Endre despised the garden at Villa Erbbe. The grounds had dark, secret corners and statuary so lewd they put the orgies within to shame. Everywhere he looked, men carved in marble coupled with each other and also with beasts, trees, and monsters, and served in every possible suggestive way as fountains.
Because the statues were displayed in open places, most guests preferred the garden’s famous maze of yews pruned into fantastic corridors, box chambers and blind paths that had, over the years, gained a reputation for providing furtive delights with total strangers. One night in the maze had so annoyed Endre he had refused to go in it since, insisting on conducting his assignations with Yanni on a bench in a more secluded alcove beyond the pergola, home also to a frightening statue of a boar beset by hounds. There Yanni would pass him the promised message, or he would pass one to Yanni, and the whore would collect his fee in the form of kisses Endre barely tolerated.
One time and one time only, Endre had gone beyond kissing and allowed Yanni to handle his cock. His member had stiffened in the youth’s skilled hand, swelling hard and hot to the point of leaking, while he permitted the Uttoran whore to worry his mouth with hungry kisses. He’d let it go on too long before breaking that embrace. The heated exchange had flattered and strangely excited him, but it also resulted in Yanni’s endless pleas to be allowed something more.
“You know what you are? You’re worse than a whore,” Yanni snarled. He sat a foot away on the bench, having had enough of being rebuffed for one night. “You’re a tease. You lure men in and you give them nothing back. Kissing you is like kissing a marble statue.”
There were plenty of those about.
“Then why don’t you stop asking me to do it?”
Yanni looked sullen in the pale light of a scythe-thin moon. “Because you’re still the most gods-damned beautiful man I’ll ever kiss. And it’s something of a thrill being the first man to ever taste your gorgeous mouth.” He sighed. “There’s another party next week, at the house of Treso Montobarde. A celebration of the day of Rhodos, the god of horses. It gets…a bit raunchy. They use real horses.”
Endre looked at him in disbelief.
Yanni simply shrugged. “I take that as meaning I must find another escort.”
He nodded. “I’ll let you know if I need to meet you.”
Yanni stood, then bent over to kiss him once more. Endre tensed at the touch of those wax-tinted lips sliding over his and clamped his hand over the young man’s wrist, preventing Yanni from fondling his cock through the fabric of his trousers. “I don’t care what god weeps, keep your fucking hands to yourself!” he hissed.
“If I did that, no one would believe you at all, you bottomless pit of prig! I don’t know why I bother.” Yanni felt for the message he had been given and tucked it deeper into the hidden pocket inside his jacket. Strands of black hair slashed in front of his furious, kohl-rimmed eyes. “I’m not getting nearly enough out of this to make up for the risk. The emperor gets wind of this, I’m a dead man, whatever the hell he decides to do about it. Next time, bring gold.” He stalked off, gravel crunching under his feet.
Endre blew out a sigh of exasperation. His father was going to be pissed about having to pay coin. The old man would conveniently overlook the fact he’d asked his son to engage in a sordid charade, suffering the company of people he despised and acting little better than a whore himself—and for what? Pieces of paper? He didn’t even know what the messages he smuggled back and forth from their prison of a villa contained.
Freedom, his father kept telling him. Freedom from the idol-worshiping pagans who had conquered their country and removed them to this wretched land. Freedom from an emperor who had killed his brother and would whore him and his sisters to his brutish nobles. Yes, that was what he was doing this for. For his sisters and himself.
Glad Yanni was gone, Endre unbuttoned his trousers and pulled his cock out and exposed the cock cuff he wore strapped snugly about his balls and shaft. He quickly slipped the slender bit of paper into the cuff’s hidden pocket. Yanni had come up with that contraption also, and showed him how to do it the first time. Thus far, it had worked well to conceal his true reason for seeking out men. He refastened his trouser buttons.
“Freedom,” he murmured, wondering if he would ever feel free again.
“Your cover has flown, princeling.”
The dark voice bore within it a rumble like distant thunder and Endre’s head whipped up. The half-clothed figure of the foreign prince from the house emerged from the shadow of the pergola.
“Go away,” he said.
“I don’t think so. You need an excuse. No one is going to believe you are here for the sex unless you act the part. I just heard your boyfriend tell you to bugger off.”
What else might he have heard? Or seen? Endre regretted he had no weapon. As imperial captives, the Sebboyan royals were not allowed such. Dry-mouthed, he rose to leave.
“No,” Arshad said softly. His hand shot out and grabbed Endre by the wrist. Big and hard, like the man, that hand meant business.
