The softness under Kael’s cheek was at odds with the hardness of the surface underneath the rest of his body. Groaning, he rubbed his aching head. Something wasn’t right. He sat up, staring around in disbelief. This isn’t Korai.
He sat on the hard stone floor of a large bathing room. Rather than an iron tub, there was a pool large enough for several people to sit in comfortably carved into the floor of the room. Kael knew the castle where he’d grown up had nothing this luxurious.
Where am I, and how did I get here?
Memory niggled at the back of his mind, but he couldn’t quite grasp it.
His fingers brushed against something soft, and he looked down. A silky light blue pillow lay on the floor beside him. And such a floor it was. It was made entirely of dove gray stone polished to mirror smoothness. In fact, the whole room seemed carved from the same warm gray stone. What is this place?
Questions. Always questions. According to his mother, his first word was “why.” His endless quest for information, for the answer to “why,” had been both his greatest strength and his most dangerous weakness. The curiosity that had plagued him for most of his life once again burned for answers.
Candles filled the many small niches carved into the stone, but none of them had been lit. Kael looked around, searching for the source of the bright light filling the room. He didn’t have to look far. The ceiling was made from some sort of translucent material that let in the sunlight. It was beautiful, like being inside a diamond.
“Awake, princeling?” The husky voice brought Kael’s memories back to him. With a low growl, Kael sprang to his feet, hands held defensively in front of him. Glaring at the warlord, he backed away until his shoulders touched the wall, eyes never leaving the other man.
“Awake and angry, I see.”
Kael stared at the man before him, looking for any sign of weakness. The half demon wore short dark blue leggings and nothing else. Strange tattoos swirled across his body in graceful purple arcs, dark against that pale, pale skin. The markings glittered in the bright light, and Kael realized they weren’t tattoos but scales. It was strangely beautiful and utterly alien. Demon, Kael’s mind whispered.
Fear skittered on icy feet down his spine. He’d read of demon attacks, knew quite well what horrors the warlord was capable of. He realized he was shivering like a maiden terrified of a spider and straightened his back. He wasn’t a coward or a slave, damn it; he was a royal prince of Korai, and he would show this monster no fear. I will endure, no matter what he does to me.
His imagination obliged by sending vivid, ugly pictures into his mind. Kael had always been taught that such things were unnatural as well as illegal, although his insatiable curiosity had led him to read several banned manuscripts in an attempt to learn what two men might do together. What he’d discovered was surprising, but he wasn’t clear on why such couplings were viewed as anathema.
“Stand at attention, princeling.”
Kael did as he was told but kept his back pressed against the wall, the cool stone chilling him through his clothes.
The half demon stepped forward, studying Kael’s face. “This isn’t going to be easy for you, sweet.”
Kael swallowed hard and tried not to flinch when the other man stroked his cheek. The men in his company joked about it and teased the sword-bound couples occasionally, but even underneath their tacit acceptance, the sense that such things were wrong was never far away. And now those things were going to become his reality. Damning his inquisitive nature, he resolved to be strong. I will not beg. I will obey his commands but not give him the satisfaction of knowing how much it costs me to do so.
The half demon took Kael’s hand and drew the younger man forward. “Remove your clothes.”
Kael shook his head, fighting the urge to cross his arms over his chest to protect himself from the other man’s hands. He resisted the urge to strike out at the warlord but couldn’t quite bring himself to submit.
Violet eyes narrowed, and the warlord’s full lips twisted into a sneer. “Is this Korai’s honor? You belong to me -- a gift from your country to mine. Will you shame your people?”
The half demon’s words cut Kael to the quick. His body was a small price to pay for the lives which would surely be lost if Korai and Zandria went back to war. He rubbed his fingertips against the scar on his left hand. My rank brought me privileges I never asked for. That it now brings punishment is only fair.
He took a deep breath. I can do this.
His hands went to the carved gold buttons holding his robe closed. For once, he was grateful for the difficulty in pushing the heavy buttons through the stiff cloth. He kept his movements minimal, not wanting to give the half demon any enticement. I’ll be obedient. I’ll do what he tells me and no more. He doesn’t seem the type to enjoy playing with a subservient little puppet. He’ll soon tire of me.
When the last of the buttons was free, he pushed the cloth from his shoulders and let it pool around his ankles. The robes were a thing of beauty and deserved better treatment, but Kael couldn’t make himself care. The robes belonged to his old life, and that was lost forever.
