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About the author:
Azriel is a best selling author of several romance novels she has written as a ghostwriter for other pen names as well as a writer of young adult novels under her given name.
An adoptive mother to two almost three gorgeous girls, Azriel balances her time between exciting or exotic places her mind takes her and scary things like elementary school, middle school and soon preschool for her teen, tween, and eventual toddler. She also spends a lot of time playing with her kids, dreaming and drinking wine.
When she and her family aren't dancing, creating, or water fighting in the yard, they are on an adventure around the world. Come take a journey…
What inspired you to write your book?
I saw a great movie called the Sex of Angels, it's a Spanish film about a young menage and I just loved it. I thought the characters were so real and wonderful, so I set out to create a similar vibe. The story is very different, but the characters are amazing and I love the way they love each other.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Dane Elias Ellery, Prince of Gestall Peninsula
The setting sun glowed over pristine white buildings overlooking the raging shore. The contrast of glaring white to sparkling blue would be forever immortalized by artists and painters as the kingdom’s iconic skyline. Gestall Peninsula, one of the five fingers; the Isle of Gray bands, Andula, Tramain, and Kaiymn, was the wealthiest and most populated of the peninsulas. Soon, the country would be his to rule. Nearing thirty, the kingdom was always his destiny. He was excited as a boy wanting to fill his father’s shoes, but that time had long passed. He dreaded the crown. Though Dane knew he had to take his place as king, he wished his youth and freedom could last a bit longer.
He watched as sailors brought their ships to port and shopkeepers closed down their businesses. As modern as their country was, their isolation from the rest of the world made them hesitant to give up their simple ways. Markets on Sundays, a lovely stroll in the afternoon, books over the internet, live music, and theaters rather than streaming and downloading. Drinks and face to face talks were preferred to texting and emailing. They had the modern conveniences, just chose a less complicated life. Perhaps Dane could bring their country forward into a more modern age, but it may not have been worth the effort.
He was lost in a lazy pondering when Asher bound in without knocking, even though the door was locked. He wasn’t keeping Asher out exactly, yet he didn’t need distractions. The prince’s nerves were already grated, and he wasn’t ready to withstand Asher’s brand of enthusiasm. Dane’s father, the king, had planned to discuss the prince’s succession that evening which he had hinted at doing for months. A hand-delivered, hand-written letter with the king’s seal appeared by messager just hours before. Dane knew the official protocols. The king’s painstaking effort to follow official convention meant it was time for the talk Dane had been dreading most of his life. While he and the king lived together in the castle, his father’s wing was quite a hike across the palace. Having a messenger send Dane a letter with a formal invitation to dine with his father only meant one thing… He was following the ancient succession rituals.
The king had mentioned several times that he was getting on in years and wanted to be free of the burdens of ruling the Gestall Peninsula. Governing the kingdom, though small, was an arduous task. Made by ancient bloodlines and even older cultural morals with antiquated ideals, Gestall was a place of veiled unrest. While Dane wanted to be the catalyst for change, it would be long in coming.
Asher plopped down on the large sectional couch in the sunken living area of Dane’s expansive room. The palace grounds were massive as the castle and its environs stood at the top of the only hill in Gestall Peninsula. On the grounds were two palaces, one which was the king’s residence and the other a vacant structure being held for his son’s reign. Surrounding the castles were lush gardens thick with flowers and trees. A winding path sliding down the back of the mountain led to a private marina and a fleet of boats used only by the monarchs. Islands dotted the circumambient waters of the finger aisles where both Dane and Asher spent many a romantic evening walking in the surf or boating on the sea. There were plenty of places for them to escape the prying eyes of the castle guards and the kingdom’s gossips.
“There’s a rumor going around the squad that your dear old dad is going to abdicate next month. They have security tightening up everywhere and the Monterey Gray Bands are being watched.” Asher did love the drama of palace life. “Soon, I’m going to be sleeping with a king!” He flopped back on the prince’s couch with a smug expression plastered on his face.
“Yes, that’s why I’m trying to get ready to meet my father which I’m finding difficult to do with you here. I order you to leave! I’m finding it very hard to concentrate with you laying there… Looking so sexy.”
“Why are you worried? You’re the only son and heir and your bloodline goes back to a time before time, you’re golden.” Asher propped himself up on the cushions and somehow managed to look even hotter with his straw-colored hair cut in a military fashion complimenting his deep green eyes.
They were eyes the prince had peered into since he was a young boy when the two of them would prank the prince’s nanny together. Asher’s eyes sparkled a more vibrant shade of green when he smiled. They grew up in the castle together with Asher being the young prince’s only playmate. As a son of the commanding general and just one year younger than the prince, it was inevitable they’d become companions. Their attraction to one another grew over time so when Asher enlisted as Dane’s bodyguard they had already crossed the threshold of friendship to something more.
“No, but the Monterey Gray Bands could start a war, or assassinate me or whatever they would have to do to get their asses back on the throne. So, I’ll meet with my dear old dad and make sure my coronation is secured before he decides my cousin might be a better fit. My cousin is a brutal man as you know, it would be disastrous for the kingdom if he ruled. Ever since my aunt and uncle were murdered by the Gray Bands, my cousin has been bent on destruction and revenge. Gestall Peninsula would be dripping in blood if we let Sean have the throne.”
“Can you blame him, though?” Asher’s eyes narrowed into a smirk that made him all the sexier. “You’ve always been so paranoid. I’m watching your back. I won’t let you get assassinated, and if any of those skinny, beer-drinking, slugturd Gray Bands have the notion to do anything more than bemoan their missed opportunity, I’ll make sure our army finishes them off.” Suddenly, Asher’s demeanor became serious and incited.
“And you are too boastful.” Dane ruffled Asher’s short-cropped hair on his way to retrieve his tie from the dresser.
Asher grabbed the prince’s hand, rough and dangerous, just as Dane liked. “Well don’t stay out all night.” He bit the palm of Dane’s hand hard to make his point.
