Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Keeper by Jane Leopold Quinn

Pete Rayne didn’t run from the thought of getting married. He just hadn’t met the right woman yet. He always figured, not to sound incestuous, that he’d marry a girl like his sisters. Blonde, blue-eyed, sweet and innocent looking. He never, in a million years, believed he’d seriously fall for the exact opposite.

Sharon Timmons was someone else’s girlfriend, though. His partner’s, to be exact; off limits, untouchable, taboo. So, he didn’t touch. He just occasionally fantasized about her.

However, the night his partner, Hank Crossman, followed the new woman in town, Nickie Grace, out of Nook’s, Pete knew it was time to make his move on Sharon.

“Well,” he said to Sharon, “I guess it’s just you and me. Do you want to go home or stay a while longer?”

She concentrated on drawing circles in the wet rings on the bar. “Like I didn’t see that coming a mile off.”

“Dance with me, Share?” He couldn’t stand the dejected look on her face.

“Oh, that’s all right.” Her brows drew together in a frown. “You don’t need to…”

“Don’t think about it right now, honey. Let’s just dance.” He brushed her jaw, then raised his hand to her hair, and twisted his finger into the curls around her ear, his gaze following the movement. Pure silk, soft as clouds, he had to clench his fist to keep from clutching the strands and burying his face in her hair.

Instead, he escorted her to the dance floor and wrapped her in his arms. He couldn’t believe it. It was just like his fantasies, except they involved being naked, in bed, with her on top. She folded into his embrace as if she belonged there. Her delicate body with its high, firm breasts, felt like heaven against his chest. Unbelievably, his arms shook more than they should have, so he tightened them and hunched over as if protecting her.

He rested his cheek against her hair and pulled her even closer, one hand around her waist, the other cupping her nape. She must have just washed her hair because even in the smoky bar, the scent of it was fresh and lemony. Every delicious inch of her—breasts, belly, and thighs—crushed against him as they swayed to the music. There was no way she could mistake his sexual interest since his cock had grown hard and heated, but he tried his damnedest not to grind it into the cushion of her body.

“Sharon, look at me,” he commanded in a husky whisper, pulling gently on her hair to tip up her chin, his breathing none too steady. “Share?” He tugged again. Crap. She’s shivering. Is she crying?

She finally lifted her eyes to his. “No, no, I’m all right.”

He could barely hear her over the jukebox.

“You don’t have to do this.”

“I don’t have to do anything, Share, but I want to kiss you.” Hank was an asshole for dumping her publicly like this. For so many reasons, some he didn’t quite understand, he wanted to make it better for her. They swayed to the beat of a Joe Nichols ballad. His chest expanded against her breasts.

“Pete, it’s…”

He lowered his head and murmured into her ear. “But, if you want, I’ll wait.”

“Wait?” She tensed, pulled her arms from around his neck, and grasped his forearms.

Her small hands on his arms made him feel strong and protective. “Until tomorrow night. How about we go to a movie tomorrow night?” He held back from taking advantage of how close his lips were to her ear. He really wanted to kiss the pretty little shell, and, oh fuck, he wanted to suck her earlobe between his teeth and bite…

She clung to him. The noise and smoke of the bar disappeared, and it was as if they were alone. Some singer a long time ago said dancing was like making love standing up. Man, was he right. Maybe she’d like to dance naked. He groaned, the sound reverberating in his chest.

When the song ended, and he reluctantly came to his senses, he steered her to the door and out into the steamy night. He was all heat, hot from the night and hot from Sharon. Extremely aroused, he stood very close to her at her car door, balancing one hand on the roof of the car and resting the other on her waist. She toyed with the buttons on his shirt. He held his breath when she pressed her palms against his chest, then lost it when she brushed her knuckles on his belly, just above his belt buckle.

Her expression was surprisingly shy, which seemed odd for the experienced woman he thought she was. Is she playing me?

