Você está na página 1de 148

Concubine

Jill Knowles

Concubine Copyright August 2010 by Jill Knowles All rights reserved. This copy is intended for the purchaser of this e-book ONLY. No part of this e-book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without prior written permission from Loose Id LLC. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions. eISBN 978-1-60737-587-6 Editor: Sandra Rychel Cover Artist: Christine Clavel Printed in the United States of America

Published by Loose Id LLC PO Box 425960 San Francisco CA 94142-5960 www.loose-id.com This e-book is a work of fiction. While reference might be made to actual historical events or existing locations, the names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the authors imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Warning
This e-book contains sexually explicit scenes and adult language and may be considered offensive to some readers. Loose Id LLCs e-books are for sale to adults ONLY, as defined by the laws of the country in which you made your purchase. Please store your files wisely, where they cannot be accessed by under-aged readers.

***
DISCLAIMER: Please do not try any new sexual practice, especially those that might be found in our BDSM/fetish titles without the guidance of an experienced practitioner. Neither Loose Id LLC nor its authors will be responsible for any loss, harm, injury or death resulting from use of the information contained in any of its titles.

http://www.loose-id.com

Part One

Chapter One
Hell be fine. Hes a fighter, Kael said, placing his hand over Sergeant Blakelys. The older man looked up at him, brown eyes swimming with unshed tears. He is that, Captain. I pray someday someone will love me as much as Blakely loves Northson. Kael had never been the focus of such powerful love. I hope I recognize it when I find it. A loud, disapproving sniff came from one of the journeyman healers. Kael stiffened. I wont let prejudice lower the type of care he gets. Kael stood and faced her, daring her to speak to him. She met his gaze for a long moment, then looked away. Sergeant Blakely and the injured man, Commander Northson, were swordbound. They were good men and good soldiers, and so Kael had decided that what they might do in private was none of hisor anyone elsesbusiness. Kael rested his hand on Blakelys shoulder but addressed his words t o the healer. Im sure my second in command will be given the finest care. After all, he was injured fighting for the safety and security of Korai. He looked around at the other injured members of Gold Company. Everyone here fought for that. At least all but two of his men had survived. Most of Korais army hadnt been so lucky. Nearly a thousand men had died, and there were three or four times that many with crippling injuries. The healer gave a jerky nod and a half curtsy. Of course everyone will be treated with the utmost skill and courtesy, Your Highness. Kael inclined his head in acknowledgment, his gaze then sliding past her and over a newly empty bed. Radek. Kael clenched his left hand, feeling the scar tissue surrounding the smallest finger. Shame coursed through him as he looked down at his hand. Hed suffered relatively minor injuries in the final, disastrous battle with Zandriacuts and bruises, the worst being his left little finger having nearly been severed. Because he was a prince of the blood, the healers had used precious magic to heal him rather than merely stabilize him and use their skills on the grievously wounded soldiers. Radek and Northson had suffered the worst injuries of the men in his company, but while Northson still lived, Radek had succumbed to blood poisoning early this morning. Did he die because a healer wasted magic on me? Torlinson, Kaels squire, planted himself in front of Kael. The ceremony will begin in less than an hour, Your Highness.

Jill Knowles

He nodded curtly. Ill be there. He walked around the rest of the room, speaking to each of the wounded men from Gold Company, pleased to note that those soldiers who had escaped severe injury were in full attendance, comforting their comrades and assisting the healers whenever possible. Pride swelled in Kaels breast at the sight of such loyalty shown by Gold Companys men. Finally he could delay no longer, and so he went back to the castle, Torlinson fussing beside him. Kael spared a moment to be grateful that his young squire had stayed behind rather than go into battle with him, as was customary. Torlinson was annoying and a bit of a conceited little brat, but battle was no place for a child. Battle is no place for any intelligent being. None of us should have been there. He squashed the guilt and anger he felt toward his father, King Harrimund. Father is a shrewd ruler. He would not spend the lives of his subjects carelessly. It was such a stupid thing to cost so many lives. The border between Korai and Zandria was marked by fertile farmland on the Korai side and a large wild forest on the Zandrian side. Until the previous spring, it had never been disputed. Then some of Korais farmers had begun pushing the forest back, cutting trees down in order to add the fertile land to their own holdings. Several polite letters were sent from Zandria to Korai, asking that the farmers stop the encroachment. His father ignored them. And ignored the more strongly worded demands. But the king couldnt ignore the bloodied farmer whod stumbled up to the castle raving of a demon army. Please Goddess, hold them gently. He sent the silent prayer to the Lady of the Harvest. The four companies Korai sent to the border were veterans of numerous battles against the persistent bandits that plagued the southern desert, but theyd had no chance against the ferocious Zandrian army. Kael still didnt understand why his father had ignored Zandrias polite requests that its border be respected. For the first time in his young life, he wished he were close enough to the succession to be included in administration of the country. There must have been a good reason for King Harrimund to have made such a potentially devastating decision. He refused to believe his father simply made a mistake. On one point Kael knew he was correct, training or no training. Ordering Korais troops to attack the Zandrian forces had been madness. It makes no sense. Korai and Zandria were neither enemies nor allies. Korai had enough problems stemming from constant raids by the Smedkan bandits inhabiting the southern desert. Both the secular and religious laws in Korai prohibited any sort of alliance with decadent, demon-tainted Zandria, though such an alliance would have given Korai a much-needed tool in bargaining a cease-fire with Smedka. As for Zandria, it was a large, prosperous country that had trade ties with most of the world. Its main trade routes centered on the ports of the coast-hugging Riwign Theocracy. Korai simply had nothing to offer Zandria, so the larger country had never pursued an alliance. Kael went to the robing chamber and allowed Torlinson to assist him into the heavy ceremonial robes. The rich purple robes the royal family wore to all state

Concubine

occasions were works of art, each one unique to the wearer. Kaels was embroidered to show his love of learning, his knack for solving complex puzzles, and the fact that he was captain of Gold Company in the army. Once he was appropriately costumed, he dismissed Torlinson and made his way outside to the large courtyard in front of the main entrance to the castle. King Harrimund stood before the castle doors, awaiting the arrival of the Zandrian delegation. Kael nodded to his father and was startled when the king came toward him. Harrimund looked exhausted, his face pale and deeply lined. Kael, he said, then stopped, staring at his face for a moment before pulling Kael to him in a fierce hug. Hate me if you need to, he whispered before releasing Kael and walking back to his place. Disturbed, Kael took his own position at the side of the assembled council, his gaze straying to the empty place at his fathers right hand, where his oldest brother should be standing. Crown Prince Bastian had lost an arm in the final battle with Zandria. The healers had done what they could for him, but they couldnt regrow a missing limb. It would be several days before Bastian would be able to spend much time on his feet. Is there anyone within poor Korais borders who hasnt suffered in some way from the short, brutal war? Kael cursed the necessity of meeting the Zandrians outside in the castles courtyard rather than in the audience chamber. The humid summer day combined with the thick wool robes left him sticky, itchy, and out of sorts. He silently prayed that the threatening thunderstorm would wait until the meeting concluded and he was safely inside. He stifled a squirm when he felt a drop of sweat trickle from his hair and tickle its way past his left ear. He couldnt even raise his hand to wipe it away or to smooth wisps of his chestnut hair back behind his ears. One simply did not acknowledge discomfort when attending a state function. No matter how much one wants to twitch, he thought, resisting the temptation to grimace. It didnt help that King Harrimund was going to offer excruciatingly generous trade concessions to the rival king of Zandria. Sullen anger burned in Kaels breast at the selfishness of his countrymen in precipitating the conflict. So many soldiers had died unnecessarily, the victims of greed. Now his royal father was forced to grovel before a rival king. I wish I knew why Father allowed things to get so out of hand. With a whoosh of foreign magic, the Zandrian delegation arrived, a mere ten men and three women. It was a calculated insult as well as a show of strength. Korais army could easily kill or take the Zandrian king hostage, but it simply didnt dare. It would be far too easy for the Zandrian army to kill every man, woman, and child living in Korai. Kael stared at the rival king. The man appeared younger than his father by several decades, dark hair not yet shot with gray. Black bands signifying official mourning circled both his arms. Kael vaguely remembered hearing that the

