A Forfeit Owed [An Eldritch Legacy Story]
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by Katrina Strauss
Category: Erotica/Menage Erotica/Historical Fiction
Description: Genre: Historical Menage
Series: Eldritch Legacy
As the daughter of a disowned noble, Korinne has few options. Taken in by wealthy relatives, she finds life among nobility far from glamorous. Instead of being an equal, she's forced to wait on her cousins hand and foot, which leaves her wishing fairy godmothers were more than the stuff of childhood tales.
And then Korinne visits the royal palace where she finds herself wooed by not one but two handsome princes. The battle for her hand leads to sensual encounters beyond her wildest dreams and Korinne discovers that fairy tales can come true -- but at what cost?
Born third in line to the throne, Trystan is a sensitive poet with a penchant for mischief. Favored by his mother but at odds with his father, the young prince struggles with a heritage he never asked for. Locked in an ongoing game of forfeits with his brother, Crown Prince Darius, Trystan is determined to one-up his opponent in their battle of wit versus brawn.
When the brothers secretly bid on Korinne's affections, Trystan will do whatever it takes to best Darius, even if it means sharing the prize in the short-term. But when Trystan truly falls for Korinne, the biggest forfeit at stake is his heart.
Publisher's Note: This book contains explicit sexual situations, graphic language, and material that some readers may find objectionable: menage (m/f/m with no m/m contact).
eBook Publisher: Loose Id, LLC, 2012
eBookwise Release Date: March 2012
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [273 KB]
Reading time: 169-236 min.
The young prince hooked the heels of his boots against the window ledge. With long fingers, he clutched the inner edges of the stone arch at either side. Bracing his lithe frame, arms spread like wings, he closed his eyes and leaned forward. The warm night breeze caressed him in welcome, brushing the shoulder-length curls back from his face, billowing the fabric of his shirtsleeves between gathered strips of ribbon. Hanging from the window, Trystan imagined that if he were to release his precarious grip or unhook just one heel, he would sail on the wind like a bird rather than plummet to his death several feet below.
Slowly, as he always did with each indulgence of this secret pastime, Trystan opened his eyes. As the wind whistled past his ears, he gazed downward to the moonlit ground, flat and hard at the base of the great keep. Lush and verdant elsewhere, the grass did not grow in that particular spot where the soil was stained a strange crimson hue. His mother had once told him the spot was cursed and left it at that.
Trystan suspected the curse had something to do with why the door to the tower stairs was locked from as far back as he or his older siblings could recall. It was forbidden to enter the keep, much less be found hanging like a madman from the window. Of all the secret places he'd discovered during his nocturnal explorations, the top of the keep had become his preferred haunt, while the rush he experienced from his daring feat offered relief from the tedium of the day.
He breathed deeply, inhaling a whiff of pine and spring. A ribbon from one of his shirtsleeves fluttered loose. It slipped from the fabric and floated away on the breeze.
"Be off with you, then, to find my maiden fair," Trystan murmured poetically, watching the strip of silk ripple in the moonlight until it disappeared into the dark. His arms tiring, his fingers threatening to slip, he used the last of his strength to pull himself back. He leaned against the side of the window and slid to sitting, one leg drawn to his chin, the other dangling over the ledge, the long toe of his boot pointing in no particular direction.
He sat like that for some time, enjoying the silence, taking in the view from the tallest point of the castle set atop the highest hill in the land. He studied the familiar face of Mother Moon as she crested and then dipped, continuing her brilliant trajectory to the west. She illuminated the vale below, casting her light over the dense forest and the royal vineyard, her lunar kiss drifting to the lake in the distance with the silhouetted mountains as backdrop. Where her sister, the sun, rendered the lake into a fiery pool of lava at sunset, Mother Moon now worked her spell and transformed the body of water to a shimmering pool of silver.
Trystan's mother, the queen, had granted him stewardship over this very vale, knowing it to be his favorite of the lands that could be seen from the castle. Yet looking upon it now, Trystan felt no rightful claim of ownership. Other than the vineyard from which he had imbibed his share of wine, the land didn't belong to him any more than it belonged to any man. The trees, the lake, the foothills--these were of the earth. He'd explained this to his mother once. With a twinkle in her eye, the queen had told him that was the very reason she'd entrusted the western vale to him.