“I don’t plan to. We have a ballet to attend tonight.” The prince extracted his arm and grabbed Asher’s hair pulling him forward for a passionate kiss.
“Do we have enough time?” Asher’s voice was breathless… Frantic the moment they broke apart.
“After,” is all Dane said as he dashed out of the room fitting his tie around his neck.
Technically, Asher should have accompanied the prince, but it was his day off. He didn’t work when he wasn’t supposed to because people would be more suspicious of the two of them than they already were.
Two unfamiliar knights escorted Dane to the formal dining room where he met his father sitting alone at the far end of their enormous banquet table. The room was voluminous and empty, just like their lives. Perhaps they’d pass each other in the halls on a rare occasion or they’d meet at court where his father sat on his throne with Dane behind him. Matters of public interest were still conducted in the throne room as they had for centuries. Its ancient marble floors polished to a sheen would be lined with wooden chairs and every manner of being would be sitting in them waiting for an audience with the king. In recent years, however, cameras recorded the event, and tickets were sold to those who wanted a chance for the king’s immediate ruling. Outside of those infrequent occasions, Dane never interacted with his father.
“Ah, Dane.” The king stood and gestured to the chair beside him. “Come join me.”
Being Gestall Peninsula's ruling monarch, the king was more often the kingdom’s sovereign lord than Dane’s father. He hadn’t been a father since the queen died many years before. Her death killed the family she sought to build and so when Dane’s mother took her last breath, King Denton abandoned the notion of fatherhood.
“Father,” Dane extended his arms for a brief firm hug.
They exchanged a quick hard slam of bodies then returned to distance and normalcy. Each took their seats as servants poured wine. Moments later bowls of soup were brought in and set before them. The king didn’t stand on ceremony, it wasn’t going to be a cozy family meal.
“I’m sure you already know why I’ve called you to dinner,” he started.
“Is it not to enjoy my company?” Dane asked with sarcastic venom.
“I’m sure you wouldn’t have rushed right over here if it were.” There was some truth to that. “So, I have the official documents and this is my formal confirmation. I will be abdicating the throne and you are my first choice as successor, but I have conditions.”
Dane knew exactly what those ‘conditions’ would be.
“And they are?” Dane allowed his father to set the appalling conditions that would ruin his life.
“You are to take a wife.” Yep, those were the conditions Dane expected.
The kingdom was ruled by fear and prejudice. The prince didn’t necessarily think of Asher as husband material and Asher didn’t want to be a spouse, but Dane despised the idea of marrying a woman for the sake of the crown. Both Asher and the prince liked women, sexually and otherwise, that wasn’t the issue. Dane considered himself a person who loved whomever struck his fancy. He and Asher were having fun. Both were just over thirty and didn’t care to start families or settle down. They liked their wild nights and more they enjoyed a solid relationship. Neither of them was interested in anything more than that.
“And what wife am I to take?” Dane antagonized his father.
“Any appropriate wife, I don’t care and I assume, neither do you. I have a list of approved bloodlines and women who are of childbearing age. You may select from that list or find a commoner. You will pick a woman, contract to marry her, and produce an heir to the throne. Your mother would have wanted you to marry for love, but I have no preference. Marry because that’s what you must do to be king. I already know you have a male lover. He will never be accepted, and so, if you want the throne, you will concede to my command. If you don’t want it, carry on as you are and I’ll enlist my brother’s son.” Damn, he was so problematic.
“When do I have to get married?” Dane’s voice remained calm and steady.
It was the way things had always been done for hundreds of years. His mother and father had a contracted marriage. The king was forty and his mother only nineteen when she arrived at court to be his bride. The age gap created a minor scandal, but Dane’s dashing father had held many a young woman’s heart, and his mom, being the most beautiful woman in the world, captured it.
The Monterey Gray Bands were Dane’s mother’s kin. Their marriage was an attempt to pacify the ancient rift between the two royal families. The Gray Bands had ancient royal blood, yet their unsavory, uncivilized and monstrous nature, made it impossible for them to reclaim their place. They had tried many times but were overcome by the Gestall Ellery Clan, and so the peninsula became the jurisdiction of the Ellery monarchy, and the Gray Bands retreated into the hills for hundreds of years. The queen was raised in a boarding school away from her brethren making her more refined and amenable than her kin. King Denton’s father had suggested the match to stop the Gray Bands from continuing their attacks on the Ellery clan.
Their marriage had been surprisingly happy until the queen died in a boating accident when Dane was four. The ship catapulted over an angry wave, knocking Queen Helena into the sea. They recovered her body and a period of darkness veiled the peninsula for many years. No one thought the king would have ever outlived his wife. He never remarried and withered into the grouchy old man sitting across from Dane prepared to squelch his sexuality so that he might finally retire into oblivion.
“I want you wed before your coronation in four months’ time,” the king proclaimed without jest.
“I’m to find and marry a woman in four months?” It was beyond ridiculous.
“I’ve seen you accomplish many things, I know you can do this,” the king encouraged.
“Why? Why can’t I just be a king without a wife?” This was his greatest complaint, why pretend?
“Because our country is small and always in threat of invasion. We own, as you know, the largest amount of wealth of the shoreline kingdoms. We have a salt mine, an armory of gold, and artisans of legendary reputation, so our wealth is greater than all the other lands combined. This is why you must keep up appearances. We cannot look weak. Not being married and not having a family can be seen as a fault and it will draw attention to you. Also, your cousin is power-hungry. He would be more than happy to take your place and run our kingdom into the ground. He will make your lack of a wife his platform to dethrone you. Don’t give him ammunition for his ambition.
“I don’t care if you don’t love the woman nor do I care if you ever attend to her other than to produce heirs. Just be sure to house her in your palace, have a child with her within a year of taking your vows, and pay her enough attention and money to remain silent. Also, divorce is not an option, she will have to be prepared to stay with you until the end. I’ll make sure enough resources are made available to pay her well. I also suggest you plan on having more than one offspring, so you have choices…” Was that a threat?