Jill Knowles

Zandrian queen had died in childbirth some ten months ago. King Grayson would therefore not be amenable to a betrothal to one of Kaels young nieces for at least another year. Kael breathed a sigh of relief. Trasie, his oldest unmarried niece, was only eleven years oldfar too young to worry about an arranged marriage. Still, such a marriage might happen in the future. Kael studied the man who could become part of his family. Zandrias king wore the same forest green leather and chain mail he wore into battle. The insignia on his left shoulder showed the crossed sword and ax of Zandria. The soldiers wore the same insignia on their dark green uniforms. Kael swallowed hard, forcing the memory of blood and heat and death away. He was a scholar and a soldier, damn it. He had better focus than this. Zandrias king introduced several members of his delegation, ending with, Zandrias warlord, my half brother, Taren. Kaels eyes widened when the warlord nodded his greeting. Hed assumed the small man standing to the left of the king was a squire, for all he wore was the dark green Zandrian uniform. Now Kael saw that he also wore the crowned star that marked him as the commander of the Royal Army on the collar of the uniform. This is the strongest fighter in the Zandrian army? The warlord was half a hand span below average in height and lacked the heavy muscles of a man used to swinging a broadsword. And yet from all accounts, the warlord was a vicious, unstoppable fighter. The rumors must be trueWarlord Taren must truly be half demon. Kael surreptitiously studied the other man, looking for horns or claws or scales that would mark him as demon tainted. Certainly the Zandrians fought with more strength and ferocity than ordinary men. Theyd routed several of the finest of Korais companies, including Kaels Gold Company. Kael forced himself not to wince at the memory. He had fought and killed bandits employed by Smedka, but hed never before endured the carnage of true battle. He prayed he never would again as he listened with half an ear to the outrageous trade concessions his king was offering. Zandrian goods will pay no import tax. Korais red glass will be exported only to Zandria. Zandria will have full access to the docks in the p ort city of Korvale. His father took a deep breath and continued. From this day forward, Zandrias enemies are Korais enemies. Your allies, our allies. He glanced at Kael, his blue eyes hard as ice chips. There is a separate matter that must be addressed. We must atone for the grave dishonor our people have perpetuated against Zandria. We can only do so by gifting Zandria with something precious to us. He handed a scroll tied with purple and gold ribbons to the Zandrian king. Kael saw his fathers personal seal affixed to the scroll as well. We most humbly offer our youngest son as concubine to your honored Warlord Taren as a gesture of faith in the new peace treaty. Kael couldnt believe what he was hearing. His father wouldnt offer him to the enemy. It was impossible. Not the half-demon warlord of Zandria. The half-demon

Concubine

male warlord. Bile churned in his belly, and blood roared in his ears as his fathers words sank in. I accept your offer on behalf of my brother, Zandrias king said, taking th e offered scroll and handing it to the warlord. Kael clenched his fists as the quiet words sealed his fate. I accept your offer Such seemingly innocent-sounding words to describe such a fate. Hed gone from prince to concubine in the space of a heartbeat. From a free man, a royal prince, to a slaveand worse, a concubine for a monster. He forced his mind away from the images it was trying to conjure. Was this his punishment for seeking knowledge of carnal acts outlawed in Korai? Kael, his father said. Present yourself to your master. He looked up at his father and found no emotion on the proud face of King Harrimund. For a moment he considered refusing, as was his legal right, if not his moral one. He looked down at his fists, seeing the scar on his left hand. No more deaths. His king had given him a command, and he was duty bound to obey. Yes, Father. Fear, betrayal, and disgust made a lump in his throat. He looked around at the faces of the other councillors and saw a mixture of shame and relief. They had known what was going to be asked of him, and they were grateful he made no protest. If he had refused, they would have supported his decision, but they would never forgive him for it. As if I could truly refuse, he thought bitterly. I know my duty to my people, and I accept it. Somehow, one leaden foot was put in front of the other until he stood before the half demon. He met the smaller mans slit-pupiled violet gaze for a moment, clenched his hands into tight fists, and knelt at his enemys feet. Forcing a tight rein on his wayward emotions, he kept his face blank. He would not add to his dishonor by making a scene. The king had given an order, and Kael would act the dutiful son, no matter how viciously his thoughts raged inside his mind. Hold your hair out of the way. The half demon spoke softly, his voice deep and raspy. Kael started, looking up at the other man. His blue eyes widened when he saw what the half demon was holding. Obeying his owners wish, he lifted his shoulder length hair out of the way to bare his throat. It took all his will to keep from baring his teeth as well. Slender hands reached down and fastened the black leather collar around his neck. Kael tensed as the half demons callous fingers brushed the tender skin. His mind scrabbled desperately for something to focus on, to leash the roil of emotion in his gut. There is precedence. It wasnt unheard-of for a son or daughter to be given as payment to satisfy a blood debt. However, the practice had fallen into disfavor in Korai. Even royal children had been so gifted in the past, but never to an owner who was the same sex. He knew things were different in other countries, and he supposed that any people who willingly consorted with demons would have few taboos about homosexual intercourse. Keep thinking, Kael. He latched on to his curiosity, hoping it would save both his honor and his sanity.

Jill Knowles

Once the collar was buckled into place, a thin silver leash was attached to it. Kael felt his face heat with shame and looked at the floor, clamping his lips shut against the words of rage and humiliation. A collar and leash. A slave collar and a dog leash. His jaw ached from clenching his teeth together, holding back words of hate and denial. Thank the Goddess all his siblings were attending to their own lives. None of them were here to witness their fathers betrayalor worse, to support it. A soft tinkling interrupted his thoughts, and he looked upward for the source of the sound. The half demon was toying with the silver links of the leash, his gaze on the negotiators. Kael gave in to the urge to study the man who was now his owner. The well-cut uniform clung to Tarens surprisingly muscular frame like a second skin. Kael didnt see any weapons on the man, but the half demon w as reputed to be a fierce fighter with any sort of blade. The smaller mans skin was pale, his long hair purple-black. Tarens features were too fine to be called handsome; indeed, his delicate appearance was more suited to a woman than a man. Amused violet eyes captured his, and Kael blushed, furious, looking back at the floor. I think that concludes our talks, Zandrias king said. Indeed. Kael heard frost in his fathers voice. Shall I have rooms prepared for you and your people? That wont be necessary. This time the warlord spoke. Princeling? A gentle tug at the leash drew Kaels attention. Flushing with anger and shame, Kael stood. Before he could ask for further orders, the colors of the world swirled together in a haze of magic, and he was falling.

Concubine

Chapter Two
The softness under Kaels cheek was at odds with the hardness of the surface underneath the rest of his body. Groaning, he rubbed his aching head. Something wasnt right. He sat up, staring around in disbelief. This isnt Korai. He sat on the hard stone floor of a large bathing room. Rather than an iron tub, there was a pool large enough for several people to sit in comfortably carved into the floor of the room. Kael knew the castle where hed grown up had nothing this luxurious. Where am I, and how did I get here? Memory niggled at the back of his mind, but he couldnt quite grasp it. His fingers brushed against something soft, and he looked down. A silky light blue pillow lay on the floor beside him. And such a floor it was. It was made entirely of dove gray stone polished to mirror smoothness. In fact, the whole room seemed carved from the same warm gray stone. What is this place? Questions. Always questions. According to his mother, his first word was why. His endless quest for information, for the answer to why, had been both his greatest strength and his most dangerous weakness. The curiosity that had plagued him for most of his life once again burned for answers. Candles filled the many small niches carved into the stone, but none of them had been lit. Kael looked around, searching for the source of the bright light filling the room. He didnt have to look far. The ceiling was made from some sort of translucent material that let in the sunlight. It was beautiful, like being inside a diamond. Awake, princeling? The husky voice brought Kaels memories back to him. With a low growl, Kael sprang to his feet, hands held defensively in front of him. Glaring at the warlord, he backed away until his shoulders touched the wall, eyes never leaving the other man. Awake and angry, I see. Kael stared at the man before him, looking for any sign of weakness. The half demon wore short dark blue leggings and nothing else. Strange tattoos swirled across his body in graceful purple arcs, dark against that pale, pale skin. The markings glittered in the bright light, and Kael realized they werent tattoos but scales. It was strangely beautiful and utterly alien. Demon, Kaels mind whispered. Fear skittered on icy feet down his spine. Hed read of demon attacks, knew quite well what horrors the warlord was capable of. He realized he was shivering like a maiden terrified of a spider and straightened his back. He wasnt a coward or a slave, damn it; he was a royal prince of Korai, and he would show this monster no

