Saturday, October 17, 2009

Oshun's Fall by Kendra Mei Chailyn

The rain poured over the land. Oya, the goddess of the storms, was having a bad day and she wanted everyone to know it. Thunder rolled and lightning cut across the sky, sending the outside into daylight and just as quickly back into night time.

Storms this strong always meant trouble. Roads flooded, bridges got damaged, stores got looted and the problems went on and on.

But like all natural things, there were also benefits. When the storm finally ended, farmers would gaze upon soil dark with moisture and be pleased.

Luthando Ife sat at his desk, his chair rotated to face the window. He could not believe the storm. There was something about this storm that was different from any others he had seen. It had been waging for days. The news reports were already saying it was a record-setting storm. If it didn’t stop soon, he could not go to work at the clinic. He would have to stay home.

He frowned and turned back to his desk to finish typing up a report. The room lit up again. He took that as a sign to shut down his computer. He was in no mood to shell money out to buy a new one. It wasn’t that he couldn’t afford it, just that it was needless spending. Saving his work, he logged off. Just as he was about to pour himself some wine, go to bed and read a book, there was a banging on his door.

Dr. Ife darted for the door and ripped it open. No one should be out in this weather.

“Chineke,” He moaned as the woman fell into his arms. Scooping her up, he carried her to the nearest bedroom and laid her onto the sofa. He wrapped sheets around her body to keep her warm and then hurried downstairs to make some tea. Putting the kettle on, he gathered cough syrup and towels from the bathroom, then paced until the tea was ready.

He tried to feed her the warm tea, but she was shaking too badly. Knowing a burn from spilt tea was not going to help her, he set the teacup down and gathered her into his arms and rested against the sofa. She shook against his side as he pulled her closer, rubbing his arms up and down against her body, trying frantically to get some warmth into her. It would be easier to strip her, but he didn’t want her to think he was being indecent. Then again, if she woke up and he was cuddling her she would think so anyway.

Luthando continued rubbing her body until the shaking stopped, then carried her to the bed. He placed her gently into it and covered her with the sheets before moving to the cupboard to get more layers.

As the storm raged outside, he walked across the room and sat in a chair in the dark, just watching her. She was stunning. All he could see now was her face, but her body had pressed against him and he had felt his body tremble with a sweet heat that he welcomed. Even though she was cold and shivering, he could feel something even through his knowledge that he had to remain detached in order to do what was best for her. But she was a woman—his body felt and knew that. She wasn’t just any woman for he had felt killer curves when she was pressed against him. She was his kind of woman.

Shaking his head, he slipped down into the chair, crossed his legs and resigned his body to the fact that he wouldn’t be getting any sleep. His patients at the clinic would have to go to Doctor Obe until he could return.

The thought brought a frown to Luthando’s face but he knew he had to stay where he was. There was the matter of the girl but the weather played a large part in his decision. Until the rain stopped, he wouldn’t be able to use the roads.

* * * *

Before even opening her eyes, Oshun knew she had not had a nightmare. She was shivering, her teeth chattering slightly but there was a strange warmth flowing through her beneath it all. The memory of the voices screaming inside her head to do what they had told her was something one could not mistake for a nightmare. Those voices had a reality to them. The Three had cast her out and she must do as she was told before she could get her powers back. As she lay in the bed of a regular human, a being she had always thought so simple, she tried to find a bright spot and when she didn’t, she squeezed her eyes tighter. It felt as if her world had ended and there was nothing left. All she wanted to do was cry.

She sat up and took a look around her.

“Morning.” A voice came to her ear and she jerked back. “It’s alright. My name is Luthando Ife. What’s your name?”

“O…” She started but stopped herself quickly. The last thing she wanted to do was tell this man that she was Oshun, Goddess of Love. He would just laugh in her face and send her to one of those places she always saw humans put their crazies. “Kendi…”

“Well, Kendi, it has been raining cats and dogs all night,” Luthando continued from his chair, “You may leave anytime you wish, but I wouldn’t recommend it be immediately. As you can surmise from the noise, it is still raining cats and dogs.”

She bit down on her lower lip and took her first good look at him. He was handsome. He had big brown eyes with lashes that were long and curled. His hair was perfect, short and kept neat and trim the way she liked it. . His face had faint traces of a beard that had crept up over night. He was dressed like a westerner in blue jeans and a dress shirt whose sleeves were folded to the elbow. And he looked tired. That told her one thing—he hadn’t gone to bed.

