by Stevie Woods
Ebook ASIN: B009M5JSD4
[ Fantasy Romance, MM ]
Willem is worried about his father, Tomaz, the famous archaeologist and explorer who’s missing in just about the most dangerous place in the world, the jungles of the Zimaya Heights. Will persuades Gant, an old colleague of his father, to accompany him on an expedition to find Tomaz.
Note: Prologue omitted.
Willem paced up and down in front of his living room window, doing his best to keep calm, but it was very hard. He was worried for his father. Truth be told, he was guilty over his father. Tomaz Rostoq had been missing now for over a month, and Will couldn’t help believing it was mostly his fault that his father was lost in the wilds of the Zimaya.
Rostoq’s whole life had been an adventure, searching out one myth after another, proving some, debunking others. Will loved his father, but he was never quite sure if he really liked him.
Now, though, as he stood at the window of his apartment, overlooking the busy city spread out below, Will wondered if he was as dysfunctional as the rest of his family. If he hadn’t let his negative emotions control him that evening at the banquet, Will would never have challenged his father to do what he did. And Tomaz Rostoq wouldn’t be lost deep in an uncharted jungle.
Lost in his thoughts, Will started when there was a knock at the door. Collecting himself, Will walked to his front door and opened it to find a tall, rangy man casually leaning against the door jamb. He straightened when he saw Will, his eyes widening a little.
“Well, I know it’s been a few years, Willem, but you surely have grown.”
“Come in, Master Gant,” Will said, stepping aside to let him in. It must have been what…? Twelve years at least since Will had last seen Erasmus Gant, and yet the man had hardly changed; his brown hair was a little shorter with just a sprinkling of gray, but other than that he looked exactly the same. He was still a very attractive man, no matter than he must only be about five or six years younger than Will’s mother. One of the things that Will remembered most vividly was his eyes. A quick glance would tell you they were brown, but if you really looked up you would see the flecks of green that somehow flashed brighter when he was excited.
“Thanks. Just Gant,” the man said, as he moved gracefully inside. That was one of the things that Will remembered most about Gant; he moved liked one of the big jungle felids, smooth and easy.
“Of course, I remember you dislike your given name.”
“Hate would be a more accurate description,” Gant admitted with a smile. “I was surprised to get your message. I’ve not been welcome by anyone in the Rostoq family since your father sent me packing all those years ago.”
“I wasn’t privy to the reason for your… estrangement from my father, Gant. My mother and I never had any ill feelings toward you. Whatever happened between you and my father was a personal situation.” Will hesitated, began to pace again until he became aware of Gant watching him closely. “I’m sorry, please take a seat.”
Gant nodded and sat down. “Spit it out, son,” he said. “You asked me here for a reason, so let’s get to it.”
“Please don’t call me son,” Will said. “I’m not used to it, and it always sounds as if it belongs to someone else.”
Gant frowned. “As you wish. Willem?”
“Will, please. Willem sounds like my grandfather. I hate Lem, and I won’t even consider what my father used to call me as a boy.”
Gant guffawed. “Yes, I always did think that was cruel and unusual behavior, calling you Willy. I’m sure he did it because he knew it annoyed you.”
“You think so? I always thought he didn’t even realize,” Will said wistfully.
Gant’s smile faded, and he replied, “No, he always noticed you, Will, and I know he loved you very much. He just wasn’t good at showing it.”
“No, he wasn’t. He always showed me I came second or third to his career, depending how much he needed my mother at any particular time.” Will saw that Gant was about to speak again, and raised a hand to stop him. “I didn’t invite you here to discuss my childhood or your opinion of Tomaz Rostoq’s abilities as a husband and father.”
“So, why did you invite me here, Will? I admit to being very curious when I received the invite.”
Will took a deep breath. “I want you to help me find my father.”
* * * *
Gant stared at Willem. Whatever he had expected, it wasn’t that. Rostoq had been missing for weeks in one of the most inaccessible, least explored places in existence. Rostoq himself had been the one who had done the most on-site research on the area, and even he had only actually traveled along the outer edges of most of it, until this last expedition. Gant had been surprised when it was announced that Rostoq was going to try and find Q’ananaku, though perhaps he ought not to have been. Rostoq was a thrill seeker, and perhaps he realized his time was fast running out. Tom Rostoq had been fifty on his last birthday. He might have considered this was his last fanfare, so what else could he have gone for but the golden prize?