Jill Knowles

fear. I will endure, no matter what he does to me. His imagination obliged by sending vivid, ugly pictures into his mind. Kael had always been taught that such things were unnatural as well as illegal, although his insatiable curiosity had led him to read several banned manuscripts in an attempt to learn what two men might do together. What hed discovered was surprising, but he wasnt clear on why such couplings were viewed as anathema. Stand at attention, princeling. Kael did as he was told but kept his back pressed against the wall, the cool stone chilling him through his clothes. The half demon stepped forward, studying Kaels face. This isnt going to be easy for you, sweet. Kael swallowed hard and tried not to flinch when the other man stroked his cheek. The men in his company joked about it and teased the sword-bound couples occasionally, but even underneath their tacit acceptance, the sense that such things were wrong was never far away. And now those things were going to become his reality. Damning his inquisitive nature, he resolved to be strong. I will not beg. I will obey his commands but not give him the satisfaction of knowing how much it costs me to do so. The half demon took Kaels hand and drew the younger man forward. Remove your clothes. Kael shook his head, fighting the urge to cross his arms over his chest to protect himself from the other mans hands. He resisted the urge to strike out at the warlord but couldnt quite bring himself to submit. Violet eyes narrowed, and the warlords full lips twisted into a sneer. Is this Korais honor? You belong to mea gift from your country to mine. Will you shame your people? The half demons words cut Kael to the quick. His body was a small price to pay for the lives which would surely be lost if Korai and Zandria went back to war. He rubbed his fingertips against the scar on his left hand. My rank brought me privileges I never asked for. That it now brings punishment is only fair. He took a deep breath. I can do this. His hands went to the carved gold buttons holding his robe closed. For once, he was grateful for the difficulty in pushing the heavy buttons through the stiff cloth. He kept his movements minimal, not wanting to give the half demon any enticement. Ill be obedient. Ill do what he tells me and no more. He doesnt seem the type to enjoy playing with a subservient little puppet. Hell soon tire of me. When the last of the buttons was free, he pushed the cloth from his shoulders and let it pool around his ankles. The robes were a thing of beauty and deserved better treatment, but Kael couldnt make himself care. The robes belonged to his old life, and that was lost forever. He realized the silver leash was gone but that the collar was still in place around his neck. He wanted to remove the hated circlet as well but had no illusions that he would be allowed to do so. The silk undershirt went next, leaving only his loose linen trousers. Kael closed his eyes and untied the drawstring holding them in

Concubine

place. He loosed the fastening and pushed the trousers over his hips, letting them puddle at his feet. As the final trapping of his former life slipped away, so did the last remnant of hope that this was all a terrible mistake. Lovely, the half demon murmured, his voice husky. Kael forced himself to open his eyes and look at his owner. The smaller man was smiling slightly, his gaze on Kaels face. The half demon held out his hand, palm up. Wishing he could pretend he didnt understand the gesture, Kael placed his hand in the half demons. He allowed himself to be pulled forward, stepping carefully from the mass of cloth around his feet. Leaving the prince behind, the concubine followed his owner to the edge of the bathing pool. It felt strangely appropriate that the only thing he now wore was the leather collar proclaiming his servitude. Get in. The water was pleasantly hotenough to relax sore, tense muscles, but not enough to scald. A smooth bench ran along the shallow end of the pool. Kael sat down, which put the water just above his nipples. He slumped downward until the water lapped at his chin. He jumped at a soft thud, opening his eyes just in time to see the half demon toss his clothing to the floor and then settle into the water across from him. The other man leaned his head back against the edge of the pool, closing his eyes and relaxing in the warm water. Naked. Hes naked, and so am I. I will not panic. Kael forced his own eyes closed, calling on the meditation exercises his sword instructor had taught him in a desperate effort to bully his muscles into relaxation. I can do this. The same skills he used in evaluating battle strategies would be useful here. So. Obey him. Show no emotion, no fear, no pain. Hell get bored. Kael refused to speculate on his fate if the half demon got bored and sent him away. Shortsighted, he knew, but something he would face later. No, right now he had to focus on surviving this night. There was little doubt in his mind that the half demon would take him soon. He knew it would hurt. The thought of having his body invaded was terrifying. Still, his traitorous intellect said, there are men who claim to enjoy it. Perhaps it wont be so bad. Blakely and Northson had seemed happy enough together, and hed seen them exchange heated looks when they thought no one was watching. Princeling. Kael tensed at the word, his hard-won relaxation abandoning him in an instant. Sir? Stand up. Kael did as he was told, flushing as the other man studied his body. The water only came up to his midthighs when he stood, leaving him exposed to the half demons gaze. He supposed he was handsome enough and physically fit from the demands placed on him as captain of Gold Company, but there were many men far

10

Jill Knowles

better looking than he was. Perhaps he wont like what he sees. That hope was dashed when Kael saw desire flare in those alien eyes as they stared at him. Come here. As he spoke, the warlord levered himself up out of the water until he sat on the edge of the bathing pool, his legs open, erect cock on display in its nest of dark pubic hair. The half demons genitals were impressivepale skin marked with a single line of purple scales that traced the vein on the underside of his large penis. Below, the mans heavy balls were dusted with fine, dark hair. Kael walked slowly forward, staring at Tarens cock, mesmerized, like a rabbit staring at a snake. Hes going to put that inside me. Its longer than my dagger and as big around as my wrist. It wont fit. It cant fit. Goddess, keep me from disgracing myself by refusing him. Hold out your hand. Wordlessly Kael did as he was commanded. A sly smile curving his lips, the half demon grasped Kaels hand and guided it to his cock. Kael gasped as his palm came into contact with the other mans rigid shaft. He tried to pull away, but the smaller man easily held him in place. How strong is he? Even if I wished to refuse him, I dont think it would do any good. Blood roared in his ears as he realized how vulnerable he was. Pleasure me. Kael stared at the warlord in disbelief. He was touching another mans cock, and his brain simply couldnt process that information. The half demon chuckled, the sound surprisingly warm and devoid of cruelty. I presume you are familiar with the concept? The demon placed his own hand over Kaels, closing Kaels fingers around his penis and stroking down his engorged shaft. Nodding jerkily, Kael closed his eyes and mechanically moved his hand in the customary motion, up and down the other mans cock. He could get through this as long as he didnt think about what he was doing. Look at me, princeling, the half demon said. After Kael opened his eyes, the warlord continued. Youre not milking a cow. I want you to give me pleasure. Touch me as you would yourself. Explore. After all, you are going to become very familiar with my cock. Kael nodded, not trusting his voice. Hesitantly he looked down at the rigid penis in his hand. Explore. He took a deep breath and told himself that the flesh in his hand was just another artifact for him to study. He touched the line of scales tracing the large vein on the underside of his owners shaft, surprised that they felt warm and smooth against his fingertips. The half demons skin was velvety; Kael was struck by the urge to touch his own cock and see if his skin was as soft. The penis itself was larger than his own, pointing arrogantly upward. The flared cockhead was darker than the rest of the warlords penis and flushed with arousal. A pearl of pale fluid glistened in the slit bisecting the cockhead. Kael

Concubine

11

rubbed his thumb across it, smearing the slick precum across the heated skin. A low growl made him look up at the warlord. The smaller mans eyes were closed, and his head was thrown back, exposing the cords in his neck. Keep going, the half demon rasped. Kael shifted his attention back to the warlords cock and concentrated on stroking the other man to completion. He was fascinated by the sensation of touching the half demon so intimately. The rigid shaft was velvet-covered steel against his palm. Losing himself in the exploration, he varied his tempo and the tightness of his grip, knowing what excited him and wondering if that would please the other man. The increasing tempo of the half demons growl told him when he was pleasing the other man, and he let that be his guide. Finally, as his arm was tiring, the warlords growl became a vicious snarl, and the rigid cock jerked in Kaels hand, spilling pale lavender-white seed. As his fingers were coated with the slippery fluid, a strong sense of unreality stole over him. Had he truly masturbated another man to completion? Numbly he stared at the cum dripping from his right hand. He had, and moreover, it hadnt disgusted him. Very nice, princeling, his owner said. Rinse your hand, and follow me. Kael obeyed. The smaller man took his hand and led him from the pool. At his owners direction, he stood in a shallow depression in one corner of the bathing room, at the opposite side of the room from the small necessary cubicle. Kael was puzzled by the two small silver levers set at waist height on the wall, one above the other. In studying them, he also noticed a palm-size circle of holes set at shoulder height and a second set of holes set several hand spans higher. He felt strangely calm despite the fact that his world had been forever changed. He expected to feel humiliated, violated, but instead he was once again distracted by his own insatiable curiosity. What is wrong with me? Movement drew his attention back to the other man. Kael tried to watch him without looking at his naked body but was only partially successful. The graceful swirls of purple scales moved with each shift of his muscles, nearly sending Kael into a trance. He wondered if the half demon felt different sensations depending on whether a touch was against skin or scales. As he opened his mouth to ask, he stopped. This man was the enemy. He made himself concentrate on what his owner was doing. The half demon went to a cabinet set to one side of the bathing room, opened it, and removed a bright green sponge and two small pottery jars. He tucked the sponge underneath one arm and carried everything back to where Kael waited. After setting the jars to one side of the depression where Kael stood, he reached up and tugged the lower of the two levers. Kael yelped when warm water rushed from the lower set of holes, soaking him. Embarrassed, he glared at the other man, then stared at the place where the water came out of the wall. How did they do that? And its so warm. He reached up and put his finger over one of the holes, examining it for some clue as to how it was made.