“You didn’t have to stay watch over me,” she said shyly. “I would have been alright.”

“Nonsense,” he got up and something she knew to be fear curled her insides. She knew it for she had felt it each time she saw The Three. Oya had explained it to her on many occasions. “I wanted to make sure that when you woke up in a strange home you would be alright. Now, I am a doctor, let me have a look at you.”

“Stay away,” she clutched at the sheets. Even though her rational mind was telling her to stop being a child and let him have a look, something deep inside told her that he could harm her.

Panic surged through her and when she couldn’t handle it any longer she closed her eyes. She waited for the bad thing to happen even though she didn’t know what that thing was. But when she didn’t feel anything, she opened them to look up at him again. He had backed away.

Luthando couldn’t touch her. The fear that he had seen in her eyes tore at his heart. It was as though she thought he was going to kill her. He could tell her that he had held her in his arms the night before, but he remained silent about that. Perhaps if he showed her proof that he was indeed a doctor she would feel better. Maybe if he just left the room and had a female look her over she wouldn’t be so terrified. All these thoughts rushed through his mind while he tried to figure a way to see if she was physically well. He had to examine her but if she was scared of him he didn’t want to force the subject. He pulled his wallet from his back pocket where he always kept it and removed his I.D. card. He handed it to her.

“See?” he asked her softly. “I truly am a doctor.”

She stared down at the card but didn’t speak. Luthando felt out of options so he changed the subject. “Would you like some breakfast?” he asked as he heard the servants moving around downstairs.

She nodded and he smiled. “Alright. I will send someone up with some clothes for you so you can take a shower and change into something clean.”

Tree Fingers by Augusta Li and Eon de Beaumont

With a swipe of his charcoal stump, Graham rendered the gentle slope of Alan’s forehead in profile. A quick, downward slash formed the aquiline nose with the slight bump on the bridge. The pad of Graham’s thumb smeared the black dust into the shape of the shadow between his lover’s dark eye and slender brow. His pinky formed the soft mounds of the thin lips, and the point of the pencil etched the contrastingly sharp chin. Just then, a wisp of ebony hair fell from behind Alan’s ear, the ends lodging in the corner of his mouth.

When Graham set his sketchbook beside him in the arid autumn grass and reached out to brush the strand back, the other man didn’t notice. Alan continued to stare down at the book he read, with a gaze that looked like it could alight the crumbling pages. Alan, with his creamy skin and striking dark hair and eyes, was beautiful, but his intensity, bordering on obsession, frightened Graham sometimes.

“What are you reading?” Graham asked, resuming the study of his lover. He had to repeat the question twice more before Alan lifted and turned his head.

Dappled by the golden light filtering through the yellow leaves, Alan smiled, marked his place with a scrap of red ribbon, and closed his book. “The journal of a seventeenth century German warlock, with translations and notes by the Englishman who found it when the Allies took Berlin. It’s fascinating. Gives detailed instructions for summoning all kinds of spirits. Tells what to say, what to offer them, how to bind and dismiss them.”

“Sounds interesting,” Graham lied. Alan had, at his tender age, already published two books and several journal articles that combined his great fascinations: history and the occult. He contended that a secret society of magic-users had formed at the fall of the pagan world to protect their knowledge. He’d shown, in the first massive tome that Graham had read, how they’d gained power during the Dark Ages and eventually controlled much of medieval society from the shadows. While the idea seemed laughable, Alan’s meticulous research and numerous examples of power shifts and conspiracy got the attention and approval of a few professionals. Even Graham spent a few nights lying in bed, wondering whether the events he’d read about in the daily paper could really be orchestrated by an ancient order.

Though Graham didn’t believe in it, the subject’s ability to commandeer his lover’s attention, to the point where Alan surrendered food and sleep, made him uncomfortable. Too many times he’d phoned Alan for days with no answer, only to find Alan in his apartment, dehydrated and deprived of rest, notes strewn over the floor. Brilliant researcher that he was, Alan could excel in any field he chose. But Alan felt the draw of the supernatural too strongly to give it up. Some of the subject matter Alan pursued disturbed Graham deeply. The idea of ensnaring spirits sent a cold tremor through his belly and chest. He didn’t care to discuss it.

“Lovely afternoon,” Graham said instead.

Alan sat up straighter and looked up at the walnut branches, over at the distant hills painted crimson and rust, and toward Graham’s garden in the other direction as if noticing his surroundings for the first time. Slowly he returned to the physical world and the present. Finally he set his book behind him, next to the morning glory and ivy-entangled privacy fence that separated Graham’s yard from his next door neighbor’s property. He slid closer to Graham, draped Graham’s shoulders with his slender arm, and kissed him lightly on the cheekbone. “Yeah, lovely,” he agreed.

