Release Date: August 28, 2009
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher Link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/newreleases.htm
Blurb: After almost a generation of war, peace has come at last through the political marriage of a Mordyn princess to the prince of Ageselm. While escorting the bride, comrades-in-arms Rhicer and Kanath inadvertently drink a love potion intended for the newlyweds—and find themselves dealing with newfound desire for one another. As they struggle with their growing connection in a culture that despises same-sex love, Rhicer and Kanath face a terrible decision: give in to the social mores of their time and abandon love or answer the call of their hearts and leave Ageselm forever.
Rhicer stirred in his sleep, those sensations mingling with his dreams. He could not see his lover's face, but he could smell the sweet scent of arousal, feel the heavy warmth of entwining limbs. He turned his head, nuzzling the curls that brushed his lips. His arms tightened, pulling the pliant body closer, desire growing as he felt the way his lover's frame pressed willingly against his. He wanted to roll the warm form beneath him and bury himself in the welcoming depths.
His lover pulled him closer, wrapping him in a heated embrace. Kanath sighed in his sleep, welcoming the feel of loving arms after being alone so long. He went eagerly, wanting more contact. His hand shifted, moving over cloth-covered flesh, stroking gently, enticing his lover closer.
Fingers moved over his chest, finding sensitive spots, teasing and arousing. Rhicer arched into the touch, angling his body so the urgent caress teased his aching nipple. He bent his head, tipping his lover's head back, seeking skin rather than silky hair. He wanted to smell, to taste, to learn every inch of his lover's visage.
Kanath's head fell back, exposing his features to his lover's mouth. Warm lips passed over his forehead and cheekbones, the bridge of his nose and his closed eyelids, down to his jaw. His lips parted in invitation, but his lover did not see or did not care, choosing instead to tease the skin of his neck, behind his ear, nipping gently at his earlobe. He moaned softly at the alternately soothing and arousing sensation. Wanting to encourage his lover, he slid his hand up, seeking the neckline of his lover's blouse, determined to return pleasure for pleasure. His fingers slid beneath the loose cloth, immediately finding warm skin. He caressed it gently, seeking the swell of a sweet breast. The feeling of rough hair beneath his palm instead shattered the illusion. Kanath's eyes flew open, finding himself entwined exactly as in his dream, hand against skin, lips against his neck, arms holding him close, but 'twas was no tender miss whose arms embraced him. Horrified, he pushed hard, scrambling backward away from Rhicer.
His lover's sudden, violent withdrawal started Rhicer awake. “What the fuck?” he muttered, seeing Kanath staring at him with an unreadable look on his face.
“You... I... we...,” Kanath stuttered, unable even to put into words what he feared had just passed between them.
“What is it, Kanath?” Rhicer asked pointedly, his annoyance at having been forced out of such a heated dream coming through clearly in his voice.
Kanath struggled with what to say. Rhicer obviously did not realize what had happened. He was annoyed but not mortified like Kanath himself was. He debated not saying anything, but to his dismay, warring with his embarrassment was a strong desire to snuggle back into the other warrior's embrace and pick back up where they left off. “Were you dreaming?” he inquired finally.
Rhicer had no idea what that had to do with anything, but he nodded anyway.
“So was I,” Kanath said slowly, “except that I wasn't just dreaming.”
Uncomfortable now as he remembered how vivid the sensations were in his dream, Rhicer looked at his young friend sharply. “What do you mean?”
Kanath flushed and looked away. “I woke up with my hand inside your shirt, your arms tight around me, your lips on my neck.”
Revulsion contorted Rhicer's face, long ingrained prejudice surging to the fore. He kept himself from scrambling away by force of will alone, embarrassed to realize that one part of him wanted to scramble in the other direction. “'Twas the wine,” he rationalized immediately, determined to explain away the impulse. “We drank too much and lost track of where we were, of who we were with.”
“We had three mugs apiece,” Kanath retorted. “We have drunk twice that before, fallen asleep side by side, and never woken up... like that.” His lips curled into an expression of disgust as he thought about it, deliberately ignoring the part of his libido that screamed for more, screamed for Rhicer's touch. Any touch would do, he reassured himself firmly. He simply needed to find a camp follower and sate his lust with her, the way he was supposed to. He was not attracted to his long-time friend. He was not. 'Twas the circumstances.
“You said yourself it was an unusually potent brew,” Rhicer reminded him, mentally scrambling for purchase in this newly changed landscape. “It went to your head far more quickly than I have ever seen wine do before. It has to be the wine, Kanath. It could be nothing else.” He pushed aside the welling panic at realizing that the desire he had felt in his sleep had not faded.
That gave Kanath pause. Why was he arguing against it being the wine? He most certainly did not want it to be anything else, anything... real. That would be unthinkable. Men did not engage in such activities together. No one at court would tolerate it. He nodded slowly. “You're right, of course. It was the wine.” He sat back down, keeping a respectable distance but trying not to make it any greater than he usually would. He did not want Rhicer probing his unease, asking why he was still so on edge. His only answer, if he told the truth, was the inexplicable desire to sit closer, to snuggle up to the other man's warmth, an impulse he dared not indulge. At the very least, such desires would see him cast out from the court, bereft of the Prince's protection as well as of the only home he had ever known. At the worst... he pushed away images of men tortured, maimed to stop their unnatural desires. He had never heard of such atrocities in Prince Emyl's realm, though he knew some of the other tribes were not so civilized. He knew better, if Rhicer asked, than to lie. He had never been able to keep a secret from the blond warrior once his friend made up his mind to learn it. Rhicer could read him as easily as he read tracks on the forest floor. No, the only solution was to keep Rhicer from asking in the first place, and that meant acting like nothing had changed. He shook his head slightly. Nothing had changed. He wanted no more from Rhicer than he had yesterday morning, or the morning before that, or the morning before that.
Rhicer breathed a sigh of relief. He did not want to discuss what had happened between them, however inadvertently, did not want to examine the emotions chasing themselves around his head like crazed rabbits. He wanted to fall back into the world of dreams where a gentle, female lover welcomed him with open arms. He wanted to close his eyes and see Eldvese's beautiful face, smiling at him as she had once done, before Donnchadh's soldiers changed her. He wanted to pull Kanath back into his arms and finish what they had started.
His eyes did close at that thought, shock running through him as he tried unsuccessfully to dismiss the emotion. The first two, he could indulge, but not the last. Never the last. He had worked too hard for his position at court, his military command, to sacrifice it now for such perverted pleasures. He had never found his soldiers attractive, even one as handsome, objectively, as Kanath. Could he list the lads who were likely to be popular with the ladies because of their looks? Of course, but he had never had any interest in them himself. He had always looked toward the women, appreciating their softness and sweet, gentle curves.
Kanath's hair had been soft, the skin of his neck as sweet as any he had ever tasted...