12

Jill Knowles

The sound of a throat clearing brought him back to the present. The half demon was grinning at him, revealing sharp canines. Holding Kaels gaze, he picked up the sponge and wet it in the stream of water. He poured a pale green liquid from one of the jars onto the sponge, worked it into a fragrant, pinescented lather, and stepped closer to Kael. Kael started when the soapy sponge touched his chest, freezing at the unexpected sensation. By the time he was able to move again, his chest was covered with suds, and the other man had started on his left arm. He tried to pull away, but with his back to the corner and Warlord Taren in front of him, there was no place for him to go. What are you doing? he asked, outrage coloring his voice. Bathing you, came the reply. Raise your arm, please. Butbutyou cant. He cursed himself for sounding like a nervous virgin even if he was one. Kael had never had another man touch him this way. Taking refuge in indignation, he reached for the sponge. Excuse me, sir. I am perfectly capable of bathing myself. The half demon looked up at him, snake-slitted violet eyes seeming to burn. You will do as I command, and you will address me as master, understood? He spoke as one who was used to giving commands and having them obeyed. Reminded of his status, Kael swallowed hard and forced the words out. I understand. Master. Venom dripped from the final word. The half demon, his master, simply smiled. Good. Now raise your arm. Kael did as he was commanded, flinching when the sponge rubbed briskly at the hair in his armpit. It seemed too intimate, somehow, for his owner to clean him there. He followed the commands given to him as the rest of his body was scrubbed with brisk efficiency. It was not unpleasant, but he felt off balance. It would have been easier to accept if his owner was lewd or groped him. The incongruity between the situation and the warlords attitude was puzzling. This was such a private thing, but the other man acted as if he bathed men every day. Perhaps he does. Bemused, Kael followed his masters directions, balking only when the half demon turned him to face the wall and told him to lean forward and spread his legs. I beg your pardon? Do as I say, princeling. The tone of his masters voice said that disobedience would not be tolerated. Face red with embarrassment and anger, Kael leaned forward, rested his forearms against the warm stone wall, and opened his legs. He fought the urge to flinch when the soft sponge moved over his genitals, then around and over the cheeks of his ass. He didnt know how to deal with this. His training had concentrated on social graces and the arts of battle. He read history and philosophy for pleasure. None of it helped now. Nerve endings hed never known he had awakened and took notice of the intimate touch. The worst of it was that his body wanted to respond to the stimulation. No. I will do as he orders, but I will not give him the satisfaction of

Concubine

13

arousing me. This was something he had never expected and certainly didnt want. His gaze found the scar on his hand. Deliberately he forced himself to remember bodies ripped asunder during the final battle with the Zandrian army. That destroyed his burgeoning excitement. A small gasp escaped him when the sponge lingered at the small opening nestled between his nether cheeks. The gasp changed to a hiss when a slender, soapy finger was eased inside him without warning. It was uncomfortable, but that wasnt what made him furious; it was the violation of the action. Nothing could have prepared him for the shock of having his most secret place invaded by that slippery finger. How dare you? He spoke through gritted teeth, wanting to pull away but trapped by the stone wall he leaned against. You belong to me. I will do as I wish with your body. You may, of course, refuse to submit, and prove that your royal house has no honor. As he spoke, the warlords finger slid in and out of Kael in an imitation of sex. I will not force you. Not physically. But Tarens words were far more effective than a drawn sword. Damn you, Kael whispered, standing still while his owner fingered him. Then it hit himthis was his life now. He understood why his father had said hate me if you need to, and for the first time in his life, Kael despised his king. What have I done to deserve this? Curiosityeven about forbidden thingswasnt worth a life sentence. And that was what this was: a life sentence to whore for a demon. Shaking with fury, he concentrated on deep breaths as his owner explored his most private place. The discomfort faded as the massage continued, and his rage dulled into hopelessness. He choked back a cry as the finger was removed, and warm water drizzled over him, rinsing the suds away. He kept his eyes closed, resting his forehead against the smooth wall of the bathing chamber until he felt gentle hands pull him backward and guide him underneath the spray of warm water. What did it matter what his owner did to him? His own king had betrayed him. The water was hitting him from higher up, and he opened his eyes. Water was no longer coming from the lower of the set of holes, instead coming from the upper set. How did they do that? He wondered if the warlord would explain if he asked. Lean back, and wet your hair. Kael did as he was told, feeling as if he were somehow removed from his body. His mind kept puzzling over the mystery of the shower of water, and he recognized it as the defense it was. Hed used the same trick when planning attacks on bandit camps. Concentrate on the intellectual aspect and ignore the fact that he was planning ways to kill human beings. Concentrate on the water delivery system rather than the man he must submit to. Kneel in front of me. Again Kael obeyed. The stone was smooth against his knees, the surrounding air warm enough that he wasnt chilled despite no longer being underneath the stream of water. His new position put him at eye level with the half demons genitals. As gentle hands worked apple-scented soap through his hair, he stared at

14

Jill Knowles

the sight before him. Ive touched that cock. Ive felt it jerk in my hands, watched as it spilled seed. Hes going to put it inside me, where he had his finger. I must surrender. I must endure. Stand up, princeling. Kael stood and rinsed the soap from his hair at his owners direction. Comfortably numb, he stepped aside and waited passively while the half demon bathed. When the smaller man finished, he dried himself first, then Kael. The strange lassitude carried him through kneeling at the warlords feet while his hair was dried and then being led from the bathing room. He gasped at the revealed splendor. The sheer beauty of the room dragged him back to full awareness. Kael stared in awe at the glorious sight in front of him. The room he guessed it was a sitting room of some sortwas made of the same dove gray stone as the bathing chamber and had the same translucent ceiling, but there the similarities ended. The walls had beautifully crafted geometric designs made of brightly colored green, yellow, and blue glass pressed into them. The barely filtered sunlight hit the glass, sending sparkling rainbows over every surface. The small dining table with its single chair and the wood gracing the arms and feet of a small sofa were of natural blond oak, and silk and velvet cushions were strewn in random harmony about the room. Kael hadnt begun to look his fill when he was pulled through the sitting room and into the bedchamber. He dug his heels in when he saw the four-poster bed dominating the room. Its frame was done in blond oak, the lines of the piece simple, with little ornamental carving. The draperies, coverlet, and pillows that adorned the bed were made of bright teal silks and velvets. The rooms walls and ceiling were similar to those of the sitting room. The wall opposite the bed was decorated with a large diamondshaped geometric design in rounds of glass colored purple, black, and dark blue. A trunk with a cushioned black canvas top rested at the end of the bed. Ignoring the brief resistance, the half demon tugged Kael to a large wardrobe placed against one wall. He pulled on a pair of soft green suede trousers and a loose white linen shirt. Turning, he regarded Kael, those alien eyes narrowing as they swept over Kaels body. Resisting the urge to cover himself, Kael glowered at his owner. His glare intensified when the half demon reached out and cupped his testicles, weighing them in one slender hand. Shall I keep you naked, my princeling? As he spoke, he rolled Kaels balls in his palm. It feltgood. Kael desperately cast his memory back to the battle as his cock began to stir and harden. It was no use. He couldnt focus on anything save the fingers working his balls and his now-engorged cock. Well, shall I? the other man asked.