They lay back among the fallen leaves and acorns, temples touching, and bodies and hands forming an ‘A’ on the lawn. A late Indian Summer had warmed the ground. Above them the branches of the walnut tree, stretching over the barrier from the adjoining lawn, crossed in front of a cloudless October sky. Now and then an elliptical leaf, edges browned and curling, spiraled down. One landed on Graham’s sun-painted cheek, and Alan rolled to his side, puckered his lips, and blew it into Graham’s light brown hair.

“I could lie here all day,” Alan said, relaxing against Graham’s body, nestling the side of his face into the dip between the fairer man’s shoulder and chest.

“My sweater itching your face?” Graham asked. He wished he’d removed the cable-knit wool garment; the afternoon was too balmy for it.

“Yeah, but I can hear your heart,” Alan answered, squeezing Graham’s ribs.

Compelled by the unexpected sweetness of the comment, Graham cupped Alan’s chin and angled Alan’s face upward so that they could kiss. The gentle meeting of their lips quickly turned to passion. Any touch they shared ignited flames of lust, and soon Alan had rolled on top of Graham. Graham could feel Alan’s skin heating with arousal as his nips and pecks grew more urgent. His tongue delved down into Graham’s mouth as his hands burrowed under the sweater and worn Oxford beneath to stroke Graham’s waist. Gooseflesh rose on Graham’s skin despite his over-dressed warmth. His fingers wove into Alan’s silky dark hair, while his other hand plunged down the back of his tight jeans to squeeze Alan’s smooth ass cheek.

Pulling his shoulder-length tresses, Graham bent Alan’s head back and licked the length of his slender neck. Alan moaned, and his body responded, cock and nipples going hard against Graham. Nails bit the sides of Graham’s body, and he bent his pelvis to rub his growing erection against Alan. At the same time he clutched Alan’s butt, forcing their bodies even closer. Through the denim of Alan’s pants and the beige linen of Graham’s trousers, their cocks swelled and ground against each other.

Alan’s fingers worked their way to Graham’s nipples as their mouths met again. He circled them, giving each a teasing pinch before withdrawing his hands and sitting up, straddling Graham’s lap. His hair hung in his face, a few strands stuck to his sweaty skin. Arousal darkened his lips and cheeks, making his eyes look bigger and blacker. Graham held his hips, rocking slowly beneath him, as Alan took the bottom of his black and white striped sweatshirt and prepared to peel it away from his slim body.

A hollow thud made Alan drop the hem of his hoodie. His hand darted to the top of his head and rubbed, a grimace replacing his excited smile. Near Graham’s armpit, a particularly large walnut bounced once before rolling under the forsythia.

“Damn tree,” Alan said, still holding his wounded scalp. “That hurt like hell!”

“Hey, I love that tree,” Graham teased, poking the ticklish spot below Alan’s rib with his knuckle, making the other man twitch.

Leaping up, Alan crossed his arms and stood facing the fence, his back to Graham. “I’m glad to know I’m second in your heart to a tree,” he said, mock-injured.

Graham stood and encircled Alan’s waist, his chin resting on the slightly taller man’s shoulder. “Don’t be that way, love,” he said, rubbing the edge of Alan’s ear with the tip of his nose. “Let me show you something.”

Verasheyan by J. Trout

“Master Zane?” The man in the impeccable Earth Security Force uniform, bearing the clear rank of Captain, tried to keep his face impassive, but a ghost of a sneer slipped past his control.

“Yes, Captain Blair.” The athletic man behind the desk kept his calm expression far better than his visitor. “I received your message. Please tell me why the Earth Security Force needs to call upon a civilian, such as myself, to deal with a military prisoner.”

The captain briefly gave the impression of a man biting into an apple and finding only part of a worm. “Your…specialized knowledge,” he managed to say, then rushed into his next words. “We know you began as a doctor, specializing in neurology and psychology, then you moved on to exobiology, and somewhere along the line you picked up an interest in…in…” He fell silent.

“In the BDSM phenomenon.” Master Zane remained as calm as before. “Yes, it does appear in nonhuman species. How does this relate to your prisoner?”