"Years from now," she'd told him, "after your father and I have long passed, Arynnvale will have grown to twice its size. The town will spill over from the eastern vale in all directions and devour the land like a hungry beast. The nobles and merchants will try to convince their king to cut the trees to the west. I trust you will stand up to your brother and fight him tooth and nail on any such decision."
Trystan had vowed to make good on that trust, but he tried not to dwell on the future. He didn't care to think of a time when his mother would be gone from the world while that braggart, Darius, sat on the throne.
Tonight he was simply content to ponder the present. He watched the moon drop nearer to the horizon. With a sigh, he left the window and reluctantly headed down the spiral stone stairs, his boot heels crunching and echoing with each step. The stairwell lay pitch-dark between the patches of moonlight that shone through the intermittent openings carved into the wall, serving now as windows, but once for the shooting of arrows. Yet Trystan found no need for a torch to light his path; he knew each and every step by heart, his ability to navigate the tower at night as proficient as his skill in picking locks.
He liked the night best, when he could roam the castle alone, seeking comfort in the dark, kept company only by his thoughts. Only at night was he free from the scrutiny of his father, the king, or the constant comparisons to Darius. Only in the dark could he evade the annoying members of court who clucked their tongues at the one they considered the weaker prince--third in line for the throne behind his sister, no less, unheard of in any other kingdom, but his beloved mother, Inga the Fair, held rather progressive notions when it came to running her monarchy.
Trystan reached the bottom of the stairs. In the last beam of lunar rays, he caught his pale reflection in the tall, cracked mirror that had been stored along with other cast-off furnishings in the lowest level of the keep. His reflection stared back at him in the form of a pale ghost. Through the jagged, weblike pattern, Trystan took in his appearance. Like Darius, he'd been blessed with the same chiseled features and lofty height as their father, their long-limbed gait equally swift, yet where these same traits made the older brother strong and proud--the crown prince a younger version of the king, really--Trystan's face had been softened somewhat by the queen's chestnut curls and emerald eyes, his build slender where Darius's was broad, his movements considered graceful and fluid where his elder sibling's were those of the untried warrior aching for challenge on the battlefield.
Leaving his broken specter behind, Trystan cracked the door open with a low squeak. He peered down the corridor, ensuring the night watchmen weren't on their rounds in that particular wing. While it was common knowledge among the guards and servants that Trystan roamed the castle at night, none knew of his visits to the keep. Assured the hall lay clear, he carefully shut the heavy oak door behind him. The lock tumbled and clicked in place, the sound of it echoing off the stone walls.
He took the torch he'd left burning in a sconce and started down the dark, disused hall. In the flickering light, his eyes made out the dingy tiles of the floor, the tapestries and paintings layered with cobwebs--forgotten relics of an equally forgotten king, well before Trystan's time. The keep was his sanctuary, but in order to reach that haven, he was forced to run the gauntlet. For in the darkest hall of the castle, whispers rose from nowhere and followed him, slithering around him, coiling through his mind like a vile serpent, plaguing him as they'd done his entire nineteen years of life.
Thank the gods he is not the firstborn.
The queen favors him too much. It has made the lad soft.
If Prince Darius were to pass, the sister, Ciara, would make the better ruler indeed.
Voices of the dead mirroring what he suspected to be the thoughts of the living. And then the most sinister of them all, one he'd never heard in reality but only in his innermost thoughts--some deep, dark voice that came from outside of himself, yet at the same time existed only within himself.
"Return to the keep, Trystan."
Trystan froze. He pressed his fists to his temples and shut his eyes tight. The torch sizzled directly above his hair.
"Go away," he whispered.
"Fly, Trystan. Let go and fly."
"No," he pleaded in a hiss. "Leave me be."
Lowering his hands, he opened his eyes and peered back over his shoulder at the locked door. He wondered if perhaps, one night, he might give in to the voice. How easy it would be to climb back up the stairs and hang from the window. How simple it would be to release his grip and fly from the tower, as he'd imagined himself doing so many times before, and then he would be free, truly free--of his elders' expectations; of the voices, both real and imagined; of the fated existence he'd never asked for but had been bestowed upon him simply because he'd been born the youngest son of a monarch.