Her fingers resting on his belt, she whispered, “Do we have to wait for tomorrow night for the kiss?”

Her lips parted and pursed, her gaze focused on his mouth, and that was all she wrote. Instantly, his mouth connected full on with hers. Lightly—intense but delicate—he brushed his lips back and forth, learning her, tasting her. He fought his desire for more. He wanted to plunder, but the softness of her response kept him in check. He let her lead the way and kept his eyes narrowly open to watch her expression.

Her eyes popped open.

With a shivering sigh, her breasts rose against his chest. The kiss ended. They separated, both gasping raggedly. What’s wrong with me? He’d been turned on before, but he’d never had this much trouble breathing.

She cupped his cheek, scraping her nails in his late night whiskers. “Wow,” she said.

“Yeah,” he responded, feeling distinctly off kilter.

She smiled at him. “I’ll see you tomorrow night?”

“You bet,” he replied huskily. “I’ll call you.” Bracing his legs, he watched her pull out of the parking lot and drive down the street. “Holy shit,” he muttered under his breath. “I gotta talk to Hank.” There was no way he was going to let his partner have her back. Not after that kiss.

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The Red Sash by L.E. Bryce

Tamasin had never planned to own a foreign catamite, yet with one trip to Sull’s portside slave market, and one look at the honey-skinned youth on the auction block, and he had given in. The ongoing war between the desert kingdoms on the mainland meant an influx of Tajhaani and Juvan slaves. There was not a single coastal community on the island that did not have its share of dark-skinned laborers, as they were now cheaper than native-born slaves.

Urrit came at a bargain, for reasons Tamasin found shocking. When asked, the slave trader ran his hand down the young man’s sleek muscled arms and shook his head disapprovingly. “Too old,” he said. “Seventeen is too old for a master’s bed. But you find him pleasing, so for you I will make a special price.”

Tamasin suspected the man’s “special price” was still too high by Tajhaani standards, yet when he learned what skills Urrit possessed he threw back his head and laughed, realizing he had not been fleeced after all.

Through signs and the few Thrindi words he knew, Urrit had explained that he had learned his craft at a school where bed-slaves were trained. Tamasin listened, then wondered if he had somehow misunderstood, for such things did not exist on the island. Only later, after three hours of the most erotic, exhausting lovemaking he ever experienced, had he realized that it was true.

The moon rose full over the sea, silvering the waves, yet on the heights around the villa the air remained warm. Servants opened the shutters to admit a faint breeze, while Keftu went to fetch Urrit.

There was no ceremony. On any given night the chosen one simply appeared at the door and the servants, hustled by the steward, withdrew to another part of the house. Tamasin, clad in a plain linen robe, watched smiling as Urrit knelt at the edge of the carpet, a Tajhaani custom no amount of cajoling could get him to forsake.

“Stand up, Urrit,” laughed Tamasin, “and come here.”

Urrit rose gracefully and approached. The sash banded his narrow waist, its rich color and decoration complimenting his darker coloring. Kohl lined his eyes, a desert custom rarely seen on the island yet one that Tamasin did not mind. “There is ritual to follow, master,” Urrit said in his halting Thrindi.

“If I want ritual I’ll go to the temple. Would you care for some wine, or anything else?” Tamasin gestured to the carafe on the table beside him. As always, he knew what the answer would be. Urrit never drank or took any other liberties in his presence. Lovemaking was an art for him, and even in this strange land the proper forms must be observed.

Tamasin rose and took Urrit in his arms for a kiss. Kissing was a skill the young man knew well, readily teaching his master tricks Tamasin then used with the other catamites, and with his wife, when Yansi showed interest in making love. Each time the kisses began with the lightest touch of lips, becoming firmer and more vigorous by degrees, building to the point where their tongues met. Exquisite tension. By the time their tongues were in each other’s mouths Tamasin was painfully hard, ready to push Urrit down on his knees and take him.