“He’s an Althori!” the captain spat out, giving up all pretensions to disinterest. “You know how they are: Death Before Dishonor, never betray a client, all that. We caught this one when we finally got Boss Prendergast. It—he was Prendergast’s bodyguard, went with him everywhere, and saw everything he did. That alien’s a goldmine of information if we could just…” Captain Blair was definitely blushing now.

“I see.” Master Zane leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers. “‘Ke’, you mean.”

“What?”

“The Althori are hermaphrodites. The proper personal pronouns for an individual would be ‘ke’, ‘kir’ and ‘kim’.”

“Fine, fine. The problem is…getting the information.”

“I understand completely,” said Master Zane. “The usual police and military methods of interrogation have a record of failing with Althori, so you need the help of—to be blunt—an expert in the nature of torture, particularly a form of torture which does the victim no permanent harm and won’t look bad at trial. Yes?”

The captain blushed as red as a turkey’s wattles. “We’ve got to get the information soon,” he managed. “The civilian cops are nagging us to hand Prendergast over to them, saying he’s a civilian crook, even though we caught him in open space, and you know how the civilian courts are. Without the Althori’s information, that bastard might get off again.”

Master Zane interlaced his fingers, and smiled: a slow, powerful smile. It made Blair squirm.

“Yes,” the Master said decisively, “I’ll take your case. There’s a good holding-room in the basement; I’ll give you the coordinates. Please transfer the prisoner there.”

The captain let out a breath that he didn’t seem to have been aware of holding.

“I’ll also need a complete file on the prisoner, another file containing everything not available on MediNet concerning the neurophysiology and psychology of Althori, and a list of the precise questions you wish to ask kim. I’ll send you one of my contract forms in return. How soon can you have all that delivered?”

“Uh… Noon tomorrow! Everything,” Captain Blair almost gushed. “Tomorrow, then.”

He did a quick about-face and strode rapidly out of the office.

Master Zane waited until the monitor on his desk showed that the front door had closed behind his visitor, then asked the computer’s microphone: “Nell, did you get all that?”

“Oh yes,” a mellow voice replied from the speaker, adding a brief giggle. “Wouldn’t it be fun to get that one on the rack!”

Master Zane smiled again, a much softer smile. “Fun indeed, my dear, but right now we have work to do: researching Althori. I think this will be an interesting challenge.”

* * * *

The moment Reshayn-Lareth opened kir eyes, ke remembered that ke’d been stunned by a guard. Ke saw that ke was now transferred to a different cell—possibly in a different prison. This room had four solid walls, an enclosed washroom, a plain food-replicator slot, a simple table and chair, and a likewise simple but comfortable iron-framed bed. But for the lack of a viewscreen and communicator, it might have been any cheap room for visiting spacers on any of a dozen different space stations.

Don’t raise your hopes, ke reminded kimself as ke looked more carefully.

Oh yes: kir cage-pot of sapphire-mice, feed-grass and the little idol of Larashath were absent. So were all kir weapons, including kir ritual knife. Kir clothes had been replaced by the standard gray prisoner’s jumpsuit, and even kir translator was gone. Ke was definitely still a prisoner. Ke had nothing left but kimself and kir honor, and in situations like this one’s honor quite often led to death. That was not a comforting thought.

As soon as the buzzing faded from kir head, Reshayn got up and tried the door. No, it was firmly locked, and kir best efforts couldn’t break it. Ke went back to the bed and sat down with a sigh.

“Why didn’t I wait?” ke asked the walls, as if ke hadn’t asked the same question a hundred times before. As always, ke knew the answer. Ke’d been desperate for an off-planet job, anything that could get kim off overcrowded Althor and into space, and ke’d made the classic mistake of taking the first offer that came up—without doing thorough research on kir prospective master. Ke’d learned soon enough that Prendergast was a crook, wanted by security forces from Earth to Rigel for a dozen different interplanetary crimes, and he’d be caught sooner or later, but by then the contract was signed and registered.

“A contract is a pledge of honor,” Reshayn repeated to the silently accusing walls, as ke’d likewise done a hundred times before. And honor required that ke follow kir pledged master down to defeat, capture, and probable death. The Earth Force captors wanted kim to talk—talk, talk, talk, as that fool Captain Blair had shouted at kim for hours—and honor demanded that ke refuse them. “Loyal unto death” was not just the motto of the Lareth clan; it was demanded by Larashath, kir patron god. Break faith, and ke’d be reborn as some lowly creature, which didn’t bear thinking upon.

Though the gods know you were fool enough to merit rebirth as a teegh-goat.

