s fingers as he squirmed and moaned through his climax.
He buried his head in his arms, panting. “Mmm, so…dizzy…”
Though Der had gone through far too many orgasms in the past twenty-four hours, he was the one who moved first, carefully disentangling arms and softening members. He turned to take Drew in his arms and kiss him softly while he took Jonathan’s head in his lap so they could both catch their breath.
Katya patted Liam’s back. “Up, my pet.”
Liam got up from the bench and stood, hands behind his back, feet shoulder width apart. He did a pretty good job of keeping his expression neutral but could not entirely hide the hint of disappointment. He understood though, that not receiving the anticipated spanking was the real punishment. Besides, Katya would not want to paddle him in front of several of the people in their present company.
Katya paused by Vincent’s side. “Join me upstairs whenever you are ready, my dear.” She kissed his cheek and Liam followed her to the stairs. “And thank you.” Her voice drifted back down to him..
“You are very welcome,” Vincent murmured with a little smile to her retreating back. He turned to the trio sprawled before him, glistening with the aftereffects of lovemaking. “Do you feel better now, love? Ms. Kat gave me the impression you were quite upset.”
“Yeah…yeah, I was,” Der admitted as his claws stroked through two lovely heads of hair. “And, yes, it’s much better now. I just don’t know what happened.”
Vincent tipped his head to one side. “You truly don’t? Ah, Der…such a bundle of contradictions. You spend so much time and effort making certain you appear ferocious on the outside and then equal time denying the bit of ferocity within. We all know how gentle and kind you are but there is that bit of the wilds in you. Liam simply coaxed it out.”
“The Call of the Wild is not a difficult song…is that what you’re trying to say, handsome?” Der said on a little snort.
“Exactly so.” Vincent nodded. “Perhaps we need to coax it out more often.”
“Oh, man,” Jonathan moaned from Der’s lap. “Does that mean we have to stop off and get doggy treats on the way home?”
“Jonathan…” Drew scolded. “That’s not nice.”
“I was only teasing, sweetie.”
“Mmm, well, if Der’s a dog, what does that make you?”
Jonathan gave an offended sniff. “Like it’s some big secret that I’m a little bitch.”
“Aw, now don’t get bent outta shape. I wouldn’t have said that…” Jonathan looked up at him and Drew winked. “You’re not that little.”
Jonathan smiled and tapped his finger on the end of Drew’s nose. “Neither are you, sweetie. You’re just the right size.”
“Clean up, my loves.” Vincent rose with a little chuckle. “I’ll meet you upstairs.” One crutch at a time, one stair at a time, he made his laborious way back up, three sets of eyes carefully not watching in concern.
Katya sent Richard and Liam home with the car and said she would ride with Der. He opened the door for her and she paused to give him a light kiss before getting in. That he looked about as nervous as a teenager going to his first prom as he skipped around the front of the car to the driver’s side made Kat smile. He was such an endearing thing; she looked forward to getting to know him better.
They pulled away from the curb and Katya said, “Xavier was pea green tonight.” She chuckled softly. “He’s used to being the naked one in the crowd.”
“Ah, well,” Der said on a soft laugh. “It was nice of him to share the limelight with an amateur. I’ve caught his routines a number of times. A true artist. Just breathtaking.”
His claws tapped on the steering wheel in time to the song on the radio. “And somehow I’m sure he’ll be well soothed and comforted.” His smile softened. “I’ve known David so many years but it’s nice to see him more, ah, comfortable in his own skin.”
“Comfortable, yes. And completely besotted.” Kat smiled fondly. “I just hope Xavier doesn’t make him completely crazy, too.”
Derelict shot her a sharp-toothed grin. “I think he’s got plenty of help there at the house if he needs it tonight.”
She turned her head to look at him. “Was Drew upset?”
Well, now that was an abrupt change of subject, though he supposed it was simply part of who she was, knocking people constantly off-balance. He eased to a stop at the next light before turning in his seat to answer her. “No, not upset. I think he might have been wrestling confusion but not upset.”
