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Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Romance
Description: Time and circumstances may force true lovers apart but the tie that binds them can never be fully severed. When Dylen Teris and Riodan Leyhar meet one harsh winter in the dual-gendered realm of Ylandre, neither expects the encounter to lead to a fast friendship and abiding love. For a chasm of vastly dissimilar social stations lies between them, and not all Deira could imagine, let alone accept, such a relationship. Circumstances eventually separate them for what seems forever only to conspire to bring them together once more in the most unlikely of places--at the court of Rohyr Essendri, Ylandre's powerful monarch. Complicating their situation is the attraction that still lingers between them, waiting to flare once more into love. But when one is unwilling to venture his heart again or wholly forgive its breaker, it may take a king's interference to reunite these star-crossed lovers for good.
eBook Publisher: Atlantic Bridge/Liquid Silver Books, 2010
eBookwise Release Date: December 2010
16 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [399 KB]
Reading time: 240-336 min.
Ylandre, in the 2953rd year of the Common Age
"Sweet Veres, what a beauty!"
"Who sired him? Do tell us!"
"Yes, tell us! How did so gorgeous a Deir manage to elude our notice?"
Hirlen Teris grinned in amusement as his friends oohed and aahed over his infant son. With his thick raven locks and limpid earth green eyes, their irises delicately rimmed with dark grey, three-month-old Dylen was indeed a beauteous child.
"Thank you. He is lovely, isn't he?" Hirlen said. "But as to his sire, that's for me alone to know."
Eldran looked at him in surprise. "Why the secrecy? It's not as if we blackmail folk for a living!"
Hirlen laughed. "Nay, I am not suggesting that. But the Deir in question is, shall we say, in a sensitive position. It wouldn't do if his indiscretion were to become public knowledge."
"Ah, is it someone high in government?" Liave guessed.
"You might say that."
"Then we shall badger you no more," Miqar decided. "Though if you ever choose to share your secret with us, you know our lips will be forever sealed."
Again Hirlen laughed. Miqar spoke the truth. The hethare would not have lasted for as long as they had if any of their number were known to tell tales. After all, one of the reasons well-born Deira patronized the famous fraternity of companions--whose services, convivial or carnal, could be had for the highest of prices--was that they could count on the hethare's utmost discretion.
After his friends left, Hirlen settled himself comfortably by the window with his child, leaving his faithful attendant Tarqin to unpack his belongings. He observed the activity on the street below--the comings and goings of the city folk as they went about their business. How he had missed the hustle and bustle of the capital of Ylandre.
He had retired to a remote village in the fief of Ilmaren to birth his son. That in itself was not unusual. Hethare routinely had their children away from wherever their sires resided. Dissimulation was an effective way of ensuring that the products of their liaisons were never traced back to the Deira who had begotten them. It was the best protection for patrons whose reputations, for whatever reasons, would suffer severely were it known they had sired children on partners other than their mates or concubines.
What was uncommon was the timing and length of Hirlen's seclusion. Two months before birthing was exceptionally early and three months after was a long time for a hethar not to practice his profession. But if the object was to cover every track that might connect a prominent Deir to his by-blow's birth, some might even deem Hirlen's departure too late and his sojourn overly short.
Hirlen looked at his son with pride. Liave was right. Dylen's sire was a gorgeous creature indeed and had passed his beauty to his child in full. Not that Hirlen was plain of face--one who depended as much on his physical attractions as on his social skills and sexual talents had to be much more than pleasant-featured. But he could not compare with the Deir who had acquired his exclusive services for several months despite the exorbitant amount that exclusivity cost him. Not in handsomeness or stature or brawn.
He hoped all was well with his erstwhile patron. They had ended their affair right after the Deir's last visit. The night Dylen was conceived.
Hirlen sighed. The circumstances had been less than ideal. It was not the way he had envisioned the conception of his first and likely only son. Verily, he should have put up more of a struggle when he realized what his patron wanted of him. But he'd never imagined the latter would proceed even when told his desire was not permissible. By the time Hirlen resisted in earnest, his lover's alcohol-driven lust had overcome all prudence and principle. Coupled with his greater strength, he had subdued Hirlen and taken what he wanted.
Hirlen firmly set the sordid memory aside. No matter, it was in the past. And Dylen more than made up for that one unfortunate episode in what had been a pleasant and mutually beneficial liaison.
The bells of Rikara begin to toll. The two Deira glanced at each other wonderingly. That indicated something of great import had occurred.
"Tarqin, find out what has happened," Hirlen said.
The servant hurried out. Several minutes passed before he came back, his face flushed with excitement.