Reshayn quashed the treacherous thought and stiffened kir resolve.

So, let the Humans do what they would. Their drugs, ke knew, either didn’t work on Althori or killed them outright. Their laws restricted what they could do as torture, and simple beatings ke could endure handily. They might send kim off to some prison planet to eke out kir days battling the elements, which couldn’t be that much worse than struggling for survival on crowded Althor. More likely, they’d kill kim in their frustrated attempts to get information about kir pledged master; in that case, ke’d be reborn on Althor—possibly, ke formed a treacherous hope, as a higher-ranked child in a much higher-ranked clan, rich in lands and livestock, free to choose a life-mate, Bond and Change and mature, and have children of kir own…

Seeing that there was nothing else to do, Reshayn closed kir eyes and let kimself daydream about kir next life.

* * * *

Nell was just rubbing oil into the last of the leather cuffs when she heard Master Zane’s laugh come echoing from his office. It wasn’t his usual quiet professional laugh, but an honestly light-hearted guffaw. That was curious enough to make her place the cuff hastily in its cabinet and go see what it was that amused the Master so.

She found him chuckling over the computer’s screen, and he gave her a distinctly merry smile as she came in. “Pull up a chair and look,” he said, pointing to the screen.

“This is a fascinating example of convergent evolution.”

Nell tugged a chair out from a corner, placed it where she could see the screen, shoved a wayward lock of blonde hair out of her eyes and looked at the monitor. It displayed a nice image of a nude Althori, accompanied by several lines of small print.

“They’re remarkably like humans in structure,” Master Zane explained, “Particularly in their nervous systems—which are exquisitely sensitive, by the way. Their bones are thicker and muscles denser, enough to give them remarkable strength along with that deceptively tall and slender build, but not to a superhuman degree. They’re pure carnivores, eating vegetable matter only for bulk and flavorings—they do drink alcohol and enjoy it—and their metabolisms make much more use of cobalt, which explains their lovely purple-blue skins and blue-silver hair. No one knows what caused them to develop those tall pointed ears, but that’s a trivial difference. The exceptional difference is in their reproductive systems, which are something unique in this part of the galaxy.”

“I’ve heard it said,” Nell ventured, “That the sex of an Althori is of interest only to another Althori.”

“And for good reason.” Zane thoughtfully rubbed his hands together. “Althori are true hermaphrodites. Each individual possesses a penis and a vagina—the testicles are tucked safely up in the abdomen, not far from the ovaries—and can use either at any time. The uterus can, and usually does, accommodate a litter of from two to six young, which also explains those six nipples running from chest to abdomen. This offers some interesting possibilities…”

“I’ve heard that Althor is overcrowded, which is why the Althori are always looking for off-planet work and new planets to colonize. I suppose that habit of bearing litters explains it, but don’t they have any sort of effective birth-control?”

“Indeed, they have a built-in form of it.” Master Zane steepled his fingers and studied the screen. “They’re semi-telepathic—empathic, to be precise; they can pick up emotions and physical states, if not precise thoughts—and this features heavily in their breeding process. You’ve noticed that our subject, like most of the Althori one encounters in the usual space-trade, has nipples but no breasts?”

Nell glanced at a monitor screen to one side of the desk, which displayed the Althori prisoner seated in a meditative pose on kir bed. “I was wondering about that,” she murmured.

“The reason is that Althori enter a form of puberty at roughly the age of twelve, after which they’re quite able to mate—and enjoy it—but they don’t grow breasts and become fertile until after they bond with their chosen mates.”

“Bond telepathically?”

“More like empathically. Althori find True Love, bond empathically with their soul-mates, become fertile and then settle down to a long life of guarding their lands, raising their livestock, and reliably breeding two to six children—apiece—every year. Until that point, they’re infertile. It’s in the hope of someday finding a true mate and maturing that Althori neuters always carry with them a cage-covered flowerpot filled with their native soil, feed-grass, a small colony of native animals—sapphire-mice, at least—and a little idol of their tribal god. That’s symbolic of land, crops, livestock and a family altar, all the more precious since most Althori never gain more land than that.”

“And they need land to feed the livestock that feed their armies of children,” Nell guessed. “But Althor is overcrowded already…”

“They can’t conceive while still nursing a litter, so they often nurse their young as long as possible—about to the age of two. But it’s also not surprising that most of the population of Althor remains in, hmm, neuter phase all their lives; it’s the one form of birth-control that reliably works for them.

“Must be frustrating,” Nell considered.