Suddenly, the prince didn’t feel much like eating, even when the beef rounds with garlic butter and blue cheese sauce, his favorite meal, was served, he merely picked at it.
“So, what say you son? I want to have the papers drawn up tonight allowing you enough time to start your search. Otherwise, I will regretfully look to my nephew,” King Denton said as he dove into his meal.
“What can I say? If I want to be king, I have to agree to this. So, yes, I want to be king.” Dane reluctantly took a bite of his food but it didn’t sit well in his stomach.
He thought of how much he hated the backward beliefs and traditions their kingdom clung to. That would change with his rule, he made a silent vow to make their world better and that made his stomach more amenable to food.
“Fine, then I’ll have my lawmakers draw up the papers and send a messenger to your chambers with a list of eligible women to wed.” All so matter of fact, for an instant Dane actually pitied the poor creature who would soon be his wife.
For the rest of dinner the two monarchs engaged in banal banter discussing matters neither of them cared much about. The king peppered their talk with warnings that cautioned Dane about letting his relationship with Asher get out of hand, though he praised Dane’s discretion. The prince waited for his father to ask him why he had become infatuated with his childhood best friend and finally dig deeper into his son’s life, but he left the conversation at threats and warnings. They shared port and a cigar while looking over the grounds from the palace terrace and that was the evening. Elated, the prince returned to his room to find Asher flipping through channels on the television fully naked on his couch.
“That took you long enough.” Asher’s lithe body was sculpted to perfection, the prince thought.
“There had to be some ceremony for it. He can’t just say ‘oy son, here’s the kingdom’ and toss me his crown. I thought it was rather short considering.” Dane ducked out of his shirt and discarded his dress trousers leaving him in his underwear.
After changing into a more comfortable pair of sleep pants, Dane pulled out a pair for Asher and tossed them across the room at him, hitting his head.
“What the hell are these?” He stared at the clothing as if Dane had thrown a knife at him.
“A messenger is coming and I can’t have you sitting here naked.” Dane plopped down beside Asher, grabbed the remote, and turned the TV to the news, ignoring his own mounting arousal.
“Arghh,” Asher let out an exasperated sigh leaving the pants on the couch as he stood.
“Shouldn’t take too long,” Dane said, ignoring his lover. “It’s just a messenger.”
“Why is anyone coming, can’t you meet them tomorrow? And why do you watch that rubbish?” Frustrated, Asher went to the bar in the parlor and poured himself a drink. “You want something? Snow vodka and soda? Beer? I need a drink.”
The hiss of soda sizzled as it hit the glass.
“I’ll take whatever you’re having.” Asher was right, the news was dismal.
The trite things the kingdom found fascination with, murders, propaganda against the poor. Bigotry and speculation fueled its continuous prejudice and violent opposition to anything outside of staid mores. There was always zealous support for the king and the kingdom, which bored the prince as he studied the mundanity of the day. Asher came back to the couch with two glasses brimming with snow vodka, a glistening hard alcohol made with fermented grains and anise flower, and soda.
“Cheers.” Asher touched his glass on Dane’s as the prince contemplated how his world was just about to spin out of control.
He’d be married and while casual nights spent drinking with Asher wouldn’t be too altered, their time together and the freedom they shared behind closed doors would.
“Curse it. I’ll lock the door.” Dane got up and did just that, then turned to Asher. “Get in bed!”
Asher happily guzzled his drink. “Finally.”
Dane left his cocktail for later as he tossed off his pants and joined Asher on the bed desperate to rid himself of angst and anxiety. He kissed Asher’s stubbled chin and soft lips as he laid his body over Asher’s and spread his legs. Reaching over to the bedside table, Asher pulled out a bottle of oil, slathered some on his hand, preparing himself for Dane and what he’d been so desperate for all evening.
“I want to be inside you,” Dane rubbed his erection along Asher’s hardness increasing his need for his lover.
“Apparently, you’ve been wanting this as much as I have,” Asher laughed as his hand began a soft pumping seduction of Dane’s aroused sex.
“My father has me so on edge, I’m ready to rip into you, sorry.” The prince’s body was tense and hardened, but Asher’s careful attention drew his focus away from frustrating things.
“No need for an apology, I’m always down for a little ravishing. I’m good when you are,” Asher said as Dane pulled him closer.
“I need this,” Dane moaned, drawing toward the sensitive cleft between Asher’s pouty ass.
“I need it too,” Asher breathed as Dane slowly pressed himself into Asher’s body enjoying the feel of him.
Dane moved Asher’s legs over his shoulders pushing in deeper and thrusted and pistoned his frustrations away. Dane’s back shimmered with perspiration and his body shuddered when he found release a mere fifteen minutes after their session had begun. After Dane dragged himself out of the heaven Asher provided, he took a moment to breathe. Closing his eyes he couldn’t imagine changing what the two of them shared. Asher too was breathless, yet unaware of the wager his lover had just made for their kingdom. Even as Dane trailed kisses down his warm belly to take his still aroused sex into his mouth, Asher didn’t know how completely their world was going to change. Dane focused on Asher’s hardness and did his best to catapult his lover towards a mind-blowing orgasm. When Dane’s mouth finally eased away from Asher, his hand finished the job.
“God… Dane, Ah.” Asher panted and sucked in air. “Every single time… You just…” Asher climaxed hard in Dane’s hand, his sex shuddering and convulsing with his release.
“You do the same.” Dane slapped Asher’s ass as he rolled away from his lover and sighed.
Their sex had been hard, hot, and fast, the only way Dane could have had it that night with all the stress he was under. He looked over to Asher. He could endure his father and perhaps make accommodations to neglect a wife, but how was he going to tell Asher that he was about to betray everything they ever were?
Asher Longbrook, Personal Security to Prince Dane Ellery of Gestall Peninsula
Dane had mounted Asher with the kind of furiousiousness he only used when he was distracted. Asher feared that distraction. Was there a danger that loomed over their heads? A prince could hide in the shadows and have a male lover, but not a king. Asher was a fool to think his lover wouldn’t eventually have to give him up. His worries weren’t unfounded; the distant look on Dane’s face spoke volumes. There was something he wasn’t saying, but he couldn’t face it without more alcohol and perhaps another go at it in bed.