He turned back as the light turned green, a smile still twitching at his lips. “I don’t think Drew’s ever gotten women quite sorted in his own mind. Though he did admit that you, ma’am, in his words, pardon me, are ‘freakin’ hot’.”
Katya laughed. Not an amused chuckle, but a bubbly sound full of surprised delight.
They pulled up into the driveway and Katya led the way up the walk and into the house. Kat suddenly stopped short in the hall, hands on her hips, almost causing Der to run into her, but he stopped in time. She turned around to look at him, “I’m deciding if I want to go upstairs or down. While I think about what I want to do with you.” She gave him a wink. “You may have a minute or two to do whatever you like.”
He shivered. Oh, the things he wanted to do. A minute wasn’t much time, though, so he didn’t waste a second. Careful not to muss her or hike up her skirt, he bent his knees and scooped her up. He blinked in surprise at the lack of weight in his arms. Small, yes, he knew she wasn’t a big woman, but somehow one had the impression her body would be more… substantial. No matter. He curled forward, his long hair brushing her arm, to place tender kisses up her jaw. Hints of jasmine and cinnamon, just a touch of clean linen, her scent enveloped him. She tasted heavenly.
His lips found hers for a soft, searching kiss, the warmth of it hinting at hunger and entreaty.
Katya returned the kiss with a slow smoldering heat. Her hand came up to cup the back of his neck, her fingers sliding into the cool silk of his hair. She tried not to direct, this was his couple of minutes, and he spent them thoroughly tasting her. When he lifted his lips from hers she said, “Downstairs, I think.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he murmured and since he hadn’t been given any direction to put her down, he carried her to the door she indicated and down the steps.
Once at the bottom Katya told him to put her down and then she opened the cabinet standing against one wall. She didn’t spend much time examining, she knew what she wanted, and selected a long coil of thin black silk rope. She turned toward him, but none of the expected questions came next. Instead she asked him, “What are you thinking about right now?”
He hesitated half a heartbeat. “About your lovely, delicate hands, so like songbirds’ wings…” He trailed off when he saw she wasn’t buying it. “Actually I was heaving a mental sigh of relief that the thing in your hand is rope and not the whip I first took it for.”
Katya chuckled softly. “I have enough whipping boys. No, I rather felt inspired tonight to make you into my own work of art, however temporarily.” She tilted her head a little and smiled. “Before we begin though, will you be ok with tight bondage?
“Hmm… Let me think…” Der tapped a claw against his teeth. “Chocolate…black clothes… Tight bondage…that just about covers the list of my favorite things. Oh, yes. I think I’ll live.”
“Strip for me,” Katya said.
“With the utmost pleasure, ma’am,” he said softly, eyes on her as he started on his shirt buttons for the third time that evening.
Katya watched him take his clothes off, drinking in every movement and every line of his body. When he finished she stepped forward, uncoiling the rope. For the next half hour she wound the rope around his body in intricate concentric patterns. His chest first in a harness that wrapped around his ribs and then formed a V down the front around his genitals. Arms were bound around the biceps, forearms and wrists. Legs at the thighs, knees, and shins. When she finished he was on his knees, arms bound behind his back and anchored to his ankles so he was well tied indeed. This was not a simple arrangement, and every movement of his body would shift the ropes in interesting and stimulating ways.
Der drew careful, slow breaths. He had watched her throughout, out of curiosity and because she offered such lovely watching. Now, as he pulled up on his arms experimentally, his eyes slid shut as his head dropped back on a soft moan. Held so tight, all over, he felt embraced, confined and helpless all at once. His cock jutted from him, the pearl drops at the tip a torment as they began to slide.
“Ms. Kat…oh…this is incredible…”
Katya bent to kiss and nibble along the top curve of his ear. “Mmm… you are so delicious. I think we need a few more adornments though.” She went back to the cabinet to retrieve a few items.
She knelt in front of him when she returned and fondled his pierced cock for a moment, stroking the soft skin over his engorged member, then she cradled his balls in one hand, rolling them gently before slipping the leather straps of the cock and ball harness around him and snapping it in place.