Concubine

15

Kael looked at his owner incomprehensively for a moment before understanding dawned. Blushing with embarrassment and anger, he said, I would prefer to be clothed. With a low chuckle, his master released his testicles and stroked one fingertip the full length of Kaels shaft, then turned back to the wardro be and pulled out a mass of black cloth. He shook it out, revealing a pair of black velvet leggings. Holding them to Kaels waist, he nodded. These will do for now. Ill have moresuitable clothing made later. Raising his brow in challenge, he held them out to Kael. Kael snatched the leggings from the other man and pulled them on before his owner could reconsider and keep him naked. Once they were on, however, Kael wasnt sure they did anything to help his modesty. The velvet was tight, clinging to him like a second skin and molding obscenely to his rigid cock. The leggings were velvet on the inside as well as on the outside, and the additional stimulation did nothing to dampen his ardor. He flushed when he realized he wasnt going to be allowed a shirt. Just one more thing, the warlord said. He reached out and caught one of Kaels nipples between thumb and forefinger, then rolled and pinched the tender flesh. Kael gritted his teeth as the almost too-rough caress added to his arousal. None of the women hed bedded had ever played with his nipples, though they seemed to enjoy it when he had toyed with theirs. He shook his head, trying to focus on something other than the unwelcome sensations that threatened to consume him. It was no use; his intellect failed him, and all he could do was feel. The half demon switched his attention to the other nipple, tugging and playing with it until it was as sensitized as the first one. Abruptly he stopped and rested his hand in the center of Kaels chest. Breathing hard, trembling with the shock of unexpected lust, Kael stared down at his owner. He opened his mouth to speak but could find no words. As he stared at the man who had turned his world on its ear, his masters hand stroked upward and tugged at the collar Kael still wore. My sweet princeling. Desire becomes you. Kael saw heat and triumph in the other mans expression. Sickened by his bodys betrayal, he closed his eyes, unwilling to face his tormentor. Ah, I hear the servants. Our dinner is ready. Kael opened his eyes and watched as his owner walked from the room. Reaching up, he then ran his fingers over the leather collar. He was still stunned by his passionate reaction to the half demons touch. Im a whore. This is why Father gave me away. He must have known I had this unnatural desire inside me. Clinically he noted that the leather collar he wore didnt feel damp or uncomfortable, as it should have after getting wet. Spelled, perhaps? Another puzzle to add to the

16

Jill Knowles

growing pile. He had to keep his mind busy or else he would go mad as his body succumbed to his owners carnal desires.

Concubine

17

Chapter Three
A maid brought in a tray of dinner and set it down on the dining table in the sitting room. Kael blushed at her speculative glance, shamed that a servant should see him with his chest bare, his nipples swollen from his owners attentions. He couldnt stop the sigh of relief from escaping when she left. Nor could he stop the rumbling of his stomach at the smell of roast venison and fresh bread. He wondered how late it was, how long since magic had spirited him away from the only home hed ever known. Come here, princeling, the half demon said. Kael walked to the table, wondering what new humiliation he would have to endure. There was only one place set at the table and one set of utensils, though there were two napkins, one bright teal, the other stark black. Two wide black leather circlets sat to one side of the plate. Kael couldnt begin to guess what purpose they might serve. Turn around and cross your wrists behind your back. Kael did as he was commanded. Goddess, what now? He tensed as his wrists were bound together at the small of his back and realized that the circlets were leather cuffs. I can do this. He took stock of this new situation. Again he was not comfortable, but not in any pain. He puzzled once again at his masters incomprehensible actions. What game is he playing? Sit down, princeling, the half demon said. Kael looked at the single chair and place setting, and then back at his owner. With his hands bound behind his back, he would be unable to use the knife and fork flanking the plate. Was this the newest torment? Was he to be allowed to see and smell food but not eat? Somehow he didnt think that was the case. The warlord had yet to be cruel to him. With a soft chuckle, the half demon pointed to a fat purple cushion placed on the floor at the right side of the chair. Here, Warlord Taren said, pointing at the pillow. Hesitantly Kael walked to the side of the chair and tried to figure out how he was going to sit without the use of his hands. He went clumsily down to his knees and would have overbalanced and fallen had his owner not caught his shoulders. Easy, pet. Firm hands guided Kael to the pillow and helped him to get settled. Once Kael was in place on the surprisingly comfortable cushion, his owner sat in the chair. The cushion had been placed so that Kael sat with his shoulder brushing his owners thigh. As he watched, the other man picked up the black

18

Jill Knowles

napkin and shook it out. Kael was surprised to see that it wasnt a traditional napkin but instead a long, narrow silk scarf. Turn your head so that youre looking away from me. Im going to blindfold you. I will not call him master unless he forces the issue. His stomach clenching, Kael said, Sir? The thought of being bound and blindfolded horrified him. He would submit to his owners attentions because he must, but that necessity was made easier knowing he could struggle if he needed to. But with his wrists behind his back and his eyes covered, he would be completely helpless. He looked up at his owner, seeing compassion and resolve in the half demons violet eyes. Swallowing hard, Kael obeyed and turned his head away from the other man, grateful that the warlord let him get away with using sir. The soft blindfold was tied into place across his eyes. The cloth was fine silk and sheer enough that he could see some light, though no definite shapes. Still, the fact that he could see something was enough to stop his heart from racing. Anxious to know what was happening, he strained his other senses. He could hear the soft sounds of cutlery against dishes, and the smells of food were making his mouth water. Open your mouth. Kael hesitated and then complied. A small piece of venison was placed inside his mouth. Reflexively he chewed and swallowed. It was strangely spiced, richer than he was used to, and not nearly as salty. He felt his owners fingers brush his lips, and he opened his mouth again. This time a bite of bread was placed inside. It was delicioussoft and nutty and far different from the sourdough bread he was used to. Though the food was quite good, it was as alien as the half demons eyes. He longed for just one thing that was the same as he was used to at home, but even the water tasted subtly different. Kael had never felt so helpless. To keep from panicking, he mentally recited the royal lineages as his owner fed him bites of succulent venison, potatoes, carrots, and soft bread and then drinks of cool water. Had he ever been so conscious of what hed eaten before? It was a peculiarly sensual experience. With his eyes covered, he didnt know what he would be given when the soft brush of his owners fingers against his lips signaled that another taste was coming. His senses of taste, smell, and touch were heightened to almost uncomfortable levels. Finally the meal was over, and Kael was pleasantly sated. At least there hadnt been any tricks. He was fed the same food the half demon ate, and in pieces small enough for him to chew without difficulty. And he was fed exactly how much he wanted; his owner had stopped offering him food when hed ref used to sample any more of each of the dishes. Come, pet, the half demon said.

Concubine

19

Kael felt the other mans leg move against him as the half demon stood. A firm tugging at his arm told Kael he was to stand as well. Kael stood, grateful for the warlords steadying grasp. Standing up with his hands still bound and still wearing the blindfold was surprisingly difficult. He was glad of the half demons assistance and confused that he could feel such an emotion for his owner. He was led several steps to the right and guided onto another cushion. Leaning backward, he felt soft solidness against his back and guessed he was sitting on the floor in front of the sofa. He started when he felt something press against his side, then relaxed when he felt the now-familiar sensation of his masters leg resting against his arm. The country we now call Zandria was once known as the Demon Provinces. The half demons voice was low and soothing. Kael guessed his master was reading from a history book and listened eagerly, always ready to soak up knowledge and determined to distract himself from the myriad of unsettling emotions he was feeling. He lost himself in the learning, using the joy of new knowledge to drive away the memory of his bodys betrayal. The Demon Provinces were broken up into fifteen warring city-states, some human, some demon. Clans, both demon and human, were constantly suffering from raids and from raiding each other. Zandar, the leader of one of the human clans, had a vision of one united country. He offered marriage to the daughter of one of the strongest of the demon clans, uniting them against the rest. Soon all the warring clans had been either subdued or forced into alliances Kael let the soft words wash over him, giving him clues hed need in order to survive this strange land he must now call home. With his eyes covered, he had no sense of how much time had passed. Despite his uncertainty, it was nice to sit quietly and listen to Warlord Tarens pleasant voice describing Zandrias early history. For once, Kael didnt have to take notes, nor did he have to endure his instructors dismay at his interest in such scholarly pursuits. He had excelled at tactics and been a good commander; hed done his duty but had never enjoyed it. He knew there were those who reveled in battle, but he had never been one of them. No matter how compelling the need to protect Korai, Kael could never forget that he was killing other human beings. It was the one good thing to come out of this new life: as a concubine, he would not be allowed to fight. To his shame, he was glad to know he would never again have to face the horror of battle. He wondered if his father had known how much he disliked warfare. Perhaps that was the reason for this exile; his father had gotten rid of him before he could voice his displeasure at the constant warring. Kael was so deep into his unwelcome thoughts that the soft sound of the book being closed made him jump. Thats enough for tonight, I think, his owner said.