“I want another drink!” Asher announced needing the buzz of inebriation to block out his dread.
“We have the ballet tonight remember? I can’t be inebriated or I might fall asleep,” Dane teased. “You have another though, just keep your wits about you.”
Asher got out of bed naked and flushed from their lovemaking, which had set his soul on fire, as it always had. Having Dane in his life the way he did ignited passion, fire, jealousy, anger, lust, love…it was so complicated. Asher buoyed on rumors that swirled about them. He volleyed between feelings of insecurity knowing his bisexual lover would one day leave him, and possessiveness of wanting Dane to himself exclusively. He wondered if another man could satisfy him the way the prince did. Even their short heated quickie was some of the best sex he’d ever had. And would he love him as much… Because his love for Dane had no equal. Just then a messenger came to the door.
“In the closet, quick.” Dane looked at Asher with panic in his eyes as he dipped his legs into sleep pants and threw on a cotton robe.
“That’s novel!” Asher laughed as he opened the door to the closet room that held Dane’s garments.
“Shut up,” Dane laughed.
“So this is what being in the closet looks like.” Asher’s words stung more than they should have.
Dane had no reply, he merely answered the door with an officious and stately air. Asher heard very little while tucked away, but soon enough the prince retrieved his lover from the closet.
“There’s something I have to confess,” Dane started and Asher’s blood heated in his veins.
“What?” He could hardly hold back his nerves.
“There are some conditions that my father has set for my succession. They are not surprising but are somewhat inconvenient.”
“Inconvenient for who?” Asher glared at the prince. He was a soldier prepared to die in battle, he didn’t need a coddled and over-groomed prince to dance around words. He could take them; he was ready. “Well, get on with it? What are they?”
Dane hated when Asher became impatient, because he knew he would be hurt at best by what the prince would be forced to do. Dane had never considered the thought that perhaps Asher would leave him if the arrangement became too uncomfortable. Asher didn’t have anyone else, but his pride was mighty and perhaps enough to end them if their relationship were threatened too much. He sat beside Asher on the bed, he was still naked and despite the vigorous sex, still slightly aroused. Dane gently stroked Asher’s leg, feeling the curling golden hairs, pricking his fingers, raised in anticipation.
“I must take a wife.” Dane said without emotion. “I have here,” he took up the envelope, “the list of all the acceptable maidens who are eligible for my hand in marriage. The lady I choose will sit on my throne as queen. I know this is shocking for you, Asher, and I understand you might be upset. The good news is my father knows about us and cares very little about what happens behind these doors. All he wants is a woman to sit beside me as a queen and produce heirs to the throne so there is no threat to our monarchy.” His voice took a haughty turn as if its regality would be enough to tame the raging fire of jealousy burning on Asher’s flesh. “I’ll not touch her but to conceive a child. I promise. I want nothing to do with this queen who will be foisted upon me. She certainly will not have anything like what you and I share, I promise.” Suddenly Dane was very serious.
“Do you promise she will sit in her room unattended?” Asher asked to ease the sting.
“I'll put a child in her and do nothing more.” Dane crossed his heart as if making some kind of oath.
“Sit where she may, unattended or not, she won’t be your queen!” Asher commented in anger, throwing Dane’s hand from him. “Why did you agree to such a thing?” Asher’s anger rose and choked in his throat.
“Oh come on now, it’s not all that dire. Maybe we can find one we’ll both enjoy. This doesn’t have to be dismal.” Dane was trying to be supportive, but the situation, though not unexpected, was far more than dismal. “You know I don’t want to do this, but perhaps one woman in here is exciting enough to share.”
“No, I want you to choose the ugliest one. I hope she is so hideous we can’t even bear to look at her,” Asher grumbled. “Pick a hag and I’ll be happy!”
“Why on earth would we want an ugly one? I certainly am not ready to give up on women. I do still like them very much, Asher, and I know you’ve found your pleasure with them. Perhaps a tolerable one might be more fun?”
“A tolerable one might get more of your attention than I’m willing to give over.” Suddenly, Dane too was vexed.
“I’ve told you, Asher, your place with me is not in threat. You’re my lover and will be my lover when I’m king. I promise you that. I must do this, though, to secure the crown. If you were a good friend, you’d understand that. Let’s see what we have here shall we?” Dane sat on the edge of the bed and opened the envelope containing a binder with glossy pictures and pages of information. “We only have to find one.”
“Give me the book.” Asher grabbed the binder out of Dane’s hands and flipped through the pages flopping back onto the bed.
There were black and white photographs of twenty or so women, all young adults. Some were, to his great joy, rather ghastly with their plain faces and scowling looks. It may not have even been their biology that made them so unattractive as much as their upbringing and the dower rules they had to abide. “How about this one?” Asher flipped the book around and pointed to a sour faced, bitter looking woman named Alberta Lymons.
“Really? Asher, please consider this,” the prince scolded.
“What? She’s a librarian in the royal library, she likes books and reading, she seems quiet, homely, and self-contained. She won’t care if you don’t have her every night and the bang you do give her to make those babies will be like the winter holiday and her birthday all in one.” A devilish grin crossed Asher’s face as he leaned back on the pillows, feeling himself become more aroused.
Dane walked over to the bed and snatched the book from Asher and read the text aloud.
“Alberta Lymons granddaughter of Knight Dooley Lymons of the Gestall River Lymons. Dooley, it says here, ‘fought valiantly at the war of Undara and lost his life leaving behind five sons who carried his legacy as’… Get this… ‘Janitorial staff for the regime.” Dane’s eyes widened.
“God bless dear ol’ Dooley Lymons he lost his life in battle and his sons were relegated to the lavatory. Makes me wonder how gallantly he fought in the war. Many of the officers in that era died of drink, perhaps which was more the case.” The impish smile remained on Asher’s face.