“Fuck you!” Endre snarled, keeping his voice low and yanking back.
To his surprise, the other man did not release him. He only gripped harder. He also grabbed Endre’s other wrist and propelled him backward, suddenly off-balance, against one of the pergola’s granite pillars.
“Stay,” the man growled in his deep, barely accented voice. Holding Endre’s wrists pinned to the stone over his head, he pressed his body hard against his captive’s. His face slid beside Endre’s, rasping his cheek with bristles of beard. Full, lush lips caressed his ear, planting soft kisses, a hot tongue tracing its edges. “We’re being watched.”
Shit. Had Yanni circled back? One of his two guards wanting to see why he had not returned with the whore? It hardly mattered. The lips that had been softly plying his ear, driving him mad, had just found his mouth. What branded him now was raw and hot, urgent with need. Arshad sucked at his lips, seeking access and finding it, pulling from him the attraction he had fought against for weeks. Endre’s cock thickened with arousal, pushing against the body trapping his against the pillar.
Footsteps sounded on the gravel path, stopped, waited. Someone was there, listening for sure and maybe watching. His guard should have interrupted; Yanni surely would have. This had to be someone else. Frozen by indecision, Endre allowed Arshad’s lips to continue their artful assault. Sweep by sweep, those firm lips commanded his and he resisted less than he should have, kissing back, teeth on teeth, tongues warring as he fought for control. One of them would soon have to breathe and he broke first, throwing his head back, gasping for air. With a triumphant growl, Arshad began pressing hot kisses along the column of his exposed throat.
“Oh, Prophets!” Endre gasped. Overhead, moonlight spilled through the tangle of vines. He turned his head to the right and saw Arshad’s knotted hand manacling his wrist. Dense hair crushed against his cheek, the man’s mouth hot on his collarbone. His cock, already hard enough to be uncomfortable, stiffened painfully against his trousers and he groaned with need and discomfort from the now tight cock cuff.
Arshad ceased his kisses and slammed his body forcefully against him. “Everything you want,” he said, “I can give it to you. Every…fucking…thing.” Those powerful thighs ground his pelvis against Endre’s, rolling cock against stiff cock.
“Damn it, stop,” Endre grated, barely a whisper. Was their watcher still there? He didn’t even know. Worse, he no longer cared. His cock was on a rampage, straining against the cuff secured around his shaft and balls. He jammed his hips forward, pushing back, increasing the contact and the pleasure.
“Not on your life. You’ve been asking for this for weeks. This is what you’re here for, what you need. Not someone small and soft. You want it large and hard.” Arshad bent his head near again, lips brushing his ear, and murmured, “Say it, princeling. Let them hear you say you want it.”
That big hard cock was grinding against his now, creating such sweet friction he knew he would never last. Endre groaned against his clenched teeth. His head sagged forward, bumping Arshad’s shoulder, golden hair spilling across midnight velvet. He was on the fucking edge.
“Say it.” That dark voice vibrated softly beside his ear.
No, he wouldn’t do it. He wasn’t going to say it, no matter what his damn cock was feeling. He shook his head.
“Stubborn,” Arshad grunted. Taking the edge of Endre’s ear between his teeth, he gently bit.
“Ow!” When Endre’s head rocked back in surprise, those predatory eyes seized his with purpose before Arshad’s mouth descended, this time fiercely. His mouth was sealed by those lips, his breath trapped, as captive as he was. Something thick and hot, the other man’s tongue, thrust between his teeth to penetrate and fill him. Already lost to the demanding rhythm of the cock bumping and rubbing against his, he exploded, bucking against Arshad’s body as his shaft bunched and semen jetted into the confines of his trousers. His howl of protest and surrender was muffled by the supple, plundering muscle filling his mouth.
Arshad released his kiss and gazed down at him. Gasping for air, Endre was certain he looked as stunned as he felt. “I need more,” the Tabari prince said. The bastard hadn’t come. Releasing Endre’s left wrist, he used his right hand to work open his trouser flap, releasing his straining monster from its cage. The gorgeous cock men had been admiring all evening emerged into its owner’s hand.
Drained from his orgasm, Endre sagged against the pillar with one wrist still pinned to the stone and watched, captivated, as Arshad’s hand closed around the thick shaft. God, what a cock! Big as Arshad’s hand was, it only covered half the length as it closed about the girth. That dark shaft challenged the thin moonlight, stabbing through those curled fingers with every thrust of Arshad’s hips and tug of his hand, the long strokes pulling back the foreskin so that the head emerged from his fist like a primordial creature seeking release.