The only argument Trystan could find against such final measures was that it would break his mother's heart.
He burst from the haunted wing of the castle into the main corridor. Here the servants kept everything tidy, clean, and in its place. He meandered his way to the royal wing, tracing his fingers idly against the stone walls, nodding to a burly guard in passing. Safe in his room, he passed the writing table littered with parchments, some filled with script, others half-blank. He fell back and sprawled across the turned-down bed, his upper torso sinking into the plush pile of pillows. Still in his tunic, breeches, and boots, he folded his hands behind his head and crossed his feet at the ankles. With a sigh, he peered up at the canopy that draped his bed.
He waited to drift to sleep, knowing it would go as his nights usually did. He'd lie there another hour or two, eventually slipping into unconsciousness sometime after Mother Moon had set beyond the mountains, in that last precious glimmer of twilight before dawn broke and the shrill cry of the chanticleer pulled Trystan from his dreams.
The prince did what he always did. He composed verse in his head. Somewhere along the way, his thoughts turned to women and the countless pleasures they offered. In spite of his ranking in the royal line, he'd never hurt for the charms of the fairer sex. He was currently ahead on the tally in his and Darius's ongoing game, in fact, relying on what the queen affectionately termed his "silver-tongued wit" where his brother fell back on brawn to lure their quarry.
Trystan closed his eyes and thought of his ideal woman, of whom he'd found aspects in each honeypot he'd plundered, yet no one woman encompassed them all. He envisioned long silken tresses scented with rose water and spread across his pillows. Her glorious mane framed a delicate face, her features graced with generous lips eager to kiss and be kissed.
She was naked, of course, and writhing beneath him, for why else would Trystan have her in his bed? He imagined her responding to his touch as his hands and mouth roamed freely, mapping the contours of smooth flesh, pale as cream, dipping and swelling around ample breasts and hips before delving between plush thighs. He'd tease her sweet spot and taste her juices, pleasuring her, readying her, then slide back up to enter her, his thrusts cushioned by her supple buttocks as he lost himself in her velvet heat.
Aroused by the visual and guided by sheer carnal impulse, Trystan slid one hand down to rub the hard bulge between his legs. Desiring more friction and the feel of skin upon skin, he unlaced the crotch of his breeches. Raising his buttocks from the mattress, he tugged the buckskin partway down. His erect cock exposed, he gripped it in one hand. Rolling to his side, he crooked one leg and began to stroke.
His dream mistress took on greater clarity, his mind going into greater detail. Her hair was ebony now against the scarlet pillows, while her limbs twined around him, and for a moment, he could truly smell her scent: of roses mingled with the heat of sex. He imagined it was she who touched and pleasured him there in the bed. With these thoughts, he picked up the pace, pumping his shaft with rapid fury, thrusting his hips to match and meet the rhythm of his hand. Biting his lip, Trystan buried his face in the pillows lest he alert the occupants of the adjoining chambers with his rising groans. His pleasure crested, then broke, the hot burst of seed spilling into his palm as he sought to contain the evidence of his deed.
He lay there, pausing to catch his breath, his immediate physical need met but his heart yearning for something more--the warmth of a lover, words whispered in his ear, her soothing caress upon his skin as together they coasted down from their mutual pleasure. His fantasy extended beyond sensual fulfillment, for Trystan also desired his dream lover's companionship. She would talk to him, perhaps sing to him as she cradled his head to her bosom and stroked his hair, lulling him into sleep--oh, sweet and blessed sleep--staying with him until morn.
But his lover was naught but a figment of his overly vivid imagination. Trystan was alone in his bed while his wayward hand had gone cold and sticky. Fumbling in the dark, he reached with his clean hand for the cloth folded beside the washbasin on the nearby table. Once he'd rinsed off, he pulled up his breeches and rolled onto his back. Spent yet dissatisfied, he drifted toward sleep. He descended into the realm of dreams, where his lover awaited him with open arms. He fell into her embrace, her ebony tresses shrouding them both like a silken veil.
A name escaped Trystan's lips. He knew not why he spoke this name, for he knew no woman who answered to it, and yet the name came easily, his whisper lingering in the realm of the wakened.