“Says here she’s simple, honest, and modest. Snore.” Dane tossed the book back at Asher. “Find me a sexy one.” Dane winked at him seductively.
“Why? Alberta Lymons is perfect,” Asher laughed, feeling the slightest bit better as he thumbed through the book to see many pages of women as homely and uninteresting as Alberta Lymons.
Dane noticed Asher’s delighted grin and it worried him a little, were there no suitable women in the book? “Please tell me there is one in that book that isn’t totally ghastly?”
“Not a single one.” Asher laughed. “See for yourself.”
Asher handed the book to Dane who carelessly flipped through the pages trying to find something that would ignite his interest and honestly, there weren’t any that he found attractive or appealing. “Ugh, even an interesting person would do at this point.”
Dane carefully turned each page on his second viewing of the book and again, he found nothing to excite him.
He threw the book on the bed. “Let’s get ready for the ballet.”
“Really Dane? At this hour? Who goes to the ballet at nine-thirty at night?
“It was a petition from the arts armory. We don’t fund enough struggling arts ventures. The reviews are good, excellent even, though their attendance is abysmal, per the petition I received. I think it might be fun, it’s a sensual dance between lovers at a crisis point in their relationship.
“Wow, how predictive,” Asher pouted and laid back in the bed, his sex becoming more ardent and needy.
“You mean us?” Dane jumped on him and teased, swirling his hand around Asher’s sex. “Oh we’re at a crisis point, but it isn’t our relationship in jeopardy.” Dane smoothed his hand over Asher’s balls fondling them.
“Sex is not going to solve this!” Asher stopped his hand.
“You’re right.” Dane removed his hand. “Maybe a night of seeing scantily clad men in tights will open your mind a little? Nothing sexier than a man in tights.”
“Well thank god, you’re not marrying a man, I would truly hate you if you were,” Asher was irrational, disgruntled.
“Oh please, if I were marrying a man it would be you. Be real. We’re only doing this because I have to. I am a royal, you need to take that into account. I have a job I must do, you are lucky, your job is me. I don’t have that luxury. I have to give the arts counsel my answer as to whether we will fund them or not. This failing little ballet was the winner of daddy’s philanthropic lottery, we have to go and see if it is worthy of his money. You can either come with me or stay, but I assure you if you accompany me, there will be an incredible reward.”
“And what should I do with this if we go to the ballet?” Asher playfully presented his erection to Dane.
“Put it away for later. I’m going with or without you.” Dane stood and his decision was made. “But…You may join me in the shower if you want, as long as we make it quick.”
Asher would take another quickie over nothing, so he bent over for Dane in the shower as they lathered and screwed. Each found their release in a remarkably quick amount of time. Having sex for the second time that night did take the edge off, some.
“Nothing will come between us,” Dane said as they dressed. “I know you’re worried, but I promise, you and I are solid.”
Dane wore a cape, a dress shirt, and slacks, looking like some medieval vampire with his long hair and sinister good looks. Monarchs in the Gestall Peninsula wore capes, it was weird, and yet, it was what they did. Asher, on the other hand, wore a black suit, white shirt, and tie, his normal attire when escorting the prince. Though it was his night off, he could attend special events without much controversy. There would be other guards with them, but they’d stay outside the theater.
Asher stayed relatively silent as they rode together in the back of Dane’s limousine.
“I know you have to find a wife,” Asher conceded. “Just don’t allow her to boss me around or use her position against me, okay. It’s hard enough being a bodyguard to a prince. I don’t want to be cuckold to his wife as well.”
“You will get used to this,” Dane squeezed his hand as they arrived at the theater.
Everything in Gestall Peninsula was close at hand, the theater was a mere minutes’ drive from the castle. There were outlying villages which one had to travel some distance to get to, but the main part of the city was contained within a few square miles. The cobblestone streets gave the country a quaint air of yesteryear and the ornately crafted buildings with their sculptures and intricacies furthered the ancient appeal. The theater was, like many other buildings, ornate, over-decorated, and crumbling. Asher anticipated the evening was going to be so boring he’d barely stay awake. He was getting drowsy even thinking about having to endure an entire ballet.
“Who performs a ballet at half-past ten o’clock at night? No wonder the place is abysmally bare.” Asher groaned.
“Apparently, the show is rather risqué. Didn’t you read the program? It's a nonprofit ballet company. They run classes for the kids during the day and offer scholarships to disadvantaged youths. Real shows perform here from eight until ten and then this show takes the stage. Should be interesting.” Dane’s voice dipped to a whisper as the theater lights dimmed.
“Why would I bother reading the program when I don’t even want to be here?” Asher grumbled as the audience hushed.
A spotlight illuminated a lone dancer. Her body was slight but toned, lithe, pale brown-skinned, and graciously constructed. Onstage she stood before a mirror, admiring her dress, a flowing silver sheer fabric that left nothing to the imagination. The pert orbs of her round but tight ass held the dress perfectly. She pretended to apply make-up and fix her hair before she approved of herself and walked off the stage. Beautiful, admittedly, the female body was majestic, Asher could admit that. The next was a man, in his late forties, early fifties, he was bare-chested and muscular. He wore thick tights that left little unseen. Asher felt himself stiffen, maybe Dane was right, and the ballet might be amusing after all.
When he was satisfied with his look, he too walked out to meet the girl under a spotlight. At first they were shy, he offered his hand, then they were bolder as he invited her to dance, the dance was formal at first, like the many balls the palace threw, but became more intimate as the music escalated. Soon they were slow dancing and then… Definitely not dancing at all. Asher found it rather exhilarating to see sex simulated in such an erotic, yet artistic way. He looked over to Dane when their sex act was through; the woman went to one side, depicted as her apartment, and the man went to his. Asher thought for sure Dane’s eyes would drift to the man’s side as he pretended to pleasure himself with memories of the dance, played on a projector above his head. Instead, his eyes were fixated on the woman, who danced with herself, with the same memories projected.