One-eyed, dripping, leaping toward freedom.
Forcing his eyes away from the sight, he found Arshad’s devouring gaze fixed firmly on his face. Desire flooded the strong, masculine features with a force that slammed into Endre’s gut. When he saw those eyes slit, Arshad’s head fall back, lips parted with a groan, he looked in time to see a fountain of semen shoot in silvery plumes across the pergola. Arshad’s hand pumped weakening spurts of ejaculate before he ceased, his fingers releasing and his cock slowly bowing toward the ground.
“You are even more beautiful in person than from memory,” Arshad said, sounding contented.
“You bastard!” Endre raged. “Get your filthy hands off me!” He tore his wrist free from the man’s relaxed grip and whipped around, looking through the shadows to see if anyone was watching. A quick search revealed no one. “Damn it! You arrogant bastard! Did you stage it, just so you could say you fucked me? Do I look like one of Pontio’s whores?”
“No, you look like a young god. And I haven’t fucked you yet, though I find it fascinating that you think I have.” Arshad neatly tucked his softened cock back into his trousers.
Endre didn’t care how the man defined what he’d done. “I don’t care what you think! It’s wrong! You stay away from me. Far. Away.”
“Why? Because you’re standing there with ejaculate staining your trousers? Believe me, princeling, your charade will be far more convincing after Pontio and his guests take notice upon your return to the house.”
Those words plunged him into ice water. Shit! He’d just engaged in a public display! It didn’t matter who’d been watching in the bushes or what they’d seen, word of this was bound to get out. Pontio’s guests would all know he’d spent his semen with a man. They were probably snickering already about how he wanted their cocks. Except he didn’t…he wasn’t like them at all. But they’d talk anyway and other people might notice, too, when he returned to his family. The villa’s guards always fondled him, patting his thighs for weapons or notes. And word might get back somehow to his father, then…
“Ah, hell.” Shaking, he moved over to the bench and slowly sank onto its cool surface. When Arshad moved to join him, he shot him a hard glare. “Stay away! I told you. Go.”
“You’re not concerned about Pontio.”
He was not about to discuss what he was concerned about with the man who had just forced him into a world of confusion. In the moonlit garden just beyond the pergola’s shadow, the bronze statue of the boar and two dogs looked white and vivid, slashed by black shadows like wounds. Ignoring his warning, Arshad sat on the bench, though he made a point of taking a seat at the end and not beside him.
“Whatever you are doing, you are navigating dangerous waters, princeling,” the man said, his low voice stern but in no way cold. “You do not belong here. You may not be safe.”
Endre kept his silence. He knew better than to think this man cared. What did anyone care? The only reason he wasn’t a pleasure slave to some man already was because his father had sold Peta to the emperor in return for leaving the other royal siblings uncompromised.
“I’ll be all right,” he said to Arshad. “It’s not what you think.”
The man cocked his head, studying him. “How old are you?”
“Twenty one years.”
“You look younger. Well, I am older, but not by so much. Just enough to have learned lessons you have not yet tasted. The world is full of men willing to use you badly.” Those black eyes swept his. “Do not let them.”
A chill shot down his spine. This man was trying to issue a warning—based on what? An assault? Or the inescapable fact they’d been aware of each other for weeks, Endre averting his face every time Arshad caught him looking? Everything about the man intrigued him. The Tabari prince was tall with exotic skin, striking features and thick, fat curls of black hair. He looked as anchored and solid as earth itself, completely without doubt as to who or what he was. What was there to doubt? Arshad was prince, though not heir, to a kingdom firmly allied with Uttor. Moreover, he was a scholar of wide renown, respected for his published work on celestial movement. At two parties in the last three weeks, Endre had tested the limits of his curfew and Yanni’s patience just to continue listening to the man discourse with other guests. Endre would have leaped at the chance to sit with him, talk with him…about anything but this.
“Just leave me alone!” he demanded. Bolting, he walked quickly away from the pergola and the deep-eyed prince who remained seated in its shadows.
When he entered the house, he saw at once how the other guests smirked and snickered. Their Uttoran eyes shared long looks and sly smiles. From a corner near the wine table, Yanni glared at him between narrowed lids so thickly lined with kohl they looked bruised by accusation. They all knew. It hardly mattered how. It could be anything—the stickiness soaking through his trouser front, the smell of semen or that his lips were swollen from Arshad’s hard kisses, or even that someone had seen and told. Whether he had been fucked or not, he was indelibly linked to a man.