20

Jill Knowles

Kael felt movement against him and knew the half demon stood up. He was drawn to his feet as well and led into another room, then stopped and positioned with the backs of his calves against a firm surface. As he stood, he heard the soft rustle of cloth and wondered what new game his owner had devised. His wrists were unbound, his arms taken into his owners hands and massaged until the ache from holding the same position for so long left his muscles. Hands on his shoulders instructed him to sit, and he did so, sinking into the softness of a mattress. He tensed, fighting to keep from ripping the blindfold off. He was guided into a supine position, head resting on soft pillows. Unbidden, the image of his owners penis slid into his mind. Its too big. Please dont, he whispered. Sh, pet. I give you my word that I will not take you tonight. T omorrow is soon enough for you to learn that duty. The quiet words were breathed into Kaels ear as the warlord straddled his abdomen. Hands above your head. Feeling bare skin, Kael realized that the rustling hed heard earlier was the warlord undressing. He shuddered as the other mans hard cock rubbed suggestively against his belly. Complying with the order hed been given, he raised his hands so that they rested at the top of the pillow and against the headboard. He tensed as his wrists were grasped and fastened in cuffs to the headboard. Sir? Im not going to fuck you, but I am going to enjoy your body. Taren laughed, a low, wicked sound. Its such a lovely body. He leaned forward, rested his chest against Kaels, and spoke in Kaels ear, his breath hot and sultry. Im going to learn you, my princeling. I want you to give me every sigh, every moan, as I map your flesh with mine. Kael gasped as his earlobe was suckled. His cock began to lengthen as desire pooled heavily in his belly. Goddess. He blurted the word out as sharp teeth nipped him. Master, the half demon said. He traced Kaels ear with his tongue. Say it, pet. Kael stubbornly bit his lip. Defiance welled up in his breast. In this he would not yield. Taren laughed again. Youll call me master before this night is finished. I guarantee it. No, sir, Kael said, his voice husky with need. His owners mouth trailed down his neck, licking and nipping his skin. The warlord paused at Kaels shoulder to suck and worry the large muscle there. Kael was certain he would have a bruise in the morning. The warlord pulled his mouth away from Kaels shoulder and sat back, the firm bare globes of his ass pressing against Kaels cock. Clever fingers sought and found Kaels nipples again. Pinching and playing with the sensitive nubs, he rubbed his ass suggestively over Kaels velvet-covered penis. Kael groaned as his cock began to leak precum. Hed expected this first night to be one of pain and humiliation, of submission to the base desires of a monster.

Concubine

21

Hed never guessed that the real torment would be the triumph of his body over his intellect. His owner slithered backward until his chest was against Kaels belly. Kael felt the hot rush of breath over his nipple, the only warning before the tender peak was engulfed in moist heat. Crying out, he arched up off the bed as his owner began to nurse greedily at his breast. His nipple, sensitized from the half demons earlier attentions, tightened into almost painful hardness. The warlord released Kaels nipple and blew cool air across it. Goddess bless, Kael shouted, his wrists pulling against the cuffs as a wave of bliss crashed over him. Call me master, his owner said, licking the nipple hed been neglecting. No. Taren captured the tight peak between his teeth and nipped sharply. Kael jumped at the stinging pain. Bastard, he gasped. Master, the half demon countered. He bit Kaels nipple again, then rested his cheek against Kaels chest and grasped the abused nub between his thumb and forefinger. I think Ill have these pierced. I shall enjoy looking at you with gold rings in your tits. He tugged at Kaels nipple. Mmmm. I can attach a chain to each ring and hang a leash between them. He moved his fingers to the other nipple and pinched. Picture it, pet. You, naked but for the rings and chains, being led into a banquet. Ill be the envy of all my peers. Kael clenched his hands into fists as he imagined the scene. Even as his mind clamored against the idea, his cock seemed to throb in time with each tug at his chest. I despise you, he gritted out. I despise you, Master. His owner laughed and slid off him. Kael turned his head, cursing the blindfold. He didnt know where the warlord was, and that worried him. His question was answered when strong hands tugged at the waistband of his leggings. Obeying the unspoken command, he raised his butt off the mattress so that the garment could be removed. Once he was naked, he waited for the warlord to climb back onto the bed. When nothing happened, Kael felt the beginnings of anxiety. Sir? Spread your legs. His owners voice was rough with need. Kael hesitated. The half demon had promised not to take him, but Trust me, pet. The words were spoken softly. Oddly enough, he did. After taking a deep breath, Kael moved first one leg, then the other, until they were as far apart as he could comfortably place them. Kael heard the other man take in a harsh breath. Look at you, pet. Blindfolded, naked, and spread for my pleasure. My princeling, youre testing my honor sorely this night. Ah well, we shall both find satisfaction, though I wont claim you fully. With that, he sighed.

22

Jill Knowles

Relief and something elsedesire, lust, disappointment?surged through him at the quiet words. Kael heard the sound of a drawer opening and closing and then a soft clink. The faint scent of lavender teased his nostrils, and he heard a sort ofwet sound. The bed dipped as his owner climbed back onto it and positioned himself between Kaels legs. Kael jumped as an oiled hand stroked up and down his aching cock. Before he could fully appreciate the sensation, his owner was lying fully on top of him. Kael tensed at the unfamiliar feel of a mans body dominating his, but the apprehension quickly turned to lust as the half demons cock stroked his. It was exquisite torture as his owner rubbed against him, the lavender oil ensuring that they slid easily against each other. The warlords body was slick with sweat and felt incredibly good pressed against Kael as they ground together. Kael tugged against the cuffs binding his hands, wanting to wrap his arms around his owner and pull the other man closer. His breath quickened as he neared the pinnacle. Harder, he rasped, wanting more friction. Harder, Master, Warlord Taren said, pulling his groin away from Kaels. Bastard, Kael said, futilely pressing his hips upward as he sought contact. Master, the other man said, grinding once, twice against Kael before pulling back once again. No. Kael panted, his hips moving in shallow thrusts as the need for friction became almost painful. A wet slapping sound made him frown. It was familiar, and yet he couldnt put a name to it. My hands arent bound, pet. I can jerk myself off and spill my seed onto your belly. Then I can play with your lovely hard cock as much as I want, keeping you on edge but not letting you finish. A wicked laugh. Shall I? Do you want to ache all night with the need to come? He pressed full length against Kael once again, his cock resting against Kaels. Hot breath gusted against Kaels ear as his owner whispered, All it takes is one. Thrust. Little. Thrust. Word. Thrust, thrust. Overcome, Kael shouted, Master! Mine, his master said, grinding against him in a frenzy of lust. They strained together for a long moment before Kaels climax rushed through him. He bucked up against his owner as hot seed spurted from him. As his body shook and shuddered to completion, his master growled and ground roughly against him, coming with a snarl of pure triumph. They lay panting for several minutes before the half demon moved off him. Without speaking, the warlord removed the cuffs from Kaels wrists, then gently pulled off the blindfold, using it to clean the mess from both of their bellies. Kael blinked into the darkness of the bedchamber, wishing he could see. It was surprisingly dark, the full moon not yet risen high enough to shine through the translucent ceiling. He fell asleep wondering what the next day would bring.

Concubine

23

Chapter Four
A musky, spicy fragrance teased his nostrils. Kael snuggled against the warmth pressed against his left side, wrinkling his nose as something tickled it. He opened his eyes, expecting to find one of the numerous palace cats curled up too near his face. Cats dont have long purple hair, was his first thought. It really is purple, was his second. The brilliant sunlight slanting in through the translucent roof revealed that Tarens hair was actually a deep, rich purple that was nearly black. A silvery sparkle caught his attentionthe buckles of a pair of leather cuffs attached to the headboard of the bed. A furious blush stained his cheeks as he remembered surrendering to the smaller man as they strained together, seeking completion. The musk of sex still perfumed the air. Whats happening to me? he wondered. When had the intellectual, reserved Prince Kael turned into such a wanton? He tensed and started to ease away from the smaller man, freezing when the half demons arm snaked across his waist and pulled him closer. Not wanting to wake his owner up, Kael lay still, staring at the purple-black lock draped across his shoulder. How odd to be close enough to another man to have that mans hair resting on his skin. I always thought demons would have coarse, wiry hair. But his looks so soft. Scarcely daring to breathe, he reached up and gave the hair a quick stroke, then jerked his hand back. The other man didnt move. Feeling bolder, Kael touched the lock again, marveling at the silken softness. He touched his own hair for comparison and was surprised to find that the half demons hair was much finer. He drew the lock of hair to his nose and inhaled the wild, spicy fragrance that clung to it. I never thought he would smell good either. Nor be as playful as he was last night. Lost in thought, he brushed the lock of hair across his lips. Good morning, pet. His owners voice was slightly slurred with sleep. Kael froze and would have pulled away had the smaller mans arm not still been across his waist. Those inhuman violet eyes were less than a foot away, filled with contentment and another emotion Kael wasnt sure he wanted to identify. Not trusting his voice, he just nodded at the other man. Feel free to continue, his owner said, grinning wickedly. Kael released the lock of hair hed been examining and tentatively touched a swirl of purple scales on Tarens chest, just below one of the other mans dark nipples. Do they feel different? he asked, damnable curiosity getting the better of prudence.