"The Ardis has conceived!" he exclaimed. "We shall finally have a crown prince!"
Hirlen shook his head. "So soon. Poor Dyrael. Keldon certainly wasted no time getting him with child."
"Well, the Ardan was under pressure to sire an heir soonest, wasn't he?" Tarqin pointed out.
The hethar nodded. "Especially after he refused to name his brother his successor. But they have only been wed a few months, and Dyrael reached breeding age just before the turn of the year. Precious little time to enjoy life before having duty thrust upon him."
Tarqin shrugged. "The wages of being born into the Royal House. And they say Keldon loves him to distraction so he won't be lacking in that at least."
"I know, I know. Still, duty is duty even if softened by the attentions of a loving spouse." Hirlen glanced at his infant son and smiled. "Look at me talk. For that reason as well must I keep my little one's sire ignorant of his birth."
"Will you tell Dylen the truth one day?" Tarqin asked.
Hirlen nodded. "It's his right to know. But only when he is old enough to accept that it must remain our secret."
Dylen chose that moment to wet his diaper. Hirlen rose to his feet and carried his fretting son to the bed.
* * * *
Rikara, in the 2986th year of the Common Age
It was always coldest in the wee hours of the night. This was especially true at the height of a northern Ylandrin winter. Dylen Teris drew his cloak closer around his tall frame as he made his way down the narrow street to his house on the outskirts of the Quarter. As he did, his hand passed over the left breast of his tunic. He briefly patted it, pleased with the thick wad of banknotes secreted in the hidden pocket sewn into the lining of the tunic.
The frosty weather did not discourage patrons from visiting the Seralye. If anything, more Deira were drawn to the establishment and the services it offered during this season. After all, what could drive away the cold more effectively than lively conversation before a roaring fire with good wine or fine ale to loosen the tongue? And for those with deeper purses, a torrid tryst with a skilled hethar was more than enough to banish any remnants of the winter chill and fortify the spirit for the short trip home. Perhaps to an empty bed or a lukewarm partner in a frigid one.
With the cold fiercer than usual, the sight of the small porch of his townhouse was a welcome sight especially with the oil lamp over the front door bravely flickering in the gloom. He quickened his pace, eager for the warmth of his home. It was fortunate that he grabbed hold of the balustrade as he hurried up the steps else he might have pitched forward on his face when he tripped over an unexpected obstacle.
Dylen glared down at what looked like a large bundle of clothing in the dim light. Who in heyas left their trash at his doorstep, he thought in irritation. A faint movement caught his eye. He bent to take a closer look.
"Holy Veres!" he softly exclaimed and turned the bundle over. He stared into a face whitened by the cold and gleaming hair flecked with ice crystals.
A hasty sweep of the unconscious Deir's attire told him this was no homeless beggar who had sought shelter for the night. His crushed velvet tunic was of a style the most expensive clothiers alone provided, and his cloak was of finest wool. And only the best shoemakers fashioned boots of such quality and fashion. But warm as the Deir's garments were, they were not equal to the freezing weather.
Dylen hurriedly unlocked the door then returned to the Deir and lifted him in his arms--despite being a dead weight, the Deir was not all that heavy. Dylen carried him into the foyer and kicked the door shut behind him. The tread of feet on the stairs followed the door's closing.
Tarqin's eyes widened when he descried Dylen standing in the foyer with an insensate stranger in his arms. The elderly servant hastened forward.
"Who in Aisen--?" he started to say.
Dylen shook his head. "I haven't the faintest idea. But we have to warm him up quickly. He's all but frozen stiff."
Tarqin nodded and turned to hurry back up the stairs. "I'll draw a hot bath!" he said over his shoulder.
"And tell Adda we have a guest!" Dylen called after him, carefully mounting the steps to the second story.
Dylen bore the Deir to his bedchamber and laid him on his bed. He stripped him swiftly, alarmed by the iciness of his hands and the pallor of his skin. He frowned when he noticed a fresh welt on his temple and wondered if it had aught to do with the Deir winding up unconscious on his front steps. Dylen also realized that the other was younger than he'd originally thought. Close to his own thirty-three years, he guessed. The earring at his left ear--pearlescent milkstone set in ley-silver--confirmed his assumption that the latter hailed either from the lesser aristocracy or the landed gentry.
He carried the Deir into the bathing chamber where Tarqin had filled the tub with warm water. Dylen eased his charge in, careful to keep his head above the water.
The door opened, and Hirlen Teris entered the room. He took in the stranger's appearance and instructed Tarqin to reheat the soup from dinner. He knelt beside his son and placed his hand on the Deir's neck, feeling for a pulse.