Though not lewd and only implied, the man’s ass moved rhythmically as he simulated masturbation, entertaining to say the least, but it was the beautifully sweet movements of the female dancer who allowed herself to be lost in her solo dance that captivated Dane. The next scene had the two dancers meeting again, shy and yet, excited. The ballet progressed to them passionately loving one another and more simulated sex. Their dynamic movements and powerful physical affirmations of their love escalated to a fight, which had the male coming to blows against the female dancer who catapulted across the room and lay in a heap on the floor when the curtain fell.
“Is it over?” Asher asked, sincerely disappointed. “What the hell?”
“No, just intermission,” Dane barely said as he grabbed for the program. “Lyricallia Mandelville, the Countess of Brackshire Heath.” A broad smile crossed his face. “I thought I’d read that.”
“Is this the female dancer?” Asher asked, feeling a tingle of worry at the base of his spine.
“Yes, she’s royalty.” Dane looked at him, glowing. “Born in Gestall Peninsula, her parents are royals, and she dances in the ballet and teaches the children in her free time.”
“Great, she’s a saint…” Then, suddenly it hit Asher. “You’re not… She’s not… Not the ballet dancer? Dane…”
“It doesn’t say she’s married.” Dane sat straighter in his chair.
“What about this…” Asher grabbed his program and quickly rifled through it, as a crowd gathered below them whispering that Dane is in fact the prince. “Michael Hodge? The dancer she’s performing with. They have some pretty hardcore scenes together…” Asher knew he was grasping at straws, and worse, he had to focus.
Too large a crowd was gathering below them, so he stood and released the curtains that enclosed the private box which sat in perfect view of the stage. Dane looked up at Asher with a twinkle in his eye.
“Michael is probably her lover. Doubtful she’ll want to suffer a prince and his bodyguard when she’s already in love.” Asher knew the moment he said it, there was slim to no chance of it being a reality.
“He’s probably gay…” Dane responded.
“And so we’re better because…?” Asher raked his hair; worried. “She’d be trading one gay man for a couple?” Though it wasn’t exactly the truth, Dane wasn’t gay, but Asher liked to rile him up whenever he could.
“Well last I checked you still liked women… And I identify as bisexual. In fact if it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be having men… I prefer women, frankly. I know for you that’s not the case. If you were to ever go off of me, you’d find another strapping man to take to your bed.” His frankness pissed Asher off.
“Well, God be thanked for me then, you lucky dog, I opened your eyes to the pleasures of men.” Asher grabbed Dane’s crotch crudely, feeling himself harden at their discourse. “You promised me this when we are done!” Asher was fairly angry.
“Not here, please.” Dane gently took his hand in a kind but scolding manner. “I have to find a wife. One look through that book of horrors has told me she won’t be in there. I have less than four months to find someone I can tolerate, please, for the love of God, let me have a chance at this, otherwise my life will be constant misery.”
“You have me,” Asher said under his breath.
“And if you were a woman, you’d be all I’d ever need.” Dane took Asher’s hand and kissed it knowing Asher had been upset by the sudden change in their circumstance.
The house lights dimmed and Asher got out of his seat to open the curtains again as the theater darkened. The female dancer was on stage again, alone, her arm in a sling. She tried to dance but had little energy. When the male dancer entered the room he barely kissed her and all but ignored her. Asher knew the feeling. The male dancer was in and out of the scene barely noticing the female dancer as she moped around in pain. An anguished dance came next with pictures of battered men and women, screaming faces and the distraught and withdrawn expressions of abuse. Asher’s stomach bottomed out.
Dane watched Lyricallia dance, her body was poetry, music, and sensuality. The power of her movements told a heartbreaking story of abandoned love. Despite knowing it was only ballet, a work of fiction, Dane found his eyes wetting with emotion. How broken she’d been. The next scene was of her lover and another woman, obviously having sex in her bed, as she entered the room, dancing as if she was carrying an armload of groceries she saw them and dropped everything to the floor, her body tumbled down with the discarded things. Her lover never even acknowledged her just kept on doing as he pleased with the other dancer. Dane felt the need to rush to her, gather her up from the floor and kiss her small broken body. He thought perhaps that might be the horrifying end of the ballet, but in the next scene she throws the male dancer out of the house, another fight ensues but she is tough and eventually, after a brutal brawl, she kicks him out. The last dance is her triumph, where she is celebrated in music and movement for being victorious over her abuser! At the very end of the ballet, the male dancer comes back and begs forgiveness which she gives, and a kind of heartbreaking circle is formed.
“Wow,” Dane said as the lights came up. “She’s remarkable, spectacular” Dane barely breathed.
Asher looked to Dane. “Ironic we see a ballet about losing a lover… And, at that ballet, I lose my lover.”
“I promise, my love.” Dane leaned over and kissed him, making sure to lean back into the dark. “Nothing has changed.”
Lyricallia Esmerelda Mandelville, Countess of Brackshire Heath
The theater hardly had an audience again that night. At the rate they were selling tickets, the show would close within days. Lyric knew the venture was risky, but Michael was so passionate about the project. He had recently separated from his partner of twenty years and his pain was hard to bear. Lyric and Michael created the ballet which followed a couple through attraction, marriage, betrayal, and divorce to help Michael heal from the breakup. It was cathartic for both of them.
“Are you sure you don’t want to dance this with a man?” Lyric asked Michael weeks before when he suggested they do the ballet together.
“I can’t think of a more beautiful partner than you. This show is already pretty raw with all of the sensual elements, it might be uncomfortable for some of the citizens to see it danced with two men.” His face fell as he alluded to the prejudices of their kingdom.
“I’m sorry, Michael, it shouldn’t be that way.” She touched his hand to offer consolation.
“Still, I’d rather dance with you Lyric, you’re magnificent.” And that’s how the show was born.
The music was composed by a friend and transformed the ballet, which bordered on raunchy, into something exquisite and masterful. If they could just entice an audience, it would have been a hit. They applied to the king’s annual arts fund, and made it to the finals. With a distant hope in their hearts, Lyric and Michael looked out at the theater moments before the curtain rose. Seeing only a few patrons sitting in random seats, their hearts were dashed again.