24

Jill Knowles

Hmm? I dont understand the question. Kael ordered his thoughts and clarified, Does it feel different when I touch you herehe stroked the line of scalesfrom when I touch you here? He moved his fingertip to the side and pressed it against ordinary skin. Ah. No. Its all me, pet. The warlord rested one slender hand over Kaels and guided it across his chest until Kaels palm lay over one of the flat male nipples. Now, when you touch me here, it definitely feels better. Kael brushed the nub with a fingertip and was gratified to see it harden into a tight peak. Remembering the previous days lessons, he grasped his owners nipple and pinched lightly, then rolled it between his thumb and forefinger. The half demon sighed and stretched, his muscles going taut beneath Kaels palm. Dont stop, pet. This is getting interesting. Kael smiled at his owner and resumed his exploration, tugging, rubbing, and squeezing first one tender peak, then the other. He was curious about why a touch on what had always seemed to be an unnecessary part of male anatomy could feel so very good. He also wondered why none of the courtesans hed visited had caressed him this way. Did all men enjoy such stimulation, or was it only good for men who sought the company of other men? As if in answer, his cock twitched and began to swell. He refused to speculate about his own responses. For these few moments, he would give in to the temptation to simply enjoy the sensations flooding his body. The warlord arched and moaned as he enjoyed Kaels ministration. Suck me, he said, placing a hand behind Kaels neck and urging his head to his chest. I Sir I Kael sputtered as his cheek was pressed against soft skin and scales. His owner carded a hand though his hair in a gentle massage. It felt good when I suckled you yesterday, didnt it? Yes, Kael said, remembering the incendiary pleasure hed felt. I wish to feel that as well. Hesitantly Kael altered his position so that his mouth could reach the other mans nipple. His heart beating rapidly in his chest, he pressed his lips to the small nub, then flicked out his tongue. Saltand something sweeterteased his senses. What is that? He licked again and then a third time, trying to put a name to the elusive flavor. Beneath him, his owner began to growl, a deep, throaty sound that made the warlords body vibrate. Determined to identify the sweet taste of the half demons flesh, Kael closed his mouth around the tender peak and suckled. The warlord bucked up, the growl softening to the raspy purr of a contented cat. Kael worried at his owners nipple, making a wordless sound of protest when firm hands pulled his head away and guided him to the other nipple. He greedily fastened his lips around the small peak, and again salty-sweetness exploded into his mouth. Between his legs, his cock grew ever harder, and he could feel sweat beading on his skin as desire filled him.

Concubine

25

His hand was grabbed and guided down to his owners rigid cock. Still feasting on the half demons nipples, Kael began to stroke his owner, glorying in the power he had to make the other man moan and growl. With a final snarl, the warlord climaxed, his seed spilling onto Kaels fingers. Still suckling at his owners breast, Kael moved his hand to his own cock, the other mans seed slicking his shaft so that his hand slid easily over the turgid flesh. It only took a few pulls for him to follow his owner to completion, and he shuddered as his own slippery cum was released. Panting, Kael shifted so that he lay beside the smaller man, putting some distance between the two of them. He couldnt believe his own daring. What had happened to his resolution to merely submit to his owners wishes? Hed enjoyed pleasing the other manenjoyed it so much it had nearly brought him to orgasm. Hed rubbed another mans seed onto his own cock, and it had simply intensified his enjoyment of the act, bringing him to climax in an embarrassingly short time. Everything he knew about himself was being turned on its ear. How many changes would he undergo in this new life? His owners voice provided a welcome distraction from the thoughts chasing each other around his mind. Its time we were up. Weve a great deal to accomplish today, beginning with a session in the bathing chamber.

***
This bath was very much like the bath hed endured yesterday, Kael thought as he leaned against the wall while his masters finger slid in and out of him. The sensation of being invaded was still strange, but there was a shivery anticipation as well. Unable to decide whether the touch was unpleasant or simply foreign, he closed his eyes and concentrated on taking deep breaths. He breathed a sigh of relief when he felt the finger withdraw, then tensed when it was pushed back in, followed by a second one. The increased fullness was uncomfortable, a burning sting that made him wince as his teeth worried his lower lip. He felt the fingers open and close within him, stretching the tender opening. The pain eased, but the physical sensations were so intense, he squirmed, wanting to escape. Kael tasted copper and realized hed bitten his lip hard enough to draw blood. Just as he was about to beg the half demon to stop the confusing torment, the fingers were withdrawn, and he felt warm water trickle over his skin, washing the soap away.

26

Jill Knowles

Chapter Five
Kael stared at the strange harness the half demon held. It was made of supple black leather, and he could not figure out what it might fit. It looked like a belt with a triangle of leather hanging from one side. The bottom of the triangle narrowed into a strap with what appeared to be a buttonhole in it. A second buckle hung from a short strap at the back of the contraption. His owner handed it to him, a small smile curving generous lips. The leather was soft, and the harness was obviously a well-made, expensive piece. But what could it possibly fit? He looked around, wondering if his owner kept some sort of pet, but saw no evidence of a dog or cat in the room. Whats it for? he asked, handing it back to his owner. Ill show you. Taren sat down on the trunk at the foot of the bed. Stand with your back to me and your legs spread, pet. Kael did as he was told, his mind still puzzling over the arrangement of straps and buckles. He jumped when he felt his owners fingers caress his hip. The thickest part of the leather was buckled around his waist and the triangle of soft leather positioned so that it covered his genitals. The thin leather strap fed between his legs and up between his ass cheeks. He could feel the buckle at the end of the short strap dangling just below the small of his back. Oh. He nodded as the odd positions of the straps suddenly made sense. Oh dear, he thought, as the realization that he was wearing the strange contraption registered. Hold this in place. His owner took his hand and guided it behind his back. The end of the strap was placed in his fingers. Kael stood awkwardly, wondering what was going to happen. The thin strip of leather fit snugly in the crack of his ass, and only years of experience wearing heavy, itchy ceremonial robes kept him from fidgeting. Step forward and turn to face me, his owner ordered. After Kael complied, the warlord stood and walked behind him. The strap was taken from Kael s hand, and the half demons raspy voice said, Kneel and lean over the trunk. Feeling strange with the other mans hands brushing his backside, Kael complied. The thick rugs on the floor protected his knees, and the cool canvas covering the chest was pleasant against his skin. He was glad that his owner was dressed in trousers and a loose shirt; otherwise he would fear that the other man was going to take him. He wasnt ready to contemplate that yet. Legs open.

Concubine

27

Kael closed his eyes and did as he was told. He felt the other man doing something to the strap, tugging it. It was worked between his butt cheeks, and he flushed in shame at the appalling liberties being taken with his body. The scent of lavender distracted him from the pressure against his opening, and before he could protest or tense, something slightly larger than the demons two fingers was pushed into him. He cried out, jerking his hips forward, but couldnt get away from it. He shook his head in disbelief as his muscles quivered. This was entirely unexpected. Having his owners fingers inside him was strange, but hed been coming to terms with that. This foreign thing was another matter entirely. For the first time since his fathers betrayal, tears prickled in his eyes. I cant do this. Its too much. Sh, pet, this isnt punishment. Its to help you get ready for me. Gentle hands rubbed his lower back as Warlord Taren murmured soothing phrases. Forcing his muscles to relax, Kael fought to get himself under control. He focused on the scar on his hand, using it to ground him and drive the shame away. This was part of the price of peace between Korai and Zandria. His struggles ceased as he brought the images of dead and dying soldiers to mind. He had to endure this or more would die. I will do whatever he asks of me. He felt more tugging as the straps were tightened into place. The pain had subsided to a mild burning sensation and the uncomfortable feeling of fullness. Stand up, pet. Kael stood, moaning as the thing inside him shifted with each movement. What? He licked his lips, tasting blood. Whats inside me? The half demon handed him a piece of carved amber. It was about the same width and length of two of his fingers, with one rounded end and one that narrowed slightly, then flared out into a squared oval. Kael turned it over and over in his hands, trying to wrap his mind around the knowledge that its twin was inside him, held in place by the strange leather harness. I am going to claim you tonight. This will prevent me from injuring you. You will wear the plug for an hour; then I will remove it and let you rest for a bit, and then you will wear a slightly larger plug, and so on throughout the day. I dont understand. Why are you humiliating me like this? He finally looked down at the half demon. The sense of betrayal deepened. Hed begun to trust the smaller man and accept that his new role might be tolerable, and now this. Nothing was as it seemed, and Kael was getting heartily sick and tired of the constant changes the past days had thrown at him. The smaller man sighed and took Kaels hand. I am not doing this to shame you. He placed Kaels palm against the front of his pants. Kael could feel his owners rigid cock through the soft gray suede. The half demon continued. I am largelarger than most human men. The plugs will stretch you. Tonight you will be able to accept me inside you without being damaged.