"Weak but steady," he murmured. "Where did you find him?"
"I stumbled over him," Dylen replied. "Literally. He was huddled on the front steps. Adda, he must be well-born. Look at his earring."
Hirlen nodded, examining the Deir's right hand. Palm and fingers were only slightly calloused. "I wonder what circumstances drove him into the cold?"
Dylen shrugged. "What impels some patrons into our parlors rather than our beds? Not all of them come to us to tend their bodies' needs."
"True," Hirlen conceded. "But it must have been something calamitous for him to brave such weather."
The Deir suddenly wheezed then began to cough. Dylen slipped an arm around him to keep him from sliding farther into the water. His color was better, and his lips were no longer this side of blue, Dylen noted with relief. At last, bronze-hued lashes fluttered before lifting to reveal startlingly dark irises. Dylen could not recall seeing eyes of a brown so deep, they were almost black.
They widened in confusion and alarm. The Deir began to flounder weakly.
Dylen quickly restrained him. "Don't be afraid!" he said, imbuing his voice with just enough authority to compel the Deir to listen to him without overly intimidating him. "Be still and let the water warm you."
The Deir drew a shuddery breath then leaned back and rested his head against the back of the tub. But his eyes flicked about fearfully nonetheless.
"What is your name?" Hirlen kindly asked.
The Deir swallowed. "Ri-Riodan," he stuttered.
"How long were you out on our porch?"
"I-I'm not sure... An hour, I think."
Dylen stared at him. "You're very lucky I found you. Any longer and you'd have frozen to death."
Riodan sighed. "I know," he mumbled. "I thought I was going to die when it got so cold." He caught his breath and looked at Dylen. "My deepest thanks, uh...?"
"Dylen Teris at your service. This is my adda, Hirlen. And you're welcome, Riodan-tyar."
"Just Riodan will do," the Deir said, sitting up. "How can I insist on formality when you saved my life?"
He groaned when stiff muscles protested movement. He paused to give his surroundings a once-over. Curiosity replaced some of the fear in his eyes as he took note of the bathing chamber's modern fixtures and plumbing replete with a commode and hot and cold water taps. And the chamber was located on the house's second story rather than the traditional ground floor as evidenced by a glimpse of two bedrooms through the connecting doors. Such amenities were costly and generally accessible only to the affluent.
"Can I come out now?" Riodan asked. "I feel warm enough."
Dylen grabbed the thick robe Tarqin had prepared. Helping Riodan to his feet, he guided him out of the tub and into the folds of the robe.
"Thank you again," Riodan murmured.
Hirlen shook his head. "There's no need to thank us for something any decent soul would do. Come, have some hot soup. It will warm you further."
"He isn't just well-born," Hirlen murmured.
He looked once more at the cloak clasp Dylen thoughtfully fingered. With its engraving of a beaked delphinid in mid leap over waves of water, the clasp identified their guest as a member of the diplomatic corps or, judging from his age and the lack of the official insignia of an Ylandrin ambassador on the clasp, possibly the son of one. Above the delphinid, a name was engraved in the ancient alphabet of the Deira's distant ancestors, the Naere. But neither Dylen nor his father knew how to read the runic symbols and could not decipher their guest's name.
"I wager he's being groomed to succeed a parent," Dylen remarked.
"Yes. Which makes his presence here all the more puzzling."
They ceased their hushed conversation when Riodan stepped out of Dylen's bedroom clad in one of Dylen's flannel shirts and loose bed-trousers. The Deir shyly smiled at them when they beckoned to him to join them before the fireplace. Dylen reappraised him now that Riodan's coloring was back to normal and his hair neatly brushed.
By Veres, he's quite beautiful, he mused.
Hirlen sank into his great chair while Dylen and Riodan settled side by side on the couch. They had all slept in late to make up for staying up nigh until daybreak. Now it was almost noon and the aroma of the food Tarqin was cooking for the midday meal wafted faintly from downstairs.
"Sleep well?" Dylen asked.
"Yes," Riodan replied. "Thank you for lending me your bed. I didn't expect such kindness."
Dylen simply shrugged.
"Do your parents know you ventured out last night?" Hirlen inquired. "I can send word to them that you're safe."
Riodan reddened slightly. His mouth tightened. "They're the reason I was out in the cold," he quietly explained. "We quarreled, and I decided to leave rather than be forced into something I didn't care for." He hesitated then said, "They tried to betroth me to a Deir I heartily detest."