“Not sexually frustrating, anyway,” Master Zane smiled. “Althori are notorious for ‘sporting’—which is their term for infertile mating—with anything or anyone that will hold still for them, all over the known galaxy. They have very few sexual taboos, and those deal only with rape, incest and child abuse. The ‘sporting’ of neuters is considered inconsequential, and bonded pairs are incapable of…hmm, voluntarily mating with anyone else.”

“So we shouldn’t have any taboos to deal with: just a simple dissolving of the will.” Now it was Nell’s turn to smile.

“And all that exquisitely sensitive sexual tissue to work with,” Zane grinned back.

Indian Blood Moon by Jaxx Steele

“Not a bad looking sight, huh?”

Dante looked up, following the voice. A pirate stared down on him. His costume was similar to Dante’s own, but clearly not identical. The man had only one eye visible to him as a black patch covered the other. Dante could tell that this pirate was shorter than he and very slender. His feathery blond hair, cheeks rosy from drinking, and pink bow lips made him handsome in an angelic-looking way.

“Mmm hmm, not bad at all,” Dante agreed.

The pirate smiled at him. “Mind if I join you?”

“No, please, join me,” he said, making room on the chair.

“Great. I was about to get me another drink, can I grab you one, too?”

Dante thought for a moment. He was a little dizzy from the first one, but he could handle one more without being too buzzed to work on his article.

“Yeah, that would be great. I was drinking a Long Island.”

Dante watched the pirate nod and disappear through the small crowd. He returned quickly and handed him the drink.

“Thanks, umm…”

“My name is Jack. Nice to meet you.”

He shook the man’s outstretched hand. “I’m Dante.”

A soft shock traveled through his arm at their connection. He looked at their hands, then to Jack’s uncovered blue eye before he slowly pulled his grasp free.

“I like your costume,” Jack said with a laughing grin, taking the seat beside him. “I guess great minds think alike.”

“Yeah, it would seem so.”

They sipped their drinks and brought their attention back to the dance floor, focusing on the dancing men. Two male couples occupied the floor now. The first couple on the left mesmerized Dante. The way they swayed together suggested that they knew each other intimately. They touched each other openly, kissed and gazed into each other’s eyes. It was very sensual.

Dante sipped from his glass and turned his attention to the other couple, a lead male and a more subservient male. The submissive wore black shorts and nothing else. The shorts rode high on his muscular thighs as he pressed his leg into the groin of his Dom and kissed the length of his master’s chest. Topless as well, the dominant male wore sheer genie-like pants. His face expressed pleasure in the acts of his passive partner.

Dante watched the sub move from one nipple to the other, feeling his own nipples tingle in response. He cut a look at Jack and saw him smiling as he gazed at the couple also. Taking a long drink from his cup, Dante shifted in his seat trying to relieve the pressure in his pants at his growing erection. Bringing his attention back to the couple, he turned just in time to see the aggressive male spin his sub around and bent him forward.

A soft gasp left Dante’s lips as the Dom slid his hands down his sub’s back. To the beat of the music, he ground slowly against the submissive’s ass as he held onto his shoulders. The move demanded Dante’s attention, calling to his baser needs that had been asleep from lack of a lover for over two years. He envied the man being dominated by his lover. Visions of himself being bent over like that with a strong and powerful lover behind him worked its way into his mind.

Many times he had been told that he was a large and intimidating looking man. The men he often attracted expected him to top them for that very reason. Dante was an attentive lover and did what his lovers requested of him, but he found that it was difficult for those same men to do him the way he wanted to be done. Not too many men were large enough or strong enough to take him that way. It led to dysfunction in his sex life and rendered his relationships far and few between. He thought he heard Jack’s voice near his ear trying to cut through his fantasy, but it wasn’t until he felt a touch on his hand that he turned his way.

“Huh? I’m sorry, did you say something, Jack?”

“Yeah, I was asking you if you were here alone.”

Dante nodded. “Yes, I am, but I’m actually here working.”

“Working?”

Dante nodded, sipping from his glass. “Yes, I am a reporter and I’m doing a story on this party.”

The sinister gleam in Jack’s smile came and went before he responded. “Sounds like a fun job. Going to parties and writing about them, I could get paid for doing that. Maybe you should have some extra fun to add a little spice to your article.”

Dante looked away from the dance floor to Jack. His voice was soft and smooth, filled with the lust Dante was feeling at the moment. Could he have a little fling with this cute little pirate? He wasn’t really his type, but…

“Maybe I could.”