He realized the silver leash was gone but that the collar was still in place around his neck. He wanted to remove the hated circlet as well but had no illusions that he would be allowed to do so. The silk undershirt went next, leaving only his loose linen trousers. Kael closed his eyes and untied the drawstring holding them in place. He loosed the fastening and pushed the trousers over his hips, letting them puddle at his feet. As the final trapping of his former life slipped away, so did the last remnant of hope that this was all a terrible mistake.
“Lovely,” the half demon murmured, his voice husky.
Kael forced himself to open his eyes and look at his owner. The smaller man was smiling slightly, his gaze on Kael’s face. The half demon held out his hand, palm up. Wishing he could pretend he didn’t understand the gesture, Kael placed his hand in the half demon’s. He allowed himself to be pulled forward, stepping carefully from the mass of cloth around his feet. Leaving the prince behind, the concubine followed his owner to the edge of the bathing pool. It felt strangely appropriate that the only thing he now wore was the leather collar proclaiming his servitude.
The water was pleasantly hot -- enough to relax sore, tense muscles, but not enough to scald. A smooth bench ran along the shallow end of the pool. Kael sat down, which put the water just above his nipples. He slumped downward until the water lapped at his chin. He jumped at a soft thud, opening his eyes just in time to see the half demon toss his clothing to the floor and then settle into the water across from him. The other man leaned his head back against the edge of the pool, closing his eyes and relaxing in the warm water. Naked. He’s naked, and so am I. I will not panic.
Kael forced his own eyes closed, calling on the meditation exercises his sword instructor had taught him in a desperate effort to bully his muscles into relaxation. I can do this.
The same skills he used in evaluating battle strategies would be useful here. So. Obey him. Show no emotion, no fear, no pain. He’ll get bored.
Kael refused to speculate on his fate if the half demon got bored and sent him away. Shortsighted, he knew, but something he would face later. No, right now he had to focus on surviving this night.
There was little doubt in his mind that the half demon would take him soon. He knew it would hurt. The thought of having his body invaded was terrifying. Still, his traitorous intellect said, there are men who claim to enjoy it. Perhaps it won’t be so bad. Blakely and Northson had seemed happy enough together, and he’d seen them exchange heated looks when they thought no one was watching.
Kael tensed at the word, his hard-won relaxation abandoning him in an instant. “Sir?”
Kael did as he was told, flushing as the other man studied his body. The water only came up to his midthighs when he stood, leaving him exposed to the half demon’s gaze. He supposed he was handsome enough and physically fit from the demands placed on him as captain of Gold Company, but there were many men far better looking than he was. Perhaps he won’t like what he sees.
That hope was dashed when Kael saw desire flare in those alien eyes as they stared at him.
“Come here.” As he spoke, the warlord levered himself up out of the water until he sat on the edge of the bathing pool, his legs open, erect cock on display in its nest of dark pubic hair. The half demon’s genitals were impressive -- pale skin marked with a single line of purple scales that traced the vein on the underside of his large penis. Below, the man’s heavy balls were dusted with fine, dark hair. Kael walked slowly forward, staring at Taren’s cock, mesmerized, like a rabbit staring at a snake. He’s going to put that inside me. It’s longer than my dagger and as big around as my wrist. It won’t fit. It
can’t fit. Goddess, keep me from disgracing myself by refusing him.
“Hold out your hand.”
Wordlessly Kael did as he was commanded.
A sly smile curving his lips, the half demon grasped Kael’s hand and guided it to his cock.
Kael gasped as his palm came into contact with the other man’s rigid shaft. He tried to pull away, but the smaller man easily held him in place. How strong is he? Even if I wished to refuse him, I don’t think it would do any good.
Blood roared in his ears as he realized how vulnerable he was.
Kael stared at the warlord in disbelief. He was touching another man’s cock, and his brain simply couldn’t process that information.
The half demon chuckled, the sound surprisingly warm and devoid of cruelty. “I presume you are
familiar with the concept?” The demon placed his own hand over Kael’s, closing Kael’s fingers around his penis and stroking down his engorged shaft.
Nodding jerkily, Kael closed his eyes and mechanically moved his hand in the customary motion, up and down the other man’s cock. He could get through this as long as he didn’t think about what he was doing.
“Look at me, princeling,” the half demon said. After Kael opened his eyes, the warlord continued. “You’re not milking a cow. I want you to give me pleasure. Touch me as you would yourself. Explore. After all, you are going to become very familiar with my cock.”