He never did. Yes, there were moments when he wanted to dispense with the stylized foreplay and begin a kiss with his tongue deep in Urrit’s mouth. He wanted to nibble Urrit’s ears and throat, yet whenever he tried he felt his partner withdraw from him. Never outright refusal, of course, just a subtle shift in tension that let him know his actions were inappropriate. Quite simply, he could tell Urrit that he wished to make love a certain way, but once engaged could not deviate from the path his partner believed they must follow.

Tamasin could have insisted. He could have reminded Urrit that he was the master and this was not Tajhaan. Lovemaking should be natural, and what was more natural than lying beside one’s partner and exploring intimacies of self as well as body? Urrit had been in his house long enough that his master should know him better, yet Tamasin oftentimes felt he did not know the young man at all. He wanted to—wanted to lie close when they were finished and simply talk, but Urrit did not seem able to give more of himself than what lay on the surface, and Tamasin did not want to spoil their nights together by forcing him.

When he had tasted his fill of Urrit’s mouth he drew back. “Now take off your clothes for me.”

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Twelfth Night by Augusta Li

Then Darren entered Montrose’s studio apartment looking so divine that Nick gasped before he could stop himself. A young man in a white vinyl thong, angel wings and white wig took Darren’s coat to reveal his silvery hair spilling over his lean, bare chest. He wore metallic gold pants so tight Nick saw every curve of his body and his matching stiletto-heeled boots clicked on the floor. A simple gold mask outlined his amazing eyes. Elizabethan-ruffled cuffs and a collar, made from stiff lace edged in gold, accentuated his svelte wrists and neck. With Darren right in front of him, Nick could no longer deny the way his pale skin caught the light, accentuating the willowy muscles of his waist as he walked. Just as he had the first time he’d seen the man, Nick thought he couldn’t be human—he was just too lovely and surreal. The contrast of the shimmering clothing against his fair complexion made him look like a marble statue adorned with gilt.

Nor was Nick the only one to fall silent and watch Darren. The other guests paused mid-sentence or mid-drink and stood wide-eyed. The beautiful blonde man smiled at each of them as if offering them the gift of a second of his priceless interest. Montrose whispered, “Yeah, he has that effect on you, doesn’t he? I mean, who else could pull off that outfit?”

Nick realized he’d flushed beet red and tried to find something on the food table that needed his attention. Montrose smirked and clapped Nick on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, kid. You’re not the first and you won’t be the last. If it means anything, you had more impact on him than most. I’ve never seen him actually fall for anybody, but he talked about you—”

Darren had reached the table. He put his hand on his hip and twisted his torso, a gesture so devastating it must have been practiced. “Lovely party, Willy,” he said. The older man balked. Nick assumed he didn’t like the abbreviated form of his name, which Darren undoubtedly knew. “Oh and look, you’ve got my chef. How have you been Nick?”

“Fine,” Nick answered, without meeting the hypnotic blue eyes.

“Give us a minute, won’t you, Willy?” Darren asked. “Nick and I are old friends.” Montrose retreated, and Nick marveled at the way Darren ordered the man around in his own home.

“I missed you,” Darren said softly.

“You could have called.”

Darren laughed, eyes twinkling. “I don’t call. You call me.”

“And how was I supposed to know that?”

“Nick, such back-talk!” Darren hissed. Nick’s cock jumped in his pants at the scolding tone. “I’ll give you a thousand dollars to spend the night with me and make me breakfast in bed.”

“I’m a caterer, not a prostitute, Darren.”

“Then come for free.”

“I don’t think so, Darren. And by the way, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell everyone you know how we… how you…”

To Nick’s shock, Darren grabbed a handful of his dark hair and wrenched his head forward so his pale lips grazed Nick’s ear. “How I licked chocolate off of every inch of your body? How I tied your hands behind your back, threw you down, and made you beg me to fuck you?”

Nick jerked free of Darren’s grasp.

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