The other items waited by her knee. A fairly large plug, and a bottle of oil. She picked up the oil first, the scent of almonds and vanilla scenting the air in a mouth watering aroma. She poured a generous amount into her palm, warmed it in her hands and coated her fingers, letting him watch the whole process, before she reached between his legs and teased her fingers between his cheeks.
She nibbled along the side of his throat as the tip of one finger circled his ring
“Ooh…mmm.” Der purred and twitched and then gasped when the ropes pulled in all the right places, between his legs, his thighs, against his nipple and navel rings. The harness tightened around his genitals and he whimpered, that extra little confinement almost enough. If she said go, he could have gone over without a struggle.
He rolled his hips as much as he could, encouraging her teasing invasion. This kind of torture he reveled in, being brought to the edge and held there for as long as possible. And then a little longer.
Katya’s slender fingers entered his smooth channel, pressing inside and watching with heady delight as his face suffused with even more pleasure. She stroked in and out, coating him with oil and stretching him. Her wrist and arm brushed his balls and cock but she gave no other stimulation there. She wasn’t sure he would be able to hold out as it was.
When she had thoroughly explored him with her fingers she withdrew. “Open your eyes.” She told him, and watched him as he watched her slick oil over the plug. She maneuvered the tip at his opening. “Keep them open.” She instructed, a husky timbre entering her tone.
She kissed and nibbled at his lips as she slowly moved the end of the plug in and out, a little deeper each time, but mostly she kept her eyes on his, wanting to see into him as he was breached.
It was a struggle. The heaviness in his groin grew to an all-consuming ache as she pushed in further. His balls were going to pull him through the floor under their weight. His lids fluttered, his eyes rolled, but he kept them open, drowning in the fire in hers. Gods below, he was desperately in lust.
He nearly lost the battle when the largest part of the plug pushed past his tight ring. His head fell forward and back a bit as if on an elastic string and he let out a deep-chested moan but his eyes stayed open, dammit, and he still hung on.
“Such a good boy…” Katya purred, nuzzling the side of his throat as she eased the plug in place. “Such a good boy…” She kissed him softly. “You may close them, or keep them open as you wish now,” she said, kissing him again and wrapping her delicate fingers around his cock. She stroked him slowly, her thumb running up the underside and pressing into the most sensitive cluster of nerves.
He swallowed hard and let his eyes slide shut, his breath escaping in short pants as the pad of her thumb bumped over his ladder rungs to the spot just under the head. He clamped down harder on his groin muscles, every other visible muscle group standing out in hard relief.
“Oh, my poor heart,” he gasped out. “I think I might die of pleasure…”
“Just a little death.” Katya whispered along his ear. She quickened her strokes and a shiver of pleasure tickled down her spine as he moaned helplessly. “Come for me, my sweet boy.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he panted out and let his hips jerk back and forth in time to her strokes. The harness tightened further as his member swelled for release, the little bit of pain mingling deliciously with the mounting tidal wave of pleasure roaring towards him.
“Yes…oh, yes…oh, gods yes…” He heaved and let out a short, barking cry as his orgasm crashed over him, the heavy pulses pounding through him as he decorated the floor and her beautiful hand with fountains of white. His body fought the ropes and the ever-tightening constriction was heavenly. “Oh, sweet mother of…” Strange, her dungeon had seemed fairly well lit a moment before…
Katya released him as the last pulsing spurt drained from him, the creamy white falling onto the black of her skirt. He swayed and she slid her arms around to steady him. His head dropped forward, resting on her shoulder. He was heavier than she thought and she was a little off balance. She couldn’t stop him from keeling over but she controlled it enough so she ended up sitting back on her heels and he slumped against her.
He was panting hard but not laboring to breath or struggling so she simply held him like that, stroking along his back comfortingly until be came back down a bit. She kissed his forehead tenderly and then pulled free the knot in back that held his ankles to his wrists. As efficiently as she’d bound him, she gently loosened the ropes and untied him.
Der blinked a few times, disoriented by the view of Katya’s face above him. He realized he lay naked with his head in her lap and a warm aftershock rushed through him.
“Mmm…hi, there.” He grinned up at her. “Sorry about that. Don’t usually faint unless there’s blood drawn.”
