Client Has Stopped Responding
DungeonCrawl, Book 5
Ebook ISBN: 07599-02450
[ Paranormal Romance, MM ]
War is an ugly thing, though, and no one comes out unscathed. For one of them, it is utterly devastating. But hope looms on the horizon, if they can only make it through the night.
Nathan still hadn’t quite wrapped his head around the notion that he was royalty, despite what the others had told him. He’d grown up thinking he was nothing more than a peasant, albeit one who hid his magical abilities from everyone. Now, everyone knew. Well, everyone in their little rebellion, anyway. His mother — his real mother — had magic, too. Queen Elsbeth, though she had yet to claim the title, kept her own magic hidden still. According to Rue, Elijah, Sarin, and everybody else, it seemed, putting Nathan on the throne would be far easier than letting Elsbeth claim it.
“You’re quiet this evening.”
The one person Nathan had been semi-avoiding now stood behind him. Nathan knew the man’s voice, even though they hadn’t talked privately since their initial meeting a few weeks ago. Braden was a bounty hunter working for Elsbeth and Aven, Nathan’s biological parents. Nathan, however, wanted much more than the man’s hunting skills.
“Just… thinking, I guess,” Nathan said without turning around.
The air grew warmer. Or maybe it was just the way Nathan’s body got too hot whenever Braden neared him. A part of Nathan wanted to lean back and feel the hunter’s muscular body against his own, but another part wanted to sink into the stone floor. He’d known for a long time that he preferred men, but he’d never had the chance — or courage — to act on such desires.
Braden’s soft chuckle twisted Nathan’s insides into knots. The hunter’s hands rested on Nathan’s shoulders, kneading, rubbing, squeezing. “About?”
Nathan shivered. “Wondering how this all happened. How I went from peasant life to…” He gestured helplessly. “This. Royalty status, this place…”
“Anything else?” Braden murmured.
Nathan swallowed, the air thick around them. He felt like he’d stepped into a narrow tunnel, with no room to maneuver except forward or back. “Sort of,” he admitted.
A gentle pressure turned him until he faced Braden. The hunter smiled, and Nathan barely had time to process what was happening before it actually happened. Braden’s lips touched Nathan’s, soft but not at all tentative. Nathan threw caution to the wind. He draped his arms around Braden’s neck and opened to the man’s kiss. Braden backed him up against the stone wall and gave Nathan exactly what he’d been wanting since they first met.
Every swipe of Braden’s tongue across his own sent fire racing through Nathan’s body. He’d kissed girls, mainly to appear like the other boys. He’d never kissed another male, though. And he sure as hell didn’t remember any kiss leaving him so utterly weak-kneed.
“Well, that answers my next question,” Braden murmured on Nathan’s kiss-swollen lips.
Nathan blinked up at him. “Which is…?”
Braden smiled. “If this was a mutual attraction.”
“Oh, it’s definitely mutual.” Nathan chuckled. “Just… new. For me, anyway.”
“Elijah mentioned something along those lines.” Braden took Nathan’s hand and stepped back a little. “We don’t have to rush into anything, you know.”
Nathan sighed. “I honestly don’t know what I want to happen, or how to do any of it. I mean, I’ve been with girls in the past, but…” He grimaced. “I never got the chance to even touch a man, much less do anything more.”
“Hey.” Braden cupped Nathan’s face with one hand, thumb caressing Nathan’s bottom lip with a feather-light touch. “Like I said, no rush.”
Nathan smiled. “Thanks.”
“Come on,” Braden said, tugging gently on Nathan’s hand. “We’re supposed to meet the others in the great hall in half an hour, so we have a little while to get to know each other.”
Nathan let the hunter lead him down the corridor and out a side door. A small garden greeted them, surrounded by the stone walls of the keep. Stone benches sat along the sides, and circular ones ringed a stone fountain in the center of the garden. Water trickled down from a howling wolf’s mouth, over two pups below, and finally into the large basin at the bottom. Flowering bushes grew in well-tended groups, and small trees pointed upward to the sun shining into the tiny oasis.
Braden followed the pebbled path to one of the benches and sat down, pulling Nathan down beside him. “I haven’t been here in some time.”
Nathan looked around, bewildered. “I never expected to find someplace like this in the middle of a castle.”
“When Aven took control of the keep years ago, the door to the garden had been bricked up,” Braden said. “He had several men — myself included — knock down the barrier. We had no idea what to expect, but it certainly wasn’t a garden. Elsbeth hired caretakers to restore it.”
“Where are you from?” Nathan asked. “I know nothing about you.”
Braden smiled at him. “I was born in a tiny village in the northeastern area of the Tasmorum province, but I grew up everywhere. My father was a trader, so we traveled a lot during my childhood. My mother cared for children anywhere we wound up. As a result, I have friends all over Timiria, in every province and most of the cities.”
“Wow.” Nathan laughed. “Is that why you became a hunter? Because you enjoy moving around a lot?”
Braden shrugged. “For the most part, yes. I love being in the wild, exploring, challenging myself against whatever perils nature throws at me. What about you?”
Nathan sighed. “Well, you know who my real parents are,” he said. “My adoptive parents were simple peasants in Cosei. When I turned fourteen, I began working in Mirov’s stables to earn money and help my family.” He glanced over at Braden, who watched him with a smile. “How old were you when you knew you were… different? That you liked guys and not girls.”
