Frowning, Uly strained to look upward. It did no good. What little he could see of the fastenings about his wrists in no way helped his situation. Expertly tied, the fine leather strips only tightened the more he pulled on them, though somehow, they appeared to have a limit. When he first felt them constrict, the breath had caught in his throat, and he almost panicked. He had no wish to cut off his circulation. As tugging on them alone or twisting his wrists did no good, he had studied them to see if he could figure out the fastenings. No luck there. Unfortunately, the movement exposed his throat.
He swallowed, aware of the radiant glint teasing the corner of his left eye. A stray beam of light struck the blade and sent dancing illumination about the room. He watched one bright spot on the ceiling before he closed his eyes and gave himself over to the darkness.
The blade didn’t touch his throat, but something else did. It took him a moment to realise he felt the soft lick of a tongue as a backdrop against the sharpness of teeth. He swallowed and felt the movement of his throat against another’s mouth. The teeth snagged his flesh, hurting, while the blade cut through the last garment. The sense of vulnerability won out over embarrassment. The clothes, thin and fragile, offered no real barrier, but strange how one thought of them as so important. When faced with an intruder, the first reaction was to grab for one’s clothing.
Something sharp scratched along the line of his jaw. It took him a moment to recognise it as merely a fingernail. He opened his eyes and turned his head to the side. The knife was gone, along with his clothes, the blade’s only purpose to divest him of his garments. Perhaps if he hadn’t been on his back on the bed, the man above him would have removed his clothes some other way.
Of course, in any case, he now lay naked.
“Lie still, or I’ll tie your feet as well.” The voice emerged soft, but retained an edge to it. Somehow, the instruction made Uly’s flesh jump and twitch more freely. Fingers stroked his skin, lazy, examining. Strangely, the touch contained nothing sexual. It was as though the man merely inspected what he held captive, perhaps judged the quality. The examination made Uly shiver in equally strange combinations. The touch moved to places that were more intimate and he twisted, trying to ease away from those questing fingers.
“Right now you’re only hurting yourself. You don’t want me to hurt you.” The words sounded just as calm and quiet, but they made Uly grow still for all that. Something existed in that voice; not a boast, but a certainty. This man knew how to hurt him in numerous and varied ways. The other man in the room just sat, quietly watching.
One bright thought burned in his mind: Markis
. Markis would save him.
The hands traced over his flesh. “You have soft skin.”
The idea flashed in his mind of how much had changed. Once, he’d suffered from calluses and tough, thick skin on his hands and feet. Other people had taken him in, accepted a street thief into a palace, cleaned him up and fed him. He looked so different now that sometimes, when he caught sight of his image, he would stop, startled and shocked, to see his reflection.
Once more, a fingernail raked down over his skin, this time down the left side of his chest in a direct line to his nipple. He expected it to divert, to go around that small nub, but it went straight over it, sharply. He arched, hissed out his breath. Finally, he fell back, gasping. The nipple grew rigid in shock and, to his dismay, so did other things. Sweat broke out on his skin; the man laughed, before leaning forward to lick.
“Salty,” the voice whispered.
Uly turned his head away, trying to hide his face against his arm. A hand gripped his chin between finger and thumb, and jerked his head back again.
“Don’t look away from me. Open your eyes.”
He shook his head. He kept the back of his head pressed into the bed, but he wouldn’t open his eyes. The hot pad of a thumb stroked over one eyelid, then pressed just enough for him to be aware of it.
“Eyes are for seeing,” the voice said, threat making it husky. Uly didn’t believe the threat, but just the thought made his blood run cold. His erection subsided.
“Take it easy on him.” Finally, the second man broke his silence.
“He has to learn the hard way.” The man said hard
with some amusement as his weight came down. Though he kept his eyes closed, Uly was aware they were almost face-to-face and definitely cock-to-cock. The weight grew uncomfortable until his ribs ached, and he struggled to breathe, three of his senses engulfed with the man’s heat and solidity, his smell, the sound of his breathing. Uly let out a small moan and, somehow, even received a taste of him on the heated air emanating from their conjoined flesh. Finally, the man eased his weight back enough so that Uly could breathe again, but that only made him realise the man had leaned on him on purpose. He lay trapped, no way out. He panicked.
Writhing, twisting, a lonely wail sounded from deep in his throat. His breathing grew ragged no matter how much he tried to keep his breath even.
He heard, but didn’t care. He thrashed, wriggled, and twisted, aware of how much this made his skin encounter his assailant. A hand tightened to hold him still.
“Open your eyes. Open your eyes! Look at me!”