Katya chuckled softly. “It’s always the big ones that are squeamish. Can you get up now?”
He got up slowly and Katya had him gather his clothes, but told him not to bother getting dressed. She led him upstairs, and surprised even herself a little by inviting him to sleep with her instead of offering David or Xavier’s room
A thousand questions occurred to him. The one that came out wasn’t one he’d intended. “Your gorgeous hunks won’t be upset? I mean, I’m not taking someone’s usual place, am I?”
“No, they won’t be upset. They’re both very good at sharing,” she said. “And they have their own rooms, for when I don’t feel like company.”
Katya’s bedroom was as beautifully appointed at the rest of the house. Done in shades of emerald and cream, with hints of gold, the overall feeling was one of peace and relaxation. It was rather neutral, not excessively feminine, not particularly masculine, the one giveaway the dressing table that held a glass tray with bottles of expensive perfume.
The top of the tall bureau held framed photographs. None were overtly sexual or posed, but they all held a certain something… There was one of Richard in yard, he was in jeans and a tee shirt that clung tightly to his body, one hand rested on the handle of a rake, his other arm lifted to wipe sweat from his brow. Sun lit the copper highlights in his dark brown hair. There was something very fertile, very virile about the picture.
Another showed Liam relaxed on the couch, arms tucked behind his head. He was fully dressed, a little smile on his lips. His eyes shone with warmth and tenderness. The next showed Dave and Xavier together, Xavier with his hand cupped to Dave’s ear, his eyes looking mischievous. Dave’s expression could have melted the room, and made the viewer wonder what that little minx was whispering to him. The one of Vic and Cody was taken out on the patio, Cody sitting in Vic’s lap. They were looking at each other with heartbreaking tenderness, one of those moments that you could just look and know they were totally in love.
The last was the only one that showed any skin. It was hard to tell if Xavier was naked because his lower half wasn‘t visible. He was coming up out of the pool, hands planted on the edge pushing him up.. He looked up into the camera above him with a huge puppy grin, even white teeth in a boyish face, dark blue eyes twinkling as the water sluiced off his lean body.
Movement caught Der’s attention. Katya slipping out of her skirt and blouse. Underneath she wore a lace bra that molded over her pert breasts, matching lace panties that barely managed to cover what they were supposed to, more framing her cheeks than covering them, and the garter that held the silk stockings. She would have fit perfectly in a Victoria’s Secret catalog.
He put his clothes down on the nearest chair, boots on the floor, all the pictures of gorgeous boys entirely supplanted by the lovely vision before him. Almost entirely, anyway. She had quite a selection, a striking alpha hunk, a sculpted, submissive Adonis, a drop-dead gorgeous boy-next-door, and a model-beautiful little bad boy. Not to mention the added attraction of Cody and Vic, which he did wonder about. But all were…normal in appearance. He had to wonder what the hell had possessed her to bring him home like some lost, ghoulish puppy.
He dropped to his knees and crawled towards her, then dropped flat and pulled himself the last few feet across the carpet on his belly. His fingers touched one stocking-clad foot, feather light and he gazed up at her in adoration.
“Glorious Artemis, please let me live,” he pleaded softly. “Though I have seen you in your bower. I am content to worship at your feet.”
Katya lifted one silk clad foot and placed it on his shoulder, letting her ankle caress along his cheek. She liked this beautiful and dramatic free spirit so much already. “You were admiring my handsome boys,” she said. “Which of them would you choose, if you were given the choice to pick one for an evening?” She wasn’t trying to trap him or bait him with the question, she was merely curious. As if she had asked which flavor ice cream he preferred.
He turned his head to kiss her instep with a little chuckle. “Well, now, that’s rather like offering a little boy a plate of beautiful sweets and telling him he has to pick just one though he doesn’t know what’s inside each.” He nuzzled at her ankle. “The most honest answer I can give you is it would depend what sort of mood I’m in.”