He leaned back with a hint of defiance in his face, obviously expecting either of his companions to chide him for acting with foolhardy impulsiveness. After all, it was not unusual for the upper classes to arrange their children's marriages.
"Why do you detest him?" Dylen asked.
Riodan looked at him in some surprise. "Because he's a cold and avaricious bastard who has no compunction about destroying the lives of others to get what he wants," he replied with blunt honesty.
"He's not alone in that," Dylen pointed out. "Especially amongst your class."
Riodan bristled slightly at the mildly critical allusion to his social station. "But I would have to live out my life bearing witness to his cruelty," he countered. "Bad enough to know that such Deira exist. But to marry one of them?"
"Surely he isn't that terrible if your parents chose him," Hirlen gently suggested.
Riodan snorted. "My sire is blinded by ambition. If he deems association with a Deir advantageous, he will ignore whatever flaws he possesses however egregious." He sighed unhappily. "He's not uncaring. I don't want you to think that of him. Indeed he wishes only the best for me. But he doesn't always consider the feelings of others before deciding their lives for them. I try to be obedient, but there are times I simply cannot abide his choices."
"Be that as it may, you have naught with you but the clothes on your back," Dylen said. "What are your plans? Surely you didn't intend to stay away longer than a day."
"Actually, I did," Riodan answered with some embarrassment. "I didn't travel here from Sidona just to spend the night."
Dylen blinked. Sidona was some twenty leagues southwest of Rikara. "You came all the way here with no money or clothing?"
"Nay, I am not such a lackwit to travel so far without any provisions!" Riodan said a little indignantly. "I had money and some clothes. And I intended to draw funds as soon as I arrived--I have an account with Bank Cordona. But the wheel of my hired carriage broke, and I arrived well after dark."
Dylen exchanged a glance with his father. Either Riodan was not gifted enough to journey by translocation or he had not received adequate training to create the mind-generated corridors that allowed travellers to cover vast distances in a matter of minutes.
"And your belongings? What became of them?" Hirlen asked.
Riodan gingerly touched the welt on his forehead. "I was looking for a decent inn, but I got lost very quickly. I've only been to Rikara a few times and never so late or in this part of town. I was set upon a few blocks from here. Some scoundrel shoved me into an alley. When I fought back, he hit me hard enough to knock me down." Riodan looked quite forlorn. "He took my money and bag."
"You're lucky that's all he took," Dylen dryly commented. "The cold saved your virtue." He gestured apologetically when Riodan paled. "How did you wind up at our door?"
"I'm not sure. I think I stayed in that alley for a while. But when it began to snow, I tried to look for help. The next thing I knew I was lying at your doorstep--I must have blundered my way here. It just got colder, and I suppose I lost consciousness then."
"So you intend to stay in Rikara a while," Hirlen murmured. "Wherefore? What do you hope to accomplish by not returning home soonest?"
"It will make my sire realize that I seriously oppose the match he is trying to arrange for me."
"And how long do you intend to stay away?"
"Until he comes for me." At Hirlen's frown, Riodan explained, "He likely thinks I will return with my tail between my legs. I wager it will be months before he starts to doubt that assumption. Only then will he search Sidona for me. It will probably take even longer before he realizes that I have gone farther afield."
"And what if he doesn't come to Rikara?" Hirlen asked a touch reprovingly. "Are you that determined to make him suffer?"
Riodan shook his head. "He will think of Rikara eventually. It's the only place I have visited outside of Sidona."
Dylen looked at him curiously, "You're quite sheltered for a diplomat's son," he commented, handing the cloak clasp to Riodan.
Riodan stared at the clasp then clenched his fingers around it. "Not for much longer. I was to finish my collegiate studies at the State University then train at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs."
"Who is your sire, Riodan?" Hirlen questioned.
"Ambassador Theron Leyhar."
Hirlen shook his head. "The name is not familiar. But that only means he likely doesn't frequent the Quarter when he comes to town."
"The Quarter?" Riodan noticed Dylen's earring for the first time. A deep red heartsfire stone set within a thin gold hoop. He looked wonderingly at Dylen. "You're a hethar?"
"I see." Riodan glanced uncertainly at Hirlen, his eyes widening when he espied a similar earring at the older Deir's left ear.
"I'm not as active as before," the elder Teris smilingly said.
Riodan was spared making a response when Tarqin appeared bearing a pot of steaming stew. Hirlen stood and gestured to the younger Deira to do likewise.
"Come, let us eat. Riodan, set your problems aside for now. But rest assured Dylen and I will help you as much as we are able."
Riodan murmured his thanks and followed his benefactors to the adjacent dining room.