Still, why him? It made no sense.
“Why would you want me, Will? There have been two very competent search parties already out looking for your father. If they couldn’t find him, why would you think I could?”
“Not just you, Gant, us.”
“What? You want to go to Zimaya? You have hardly ever left the city! I don’t think visiting the family cottage at the lake counts,” Gant added.
Will’s face colored, and his eyes flashed. “That’s not fair, Gant. But, let’s come back to that. Two search parties have gone out, yes, but the truth is they didn’t want to search where I told them he was headed. They didn’t believe me. I know it has been many years since you worked for my father, but there has never been anyone who understood him the way you did. You know what he was like. What chances, risks, he would take when he believed in what he was doing, no matter how crazy it might seem to outsiders. It’s like that now. We have to follow the same route he did. As yet no one has done that.”
Will looked searchingly at Gant, looking deeply into his eyes. Gant was not sure exactly what Will thought he might see, but Gant recognized Will’s own desperation and something else: determination.
“Will you help me, Gant? Please?” Will pleaded.
Gant held Will’s eyes a little longer before replying. “I’m not sure, Will. Tell me more.”
“I can’t believe you’ve not followed the story in the…” Will began.
“No, Will, not that story. Not only have I read all the media reports since the news broke, I followed all the original information in the science journals when Tom began planning his expedition. No, Will, it’s your story I’m interested in.”
Will frowned. “I don’t understand.”
“I’ve not seen you since you were fifteen.” Gant smiled. “You were a precocious child, not surprising considering who your father was, I guess, but whereas he was overwhelming, you were charming. I always did wonder how you got on after I left your father.”
“And this is important now, how?”
“Because the sort of man you are now will dictate what I decide to do,” Gant explained. Will still looked confused. “I know very little about your life after I’d moved on, except that you saw less and less of Tom. I did read in one of the newspaper articles that you grew farther apart after you graduated. If that’s true, can you tell me why?”
* * * *
Gant’s question might have sounded simple, however to Will it was anything but. He could remember the day all too clearly, even though he would prefer to forget it.
It was true that as a boy and a youth, Will had doted on his father, was overwhelmed by the exciting life Tomaz Rostoq led. Will didn’t see his father as often as he would have wished, but when he did return home, Tom would have wonderfully exciting adventures to recount to his adoring son. Will hung on every word, and Tom was delighted that his boy was so taken with his way of life and seemed keen to follow in his footsteps.
Erasmus Gant first entered his life when Will was ten. Tom Rostoq returned from one of his adventures and brought his new assistant home to meet his family. Lyssa was taken with the handsome young man, but not so much as the boy Will was then. He adored his father, but it must be said that the man talked down to the boy somewhat, perhaps not realizing how much Will had grown up while he had been away digging up past civilizations.
Gant had talked to Will like an equal, and the boy blossomed under the attention. Gradually Will saw his father’s adventures more in terms of their scientific value, and less in terms of their excitement. He began to understand the context of the history, and Will found a particular affinity to the worlds he discovered between the pages of the books.
When Will was ten and Erasmus Gant stayed with the Rostoq family for those first few days, it proved to be the beginning of a whole new understanding for Will.
Smiling at his reminiscences, Will suddenly said, “Do you remember the first time you took me to a museum? I’d only been once before and that had been for the opening of one of my father’s displays. I’d never simply gone for a wander around, to roam through empty rooms and look at obscure stuff that other folk were not really interested in.”
“Oh, yes, Will, I remember that well.”
“Did you know that father said I was wasting my time?”
“Wasting your time? That doesn’t make sense.”
“To Tom Rostoq it did. He expected me to follow in his footsteps, to study the subjects that interested him. It was no different seven years later when I chose the subjects for my degree courses. He couldn’t understand why I would want to become an historian. I tried to explain to him, how much I loved the idea of spending my life absorbing the history of our people. It didn’t matter to me which race; they were all our people. I also told him I wanted to teach eventually.”
Smiling, Gant said, “Good for you.”
Will laughed. “Glad you think so. Father was somewhat more disparaging. He said it was worse than becoming an armchair archaeologist.”
“So it was true what I read in one of the articles, that you and your father were estranged?”
Will stared at Gant, but suddenly he was no longer seeing him, instead he was seeing his father’s angry face that day. Hearing the disdain with which his father regarded him.
“Will?” Gant’s voice brought him back to the present.