“Honestly, I think I’ve always known,” Braden said. “My first experience was with a boy in one of the villages where we lived for a time. He was thirteen, and I was twelve. He gave me my first kiss. I didn’t do anything else until I was sixteen and met a man who said he was twenty. I don’t know if he was or not, nor did I care. He introduced me to lovemaking between men.”
“Did you tell your parents?”
“No. I’d left them to find my own way when I was eighteen. Word reached me that they’d died in a house fire, before I managed to summon the courage to tell them about me.”
Nathan grimaced. “I’m sorry.”
Braden put his arm around Nathan’s shoulders and squeezed. “Thank you. I wasn’t overly close to them, but it hurt nonetheless. How about you? When did you find out you liked men?”
“I think I was about fourteen,” Nathan said. “I was too scared to do or say anything, though. I didn’t know anyone who felt like I did — not until I met Elijah and Sarin. I’ve been with girls, but you’re the first guy I’ve ever kissed.”
Fingers slipped beneath Nathan’s chin and tilted his head until he met Braden’s steady, warm brown gaze. When lips touched his own, Nathan closed his eyes and let Braden do anything the man wanted. Nathan turned the slightest bit and draped both arms around the hunter’s neck. Braden slid off the bench and eased Nathan onto the soft grass without breaking the kiss.
Nathan opened his legs, cradling Braden between them. The hunter’s muscular body felt indescribably amazing where it pressed against Nathan’s own lanky form. Braden ran one hand down Nathan’s side until it reached Nathan’s hip. Trapped in a kiss, Nathan could only wiggle a little, in hopes that the hand would move just a bit more to the middle. Braden chuckled softly.
“I won’t do more here. Our first time will be in a proper bed, with something slick to ease the way.” Braden finally moved his hand between their bodies, his fingers skimming over the hardening ridge of Nathan’s aching cock. “But I can’t deny the need to touch you.”
“Please,” Nathan whispered, hips lifting.
Braden’s hand slipped beneath the waistband of Nathan’s pants. Warm fingertips brushed the swollen head of Nathan’s prick, sending sparks shooting through his body. Nathan moaned and dug his own fingers into Braden’s biceps. When the hunter’s hand wrapped around the shaft, Nathan bit his tongue to stifle a triumphant shout.
Trapped in the confines of his pants, Nathan squirmed as Braden teased him. The hunter’s touches were light, the strokes languid and easy. Nathan wanted to beg the man to speed up, stroke harder, anything.
“Focus on this,” Braden whispered on Nathan’s lips, giving Nathan’s cock a slight squeeze and stroke. “Just think about how good it feels, how amazing it will feel when I’m buried deep inside you, thrusting, rocking…”
Nathan gasped, heart pounding in time to the pulls on his cock. “Don’t stop,” he panted. His hips jerked upward into every motion, making love to Braden’s fist.
“There’s a place deep inside you,” Braden continued, rubbing the sensitive slit at the tip with his thumb. “When my cock glides over it, pleasure rocks your entire body — pleasure like nothing you’ve ever felt before.”
Nathan grabbed the man’s head and pulled Braden down for a hard kiss. The hunter groaned into Nathan’s mouth. The motions on Nathan’s cock sped up, stronger, harder. He felt hardness press against his thigh. He pushed up with his leg, and Braden grunted.
“Now,” Braden said, breathless. “Come with me.”
Braden did something. Nathan had no idea what. But lightning bolts shot up Nathan’s spine and through his balls, then out his cock. Semen coated Braden’s fist while Nathan cried out the hunter’s name. Braden moaned and bucked against Nathan’s thigh. Warmth seeped through both layers of cloth.
Panting, they lay on the grass, hearts thundering.
“Wow,” Nathan muttered.
Braden chuckled. “And that was just my hand and your leg.”
* * *
Elijah sat down beside Sarin. Rue had called everyone to the great hall to discuss the war and their preparations. Elijah honestly didn’t know what to do or say. With the exception of Nathan, everyone else had been through war. Elijah rested his head on Sarin’s shoulder and listened to Rue, Aven, Raig, and Elsbeth.
“Are you certain you want to abdicate your rightful throne?” Aven asked Elsbeth.
Elsbeth nodded and smiled at Nathan, who sat beside Braden. “I know I’m making the right choice. Nathan has a better chance than a queen whose name has been slandered over the years.”
Elijah had to admit: she had a good point. Mirov, the asshole who stole Elsbeth’s throne and took it for himself, had raked his magic-wielding sister’s name through the mud. There were pockets of people scattered all over Timiria who still supported her, but, for the most part, Mirov’s intense hatred of magic had poisoned the general populace. Everyone knew Elsbeth possessed magic. No one had a clue that Nathan did, though. If Nathan could keep his abilities hidden, maybe he’d actually have a chance.
Nathan sighed. “I have no idea how to be anything other than a peasant. I certainly know nothing of fighting or warfare.”
“I can help with both,” Aven said. “We would never consider putting you on the throne without any sort of instruction. Ruling as a lord such as myself is difficult enough. Ruling as a king will test every ability you possess.”