Derek watched him closely. His expression remained honest and earnest. “Why wouldn’t you do as she wants?” he said softly, refusing to concede the point. “You serve the Society. You’ve risked your life in that service many times. Your sight is true, but if you stay out here it will not be focused, trained upon the perils we face. She doesn’t know why you flaunt your disobedience by remaining here ‑‑ just when the society is at its weakest, torn by schisms and threatened on all sides. She cannot afford the time or the ignominy of coming here to plead for your co-operation.”
“So she sent you.”
In reply Derek closed the distance between them. His hand settled lightly on Giffen’s waist as he leaned up and kissed Giffen gently on the lips, pressing into him along the whole length of their bodies. It was a sudden, unpredictable, ridiculous, and probably entirely calculated gesture, and in his mind Giffen pushed the young man away in disgust. In his mind, he did.
But his body did not seem to be listening. Giffen stood, his hands held out to his side in a vague, helpless gesture as he felt the heat building between them. The lips, soft as he had foreseen, parted obliquely over his own, teasing with a flick of tongue. Derek pressed in close, and Giffen was acutely aware of his own cock pressing impatiently against his jeans, feeling a body pressed against him, sliding and easing against him. And this was no usual thing for him; in his whole life he had rarely been so aroused and never with such alacrity.
A little spark of awareness at the back of his head cried out that there was magic afoot, but he could barely hear it over the sound of some distant illusory sea, no doubt his own heated blood in his ears.
For a long, long time Giffen had simply thought himself immune, even to lust, certainly to love. Peter had cracked open the door on that denial and half-realized visions blurred with reality in his mind. His fate could still be changed; he could still pull back now and save himself. There was no clear or safe path ahead, no matter how he chose, so why deny himself this comfort? Save himself from what? From sex, from love?
From love planned by a conniving queen that ended with heartbreak and wound round a destiny of murder and despair like a vine crushing the life out of an aging oak. He could pull back, and it was in his mind to do it. In his mind and floating to the surface of his volition ... when Derek stepped away from him.
The young man’s breathing was harsh; whatever else he might be feigning, the lust in him was real, from his tussled hair and dilated pupils to the altogether obvious erection straining his slacks.
“Do you think she told me to do that, too?” Derek said hoarsely.
He sounded defensive. And perhaps she hadn’t. She’d just done some very careful magic and discovered, probably with Bear’s collusion, exactly who to put in Giffen’s path. Bear would want Giffen to be happy, to have the love in his life he had always yearned for. The queen wanted a lure to get him, a handle to manipulate him with, but even she was motivated by a desire to serve ‑‑ to save ‑‑ her people. And Derek? Derek was probably exactly what he seemed to be, a bit timid but not without his own passions, honest and utterly available. So it was altogether likely that she hadn’t told him to do that ‑‑ she just knew that he would.
And how had she known that it would work? In his whole long and intermittently eventful life, Giffen had had sex a few times. Frankly, he’d never seen the appeal, but the occasion sometimes called for it. He’d been in love once, and to some extent still was with virtuous Peter, who would never reciprocate that stifled impulse anyway. But right now his heart was racing, his cock hard, and his mind spinning like a flywheel.
And then again, this could be it. Bloody hell, no elf, no great spell, but the real thing with all the ‘first sight’ clichés laid on thick. Love. And if the goddamned poncy queen was behind it, he really couldn’t give a flying fuck.
He was going to have it.
“I thought you wanted some furniture moved?” Giffen said.
Derek’s face twitched with a tremulous smile. “It can wait a while. Perhaps you could show me my room first.”