When he glanced up, he saw her arch a brow and knew he couldn’t leave it at that. “I do have a tendency towards smaller men, it’s true. If I were out at the clubs, it would be Xavier, hands down. My blood would be up, he’d be the one who’d dance with me and get me all hot and bothered, and I’d want to take him home and continue the vertical expression of desire in all sorts of horizontal ways. Of course, David would come and rip my lungs out. Though that might be an interesting scenario all on its own. The jealous boyfriend, me on my knees pleading my case…”
He kissed the fine bone of her ankle through the silk. “But, if it were a quiet evening out, I’d pick Liam. Someone to lay down and spoil with gentle torments. Still waters and all that. He is absolutely delicious and would look lovely tied to my bed.” Another glance up showed her still listening, so he went on. “But the way I feel right now? It would have to be Richard. Someone capable of tossing me around and holding me down. Someone to overpower me, and, oh, he’s so damned handsome. Makes your insides melt.”
He turned his head to kiss her toes. “Just let me know, please, if I’m talking too much. Bad habit.”
“If I hadn’t wanted to hear you I wouldn’t have asked, and you have made some very astute observations.” She rubbed the underside of her foot along his shoulder and curled her toes there. The gesture urged him to continue his upward trail of kisses along her calf. “You are quite correct that David would hurt you for touching Xavier, unless you asked him very nicely first. And even then the results would be uncertain. He has gotten rather possessive.”
“Liam looks lovely tied to any bed. Although the intensity levels he craves might be a little more than you like. Richard, however, would be the perfect choice if you preferred a more dominant streak.”
He had slowly kissed his way up the inside of her stocking clad leg and had reached just above her knee. She slid her calf down his naked back as he rose. Her fingers slid into the dark silk of his hair and tugged gently.
“Sometimes, yes.” he murmured against her firm thigh. “Not always, but sometimes I do prefer a dominant streak.” He kissed up her thigh, a shiver rushing over him as he caught the spice of her, the little cream triangle called to him. She would, he was quite certain, stop him if he overstepped.
Gently, he nudged his nose against the lace, then turned his face up to breath over the treasure so barely covered. “Might I be m’lady’s valet this evening?” he asked with a hand stealing to her garter.
“Mm, if you are very careful, you may,” she teased.
He looked down at his hands and heaved a dramatic sigh. “I would forget the claw sheaths when I need them most.” Fingers extended flat and curled slightly upwards, he tackled the first stocking. He unhooked the garters front and back and rolled the silk down slowly, careful not to snag it, trailing soft, sucking kisses along the slow reveal of skin.
Stocking removed, he took a moment to lavish kisses on her perfectly manicured, rose-painted toenails, then repeated the little ceremony with the other leg. With equal care, he undid the eye hooks at the back of her garter belt and set it aside as well. Now nothing stood between him and the siren song of those panties. Hands behind his back, he grabbed the top elastic between his lips and eased them down to her ankles.
She stepped out of them and he rose on his knees to where he looked straight at her sexy little triangle of honey-blonde curls. Hard to believe, since this would be his third time in a very few hours, but his cock came erect in a heady rush, ready to go again and telling him he was wasting time.
With a soft moan, he leaned forward to lick at the lovely curls.
Katya felt her muscles go watery as the tingle of sweet pleasure coursed through her. His hands slid up the back her thighs to just below the curve of her cheeks and she sighed softly in appreciation. His tongue delved deeper, the tip rolling firmly over the swell of the bud within and her sigh turned into a moan.
She pulled back gently on his hair, smiling at the whimper of protest even as he obeyed. A step and slight turn and she sat on the edge of the bed, pulling him back between her thighs as she lay back comfortably.
He slid his hands underneath her, long fingers cupping her perfect bottom, and returned to his delightful task. His tongue tapped and stroked at her nub until she granted him another little moan. Then he bent his neck further to catch the now-swollen rosebud between his lips, sucking gently while the tip of his tongue lashed back and forth.
Her hands tangled hard in his hair and he let out a moan of his own. Something about having his head held in place set fire to his nerves. He moved his mouth lower and licked at the nectar already spilling from her honey-cavern. “So sweet…gods…so wonderful,” he murmured.
Katya’s legs dropped over his shoulders and her heels pulled him in encouragingly. Her hips rolled with the pleasure Der’s clever tongue was building. Her fingers slid further into his hair, sliding around to the back of his head and pulling him up as her back arched. “Der… I want you inside me.”