Shrugging, Will said, “Sorry, unpleasant memories.”
“No, it is I who should apologize. I shouldn’t have let my personal…” Gant hesitated, searching for the word he wanted, it seemed, “curiosity get in the way.” Gant paused again, and his expression became pensive as he added, “Did Tom ever tell you why we parted ways?”
“Actually, no. I asked him once, but all he would say was that you’d had a disagreement.” Will didn’t expand on how upset he had been at the time. As a fifteen year old, he had looked up to the older Gant as something of a hero. To Will, he was the perfect mixture of the adventurer with the academic, willing to talk for hours about obscure ideas.
“I always thought there was more there than my father wanted to tell me,” Will added. He didn’t exactly come out and ask, but it was clear he would like to know more.
However, Gant just nodded absently, appearing to dip into his memories, too. After a minute or two, he said, “Perhaps it’s better if we leave that in the past where it belongs.”
Will was unaccountably disappointed; he hadn’t realized until that moment how much he wanted to know what caused Gant to leave his father’s employ. He hadn’t even understood until now that he’d had felt personally slighted, as ridiculous as that was.
“Just one point,” Gant was saying. “From what I read recently, you and your father had long disagreed over where to look for the lost city of Q’ananaku, and yet, for this last expedition, you claim he was following your suggestion. One of the search parties refused to believe that, refused to go where you told them Tom had gone, saying – and I quote – ‘if Rostoq has foolishly ventured into the Zimaya Heights, then he is truly lost, and we will not throw our lives away following him’.”
“Yes, is there a question in that somewhere?” asked Will.
“Did he really go where you suggested? And if so, why?”
Will sighed. “Yes, he did. He wrote to me the day before he left and asked me to wish him luck. Said I owed it to him as it was my risk he was following. As to why, even I’m not sure of that. He came to see my mother and me a few months ago, the first time I had seen him since they stopped pretending to still be a couple. We talked again about my ideas, argued over the right and wrongs of our opposing views, but this time he was less… obstructive. He really listened, debated with me; treated me like an adult who knew what he was talking about. I… I.”
“What, Will? You what?” Gant pressed.
“I tried to make him see that he had been wrong all these years, that he had ignored the most likely place. I accused him of ignoring it on purpose because it was too damned dangerous! Then at that last public shindig I baited him, damn it! I might as well have said I dare you to do it! To Tom Rostoq! By the Creator, what a fool I was.”
“You don’t truly believe he meant that crack in his letter as anything other than that, do you? He wouldn’t have gone if he didn’t believe in what he was doing. Your father was self-obsessed, but he was no fool.”
“No, logically I know that, but sometimes…”
Then in a more decisive tone, Gant added, “Very well, Will, I will help you to search for your father, but on one condition. I will lead the expedition, and you will do as I tell you. If you can’t agree to that, then I’m afraid I can’t accompany you.”
Will looked at Gant’s set face and knew the man wouldn’t back down. If truth be told, he wouldn’t expect him to. There was no denying that in this, Gant was the expert.
“It’s a deal,” Will said steadily, holding out his hand to shake. Gant took it firmly.
* * * *
Gant had thought that time would have lessened his feelings for this boy – this man, so it was something of a shock to find the simple touch of Will’s hand; the warmth of flesh on flesh was like an electric change to his body. His heart was beating fast in his chest, sending blood surging through his body. His cock filled, and he knew his desire was as strong as ever.
He believed he had left those feelings behind, that his life was an on even keel. He had never questioned why he hadn’t found one man to settle down with – until the news broke about the disappearance of Tomaz Rostoq. The media had been full of information and speculation about his expedition, together with reports of the reactions of his family. Gant had been swept back in time, and he understood then that his feelings hadn’t gone, but had just been buried.
With an internal sigh, Gant came to the conclusion that they had just better stay buried. Willem Rostoq was a walking wet dream, but he could never be Gant’s. There had been enough published photographs of Will with females hanging onto his arm. One of them had been a particularly attractive woman who had appeared in more than one pose with him and had a noticeably predatory gleam in her eye. It was pretty obvious where Will’s sexual interests lay, and as Gant would like to rekindle his friendship with the young man, he would have to learn to keep a tight grip on his feelings.
Pushing his personal desires aside, he reluctantly let go of Will’s hand. Pasting a smile onto his suddenly stiff lips, Gant said, “Let’s start planning this then, shall we?”