“Well, at least some people came,” Michael said seeing the disappointment on Lyric’s face.
“You’re right, whether it be one person or one hundred, the show must go on,” she offered a kind smile, knowing their bills were due with no money in the bank to pay them.
Just before they went onstage, Marie, their stage manager and box office person catapulted through the stage door, winded and wild-eyed.
“Are you okay?” Michael seemed to feed off of her frantic energy and started panicking.
“The prince,” she gulped air. “… Is here!”
“The prince, prince?” Lyric asked in disbelief.
“Yes, that very prince. Prince Dane.” She calmed down a little once her message was delivered.
“Well!” That made Michael’s night. “If the one audience member is Prince Dane… I’ll take it. He’s outrageously handsome and influential, if he likes the show our troubles are over…”
“And he’s the king’s son, he could influence the decision of the arts counsel.” And now Lyric was excited.
Though she was a countess’ daughter, they had no wealth. Her mother squandered their money which left them nearly destitute. Lyric’s meager dance salary and her mother’s pension took care of both of them. Though they still had a title, Lyric chose to ignore it. What did a title ever do but bring her heartbreak? Everyone knew her mother’s scandal. It was best to distance herself from it. The sooner her royalty was forgotten the better.
“We’ll have to corner him after the show, perhaps we can catch the prince before he leaves.” Michael was right, they couldn’t let the opportunity pass.
“And we’ll dance our hearts out,” Lyric whispered as the lights went dim and the curtain rose.
Lyric wasn’t at all nervous dancing for the prince. She loved performing and he neither intimidated nor scared her. Only when the ballet was over did Lyric feel a tinge of anxiety. They needed to meet the prince if they were to save the show. The lights came up after their bows and the Lyric, Michael and Jill, the dancer portraying Michael’s love interest, descended the stairs to make their way toward the lobby. Still wearing stage makeup and glistening with sweat from the performance, Lyric worried about being presentable enough to meet royalty. It wasn’t the way they usually greeted their audience, but Michael and Lyric knew they didn’t have time to pat their brows. They couldn’t miss the prince.
Michael worried he might leave without a word, but to the contrary, Maria informed them the prince was waiting in the lobby eager to make their acquaintance. As soon as they entered the grand foyer, the prince approached robbing all others of the chance.
“Magnificent, extraordinary!” the prince proclaimed. “A ballet about marriage, infidelity and growing apart; inspired. Whose idea was it?”
Prince Dane was younger than Lyric had pictured him, maybe in his early thirties, but no older. He had rich brown hair with golden highlights that glistened under the warm amber glow of the theater’s ancient chandelier and fell below his shoulders. Well chiseled and yet also soft featured, his face bore the kind of emotional depth his father, the king, lacked. His companion was equally as beguiling but seemed more guarded and less magnanimous.
“Mine, your majesty,” Michael quietly said.
“Is it autobiographical? It feels personal. It isn’t about the two of you is it?” The prince asked without a hint of embarrassment for the presumption. It was enough to make his friend cringe.
“It is personal, but not about Lyric. I doubt I’d have such discord with her. My male lover and I are separating after what feels like a lifetime of partnership, this… This project is my therapy. I’m glad it resonated with you, your highness.” While Michael overshared as he always did, the prince didn’t seem to mind.
“Well, it’s magnificent,” the prince said to Michael, but looked at Lyric.
In fact, his stare was so intense, she felt obliged to thank him, even though he was speaking to Michael.
“Thank you, your majesty. I hope you get a chance to look over our program and see the good we are trying to do for the community. Our theater is struggling at the moment, so a kind word from you to your father about the artist’s grant would certainly be welcome.”
Yes it was a shameless plug, but she’d be a fool to miss the chance to make it.
“Yes, I’ll definitely give your show my endorsement and perhaps more. Would you be willing to meet with me at the castle tomorrow?” Again, the prince stared at Lyric with a feral intensity, which made her think he was extending the invitation to her alone.
“You would like both of us to meet with you in the castle tomorrow?” she clarified, her voice was calm and steady as she staid her nerves.
“Yes, of course, both of you,” he fumbled a little, realizing his mistake.
“We’d be honored,” Michael jumped in. “Thank you, your majesty and…” he looked to the prince’s companion who had not been introduced.
“This is Asher Longbrook, my bodyguard.” The prince nodded curtly to the man standing beside him.
“Great, I will need both of your addresses so my driver can pick you up. Ms. Mandelville? Out of curiosity are you an active member of the court? It says in the program you are a countess, but I haven’t seen you at any of the court functions.” The prince’s question was strange, but more so for the fact that his misty blue eyes would not stop staring at her.
“I am not your majesty.” She bowed her head, not wanting to discuss the subject further. “I live as a civilian, despite my title.”
“I was just curious.” He backed off of the question.
After that his handsome bodyguard pulled out a cell phone.
“I need your addresses, please.” He was officious, but polite speaking for the first time as he recorded their personal information. “And when the car comes for you, bring your identification card, but please no weapons, spray bottles, liquids of any kind or any sharp implements, your bags will be checked before you’re granted entry.”
Why would they bring weapons? Lyric wondered She assumed the warning was just standard protocol. The beguiling bodyguard had short blond hair and a strong muscular physique. Despite the seriousness of his tone, his graveled voice and sexy demeanor gave off an air of sensuality rather than servitude. Lyric couldn’t help but notice this, though she tried not to think of him in those terms. The night was overwhelming enough already.
Lyric hardly slept that night knowing she’d see the prince again. While her family was an extension of the royal court, they’d lost their favor a long time ago. Her mother lived in a dilapidated country house several miles outside of the city. Because of this, she hid her royal heritage and had for so long, she nearly forgot about it until the prince brought it up. She remembered being around royalty when she was young, but it didn’t keep her from being nervous to meet the prince at the palace.