“Oh, yes, ma’am,” he breathed against her curls. He pushed up on his arms and seal-walked up her body, curled so he could kiss his way there. The call of her flawless breasts was too much and he did have to make a short stop there. His lips suckled tenderly on one nipple and then the other, his pointed teeth grazing lightly over the smooth skin of one globe.
He watched her face carefully. Not everyone appreciated the extras bits, though he was fairly sure she would. He angled his hips to nestle his head against her entrance and his balls tightened at her silken heat. With a soft groan, he pushed in, just to the first ladder rung, teasing her with tiny thrusts to get her accustomed to the sensation, waiting for her to signal for more.
Katya’s fingers on the back of his neck stroked him gently. She brought his lips down to hers, teasing soft sensual kisses along his lips as she rocked gently with him. Her slender legs lifted to wrap around him and when she was ready she pulled him deeper. The sweetly caressing kisses deepening in passion even as he sank deeper within her. “Oh…” she breathed into his mouth. “So sweet…”
He tried to answer her and only managed a pleasure-soaked moan as his final rung slid inside her. His hips rolled gently, letting the silver balls caress inside her in interesting ways, the subtle tugs on his cock making him crazy.
His arms slid around her finally and the roll extended into a slow withdraw and thrust, out to the flange, in to the hilt. She tangled her fingers in his hair again and he took the hint, letting his weight down and seizing her lips in a breathtaking kiss.
Katya wrapped her legs around his hips and let him dictate the rhythm. The accessories were certainly interesting. The feel as he glided in and out of her in a slow sensual grind was amazing. Her lips moved from the searing kiss to his throat, pulling the tender skin into her mouth. Her hands slid over his shoulders. Such fantastic shoulders, broad and well muscled yet still not bulky. His arms were beautiful too, and not just because of the artwork there.
Her hands moved inward to his chest and she ran her fingers over his nipple rings, tugging and playing gently. His pace increased and he moaned deliciously for her. He changed the angle and Katya’s head tipped back, her neck and back arching on the mattress.
Everything about her was usually so reserved and controlled, except in those moments when she let the deep wells of passion within take over, rising up in a swift climb in the arms of a skilled lover.
Her fingers clung to his beautifully muscled arms as a soft cry reached her lips and her body tightened in blissful release.
Der thanked the gods he’d been well taken care of twice before that evening, Otherwise he might well have embarrassed the hell out of himself with this glorious, scrumptious woman. As it was, he still gritted his teeth as her walls clamped tight around him. So strong for such a petite thing, the hands gripping his biceps held him still, the velvet sleeve gripping his cock stole his breath.
“Oh…” he moaned. “Oh, Ms Kat…may I? Please…please…I’m so close…please tell me I can…”
Katya slid her hand up to his shoulders again and held to him tightly. “Yes, my sweet…” She whispered across his ear. “Yes…”
The simple word sent a molten spike of pleasure through him. The pressure rose to painful and he whimpered as everything tightened in a heady rush. He wrapped his arms as far around her as he could and drove in deep, his chest heaving in shorter and shorter pants as he climbed to the peak.
“Ohgodsohgodsoh…” he whispered against her hair. It hit him so hard his cry of pleasure was a strangled bark, his hips rolling in short jerks as the spasms dragged him under.
Katya held him tight as they both began to drift down from the heights. She loved the feel of a warm, heavy, well-sated body. Her hand smoothed over the dark silk of his hair and caressed his back tenderly. “That was so wonderful, Der,” she said softly by his ear.
“Thank you, Ms. Kat,” he murmured, content to hold her while his head spun. Three times in as many hours. Gods below. His body would probably tell him just what it thought of such things in the morning. He didn’t care. “That would have been well worth the whipping I thought I was getting earlier.”
They stayed like that for a while longer, until their heart rates slowed enough for their bodies to cool and want to crawl under the blankets. Katya curled on her side and made no protest when Der curled his long body behind her. She sighed contentedly and fell asleep with him cuddled to her back, a large, dark, sharp-toothed teddy bear to be sure.