The voice had grown callous, unyielding. Uly’s eyes snapped open. Seeing the room somehow helped him win out over his panic. He didn’t look at the man, though, only saw him as a blurred, dark image as his gaze slid away. He couldn’t get free by struggling; he found it to be merely exhausting. He glanced over to the other man who had paused in what he was doing. The man held a quill dipped in ink over a parchment. The scratchy sounds it made as he wrote had fallen silent. A look of doubt drifted into that second pair of dark eyes, and a flash of hope engulfed Uly.
A hot, wet mouth covering his sore nipple drove the hope back. Uly whimpered. The sensation moved from hot to cool as the man pulled back. Uly heard a sigh.
“Uly.” The voice called to him, softer now. The man’s weight settled at his side. A finger trailed down the side of his face to his chin. “If you want out of this, you know what you have to do.”
He did, but he couldn’t. He opened his mouth, and no word emerged, even though it lay on his tongue as though it held weight. All he needed to do was say one word: shere. It meant dearest, beloved, but in the context of a plea. One said it when wanting to end an argument, for example.
“Uly.” The voice became half-whisper, half-seduction. His gaze slid towards the man’s dark eyes. They stared at him intently. “You know this is just a game, right? You know we’re not going to hurt you?”
He did, and yet he didn’t. It wasn’t so much that he feared physical harm, but there seemed to be another kind of pain underlying all this. They had taught him another ancient word. Sema
, which meant tame. They called this game semaris
, which meant taming; but, as he was discovering, the meaning went far deeper. He didn’t have a good enough reason to say sema yet. That came later, apparently, though he only vaguely understood the concept. Shere was for safety, sema for acceptance. He wasn’t sure he accepted anything, but he had no idea if he could have said shere right now if his life depended on it, and he didn’t understand why. One little word would put a stop to this. Could it be part of him didn’t want it to end?
Ryanac’s dark eyes regarded him, flicking back and forth, searching his gaze. “I’ll never hurt you,” Ryanac reiterated. “This is about taking you further than you may want to go, but not more than you’re ready for or can stand.”
He had gone far enough for today, apparently, and without his having to say so, Ryanac looked as if he knew it.
“You’re not ready for this,” he said. Leaning down for the knife, he brought the blade up to cut the straps. Uly felt a strange combination of relief and disappointment. A cry left his lips before he could prevent it. Ryanac looked at him with a look of surprise, and then grinned. One of those large hands stroked his hair, his face. “It’s not over, just postponed,” he said. “We can do other things.” The man was a strange combination of brutality and gentleness, as well as many other things. He was Markis’s personal guard, best friend, and lover. Just as Uly was Markis’s lover. The situation made for a peculiar, yet dynamic, relationship. Even Uly accepted something vibrant existed between the three of them.
Turning his gaze to the other side of the room, Uly stared at the second man. Markis sat looking through official documents, signing them, or making amendments. He wore a bright blue robe shot through with silver. He had watched the whole thing.
“I tried,” Uly murmured by way of apology. The Swithin way allowed for pairings of more than two people, and Uly was very aware that Markis wanted him to feel comfortable around Ryanac. They weren’t lovers yet, not truly, and Uly wanted to share affection with Ryanac for his own reasons as well as to please Markis, the man who was the Swithin king as well as the man he loved. Markis shook his head, set down the quill, and rose from the chair. Slowly, he approached the bed, and then climbed up onto it, finally lying down on Uly’s left side. The two men effectively sandwiched him, one clothed, the other naked.
Markis brought his face close and stroked Uly’s brow with his fingers. “You didn’t have to play Ryanac’s game.”
The big man shot him a look as though to say it wasn’t entirely his fault. Then he let it go and turned his attention to Uly, who squirmed a little under the gaze of both men.
“I thought you might enjoy it.”
“I…did.” He wasn’t sure he should admit to that.
Markis smiled. “Do you know how long you’ve been at this?”
Uly shook his head. It felt as if hours could have passed, but he believed it could only be a few minutes since Ryanac had tied him down.
“Almost an hour. As long in your bonds as out of them.”
Uly blinked. He could accept that Ryanac had taken a great deal of time tying him and removing their clothes, but according to Markis, almost the same amount of time had passed since then. He tugged at his lower lip with his teeth, in thought.
Markis let out a groan. “I do wish you wouldn’t do that,” he said.
Uly blinked again, surprised by Markis’s complaint. Ryanac chuckled.
“No, he doesn’t,” the guard said. “He’s just moaning because it makes him want to do this.”
A hand turned his head. The man’s mouth joined to his, the tongue parting his lips. Their mouths fed. As one kiss ended, another began; clearly, the sight had proved too much for Markis to resist. By the time Uly opened his eyes, he had been thoroughly kissed by both men. His heart and other things pounded. They weren’t through talking about what had happened, though.
“You managed to trust me for quite awhile there,” Ryanac said into his ear.
Uly turned his head, voluntarily this time. “I do trust you.”
Sharon Maria Bidwell