The next morning, she awoke after barely sleeping and labored over what to wear. She decided on the one and only designer dress she owned and a tailored jacket for the weather looked threatening. The peninsula was always so unpredictable when it came to rain. A sunny day often would turn dark and gray in an instant and the skies were known to open up and unleash their fury before one could find shelter.
As promised, a driver pulled up in front of her apartment building and she bounded down the stairs to the front door to spare him the five flight climb to her tiny attic room. This way the driver would also avoid seeing the transients, drug dealers, and questionable sorts who loitered in the halls. Having a disgraced family meant living with very little money. With such meager funds, she wasn’t able to afford a nice, or even safe, place to live. In order to protect herself, she befriended the questionable neighbors and avoided the halls as best as she could. She slipped out the front door to flag down the driver who stood on the sidewalk looking up at the building.
“I’m here,” Lyric waved to him.
“I’m sorry, I buzzed but there was no answer, Miss.” The driver seemed very flustered as he walked around the car to let Lyric into the back passenger seat where she found Michael already seated wearing a smart suit.
“It’s okay I saw you were here, thank you,” Lyric addressed the driver as Michael made room for her to sit next to him.
“You look stunning,” he blurted out as she slid onto the seat.
“I was just about to say the same thing about you,” she slapped his thigh. “Can you believe this, lunch in the castle?” she giggled, feeling light and airy.
“With the prince. Is this really happening?” Michael’s expression of awe and wonder made her feel lighter and happier than she could ever recall.
Michael had been so down in the last few months after finding out his lover had cheated on him and not once but several times with many of their friends. The weight of that kind of betrayal was heavy on him. He put on a happy face for the sake of those around him but Lyric knew he was miserable.
When the car arrived at the castle, the main gate opened and a guard waved them in. Lyric’s excitement and anticipation was so palatable, she could taste the bitter tang of expectation.
“No way he’d have us come all the way out here if he wasn’t planning on funding the theater,” Michael’s distant and wistful voice spoke to the hope in his heart.
Lyric wasn’t completely skeptical, but the crown had been notoriously tight with money. She wasn’t as hopeful, but why else would the prince invite them to lunch? They were met at the door by a neatly dressed butler wearing exactly what one would expect a butler to wear. His uniform seemed stuffy and uncomfortable at best. He glanced at their bags which they opened for him and he nodded.
“His Highness is waiting for you in the lounge,” he said with an equally stuffy air of disinterest.
As much as she wanted to ogle and point, both Michael and Lyric remained silent during their trek through the opulent halls. Along the ancient walls were oil paintings of previous monarchs, fresh flowers in tall vases and shiny polished wood floors that left a mark of one’s shoe where they stepped. Everything was still, pristine, and… Rather ominous. It was a great relief to see the prince greet them with open arms. His friendly demeanor and familiarity erased the feeling of otherworldliness one got as they strode through the oppressive surroundings.
“Ah, Lyricallia, Michael, it’s so good to have you both here.” The prince’s smile lit up his beautiful face.
His alluring bodyguard didn’t seem as happy to see them and stayed a pace behind the prince with a scowling look on his face.
“Thank you again for inviting us, your majesty, this is such an incredible honor. But please just call me Lyric, if you don’t mind. I do hate the name Lyricallia… It’s such a mouthful.” Lyric offered, unsure if she should have bowed.
“Ha, the name is as beautiful as you are, but I understand. I’ll call you Lyric and the honor of making your acquaintance is all mine.” Dane stepped forward, unnerving Lyric just a little as he brought her hand to his lips and kissed it. “Truly, you are sensational dancers.” He squeezed her hand and let it drop. “Last night was such an unexpected joy. Please have a seat.” He motioned to the fine upholstered chairs in a thick teal brocade.
The castle was as Lyric remembered it; opulent and decadent. Everything had a sense of power and prestige. As soon as they took their seats, a servant brought a tray of tea and biscuits just like they did in the movies. The floor to ceiling windows let in copious amounts of light which danced around the room, illuminating all the treasures it held. The bodyguard remained standing and didn’t take tea, but there was a familiarity in the way he stared at Lyric. All the careful observation these men were doing worried her. What did they want? Truly? She was no threat to the prince, so the bodyguard’s intensity couldn’t have been because of a safety concern. Prince Dane could best her with his eyes closed.
“Thank you again for coming to our show last night. As soon as the word is out that you attended the performance, perhaps we’ll draw in a better crowd.” Michael shook with fear and excitement.
“And if the theater brings in more money we can continue to offer free dance classes to kids in the community who need them,” Lyric added as that was what excited her most, offering a chance for the underprivileged to dance.
The lives of the poor were so painfully hard. Despite the great wealth of their land, the poor suffered without much help from the monarchy. Many of the downtrodden were hard working people whose wages just didn’t earn them enough to support their families. If the kingdom mandated higher wages for the poor, they could care for themselves better, but those of the upper classes would never agree to it, because they loved having the inexpensive labor. The poor lived in dilapidated buildings on the edge of the city. Public transportation only traveled out that direction a few times a day and so working people were often made to wait long hours, crowded under poor shelters for the few buses or trains that made it out to their neighborhoods. The street lights usually didn’t work and the royal guard made infrequent visits, thus the neighborhoods were unsafe for their residents. Lyric lived in such a neighborhood and so understood the need to get kids off of the streets whenever possible.
“Tell me more about these classes you offer.” The prince’s gaze shifted to Lyric mirroring the intensity of his bodyguard.
“Well, I teach dance classes during the day and since there are so many in the community who can’t afford them, I’ll allow anyone who really wants to dance to come to class regardless of their ability to pay. Of course ballet is my passion, but kids don’t love it as much, so I teach stuff that’s popular and fun. It gets them off the streets and into a place where they can work out their fears and frustrations. Whenever I’m able, I feed the kids too, nothing too much because I struggle, but sandwiches and snacks, things that are healthy. I love giving to them and would offer more if I could…” she cut herself off as she knew she’d already said too much.
Both the prince and his bodyguard looked at her with the same feral expression as if, for different reasons, each wanted to eat her alive!