28

Jill Knowles

It sounded reasonable, practicalkind. Why do you care, Master? Kael spit the word out. Im your concubine, your slave. Why do you care whether or not Im damaged? Fists clenched, fingernails digging into his palms, Kael longed to strike out at the smaller man and vent all his frustration on the warlords body. Only his honor and the knowledge that the warlord was far stronger and quicker stayed his fury. It shocked him, this wish to fight rather than talk out a problem. Once again, his bodys responses were in danger of overcoming his rational mind. Rather than get mad, the half demon chuckled. I do not let my horse starve, nor would I leave my sword out to rust in the rain. He started toward the sitting room. Come, princeling. Its time to break our fast. Fuming at the insulting statement, Kael followed, wincing as his movement shifted the amber plug within him.

***
Breakfast was a repeat of dinner the night before. Bound and blindfolded, Kael knelt at his masters feet, accepting fruit, bread, and ham when they were offered. After theyd both eaten their fill, he was led back into the bedroom, still bound and blind. The plug was removed, though the harness was left in place. The removal had been almost as uncomfortable as the insertion, and Kael felt despair settle over him at the thought of repeating the process throughout the day. He hated being so helpless, so dependent on another person, almost as much as he hated the liberties being taken with his body. Even after the plug had been removed, he was still conscious of the fact that something had been inside his ass. The muscles felt stretched, and he could still feel the slippery oil between his cheeks. The harness itself had become a background annoyance, one that was easily ignored. Hed worn less comfortable things. He spent the next hour sitting at the half demons feet while his owner cleaned and sharpened several daggers. The familiar rasp of whetstone against blade lulled him into a light doze. He was pulled back into wakefulness by the warlords voice. Its time for the next plug. Kael concentrated on not dragging his feet as he was led back to the bedroom. Again he was made to lean forward across the trunk. He forced his muscles to relax as he felt the new plug press against his opening. It slid in more easily this time, for which Kael was grateful. The blindfold was removed, and his wrists were unbound, his owner once again massaging the sore muscles. Kael stood with his eyes closed, enduring a touch that should have been pleasant. Come, princeling. Moving cautiously to avoid jostling the hard object inside him, Kael followed his owner through a door hed not noticed before and into a rather bland courtyard. As the sun caressed his bare shoulders and chest, he flushed, realizing he wore very littlethe harness barely kept his modesty intact. The cobblestones were warm and smooth against his feet, and he was suddenly struck by how long it had been since he had walked barefoot outside. Not since before hed been given command of Gold

Concubine

29

Company, at least. That was when hed put his childish pursuits aside and taken on the role of a man. Now I must put aside the role of a man for that of a whore. Father, I hope you burn in the deepest hells for this. In here. The smaller man opened a pale yellow door and motioned for Kael to precede him. This is my private library. I do allow others to use it occasionally, but not often. You may come here anytime you like. Remember its the yellow door, and my living area is the dark blue. I dont suggest you explore anywhere else without me; you may not like what you find. Kael gasped as he stepped into the brightly lit room. The walls were covered with booksmore books than hed seen in his life. Fat ones, thin ones, short and tall, bound in many different colors of leather. Wonder brought a grin to his face. This room held easily three times the number of books in his fathers library. This is his personal library? What must the palace library be like? His near nudity forgotten, he stepped forward and ran his fingers along the spines of several books. Eagerly he pulled a thin green one from the shelf and opened it to study the content. It was a tome about magic, discussing the virtues of toads feet versus frogs feet in basic curses. Why on earth would anyone write an entire book on the subject? Why would Warlord Taren care about such a thing ? With a snort of disgust, he put the book back and selected another one. Soft laughter caught his attention, and he recalled his circumstances. Sorry, he muttered, blushing. Even as he apologized, his hands were reaching for another book. No apologies, pet. The smile on the warlords face was indulgent. It makes my heart glad to see your love for books. Tell me what you like to read, and Ill show you where to look. This almost made up for the plug stretching his anus. History, please. Kael tried not to look too eager, but it was a losing battle. He simply couldnt stay angry when he was surrounded by so many words. There, the half demon said, pointing to a bookcase on the far side of the library. You may choose three books to take back to our rooms. You might wish to hurry. Ive given one of the university classes permission to use the library today, and they should be here within the hour. Ignoring the discomfort caused by the plug he was wearing, Kael hurried to the bookcase to make his selection. He couldnt believe he was going to be allowed to read. Once again, his owner had defied expectations. After looking through the contents of the shelf at face height, he chose three books: a basic primer on Zandrias history, an illustrated description of the different clans, and a detailed journal written during the three-year war Zandria fought with its neighbors to the east. Thank you, he murmured, holding his choices against his chest. My pleasure. The warlord wore a peculiarly gentle smile. Ill have a desk placed in our rooms so you can take notes as you continue your studies.

30

Jill Knowles

Kael felt some of the tension in his chest loosen at the soft words. Hed dreamed of being able to continue his studies, but his duties as captain of Gold Company had stolen most of his time for the past five years. At least there was one positive aspect in his changed circumstances. He wanted to tell his owner how much being able to read meant to him, but there were no words powerful enough. Yes, there is one. He squared his shoulders and met the half demons gaze. Im ready, Master. The other man nodded. Good. He reached up and brushed his fingers across the collar Kael wore. They returned to their rooms, and the half demon told Kael to place his books on a low table next to the sofa. Its time to let your body rest, Taren said, leading Kael into the bedroom. Kael was thrilled. He would get to study his new books without the distraction of a foreign object inside him. This time he was able to relax as the plug was removed. Almost dancing with anticipation, he sprang back to his feet when his owner told him to stand. Rather than going back into the sitting room where the books waited, the half demon led Kael into the bathing chamber. He stopped in front of a low cabinet and opened its doors. Inside was a messy assortment of sponges, towels, and pottery jars. Towels on the top shelf, sponges on the second, and soaps on the bottom. He lifted a pale yellow towel and folded it in half, then in half again, then in thirds. Fold the towels in this manner. When everything is folded and placed neatly, come get me. If youve done a good job, I will allow you a new plug and an hour of undisturbed reading. Disappointed, but knowing he was being tested, though he wasnt sure for what exactly, he sighed. Ill do a good job, he promised. After the warlord left the bathing chamber, he sat in front of the cabinet, eager to get started. The sooner he finished, the sooner he could lose himself in the promised books.

***
Just under an hour later, Kael was finished with his task. Though hed been tempted to rush his chore, his natural tidiness hadnt let him. When he had everything precisely folded and arranged, he went over the instructions hed been given one last time, making sure hed done everything properly. The simple chore had relaxed him. Bringing order to the chaotic cabinet made him feel a sense of accomplishment. As Im sure Warlord Taren intended. Shrugging, he hurried into the sitting room, where he found his owner studying a map of the Brindau Peninsula, showing the boundaries between Zandria, Korai, Smedka, and Riwign, as well as the surrounding ocean. Sir? He hesitated but couldnt quite bring himself to call the warlord master again, not willing to surrender so much control. Yes, princeling? The half demon spoke without looking up.

Concubine

31

Im finished with the cabinet. Annoyance at the other mans inattention made his voice sharper than he intended. His owner flashed him a grin and resumed his study of the map. Good. Go into the bedroom and take your position over the chest. Ill be there in a moment. Kael did as he was told. He wasnt eager to endure the humiliation and pain of another plug, but he wanted to get his hands on the books. And he had the feeling he wouldnt be allowed the second without the first. He knelt in front of the box, leaned forward, and waited impatiently for his owner. You did a good job, pet. Im very pleased. Kael didnt flinch as Tarens hand caressed his back and t railed over his buttocks. He smelled the familiar scent of lavender, then felt the push against his opening. This plug was much larger than the first two, both thicker and longer, and he panted as his body adjusted to the fullness. Youre doing beautifully, pet. Im proud of you. Youve earned a full two hours of reading. Thank you, sir, Kael said as he painfully got to his feet. He felt off balance. He wanted the books, wanted desperately to read and learn about his new country, but he also felt happy that he had pleased his owner.

32

Jill Knowles

Chapter Six
Reading is bliss, Kael thought as he turned the page in the history primer. He shifted his weight, causing the plug to move deeper, barely pressing against something inside him. He gasped at the unfamiliar sensation but was soon drawn back into the story about Zandrias first ruling family. Unconsciously he rolled his head, easing tight muscles in his neck. The movement caused a strange, tingling ache in his ass. He altered his position on the sofa, and the change in pressure against his buttocks made the plug move inside him. What now? Exasperated and intrigued, he moved his hips, deliberately trying to cause the odd sensation. He succeeded. What am I feeling? Discomfort. Almost pain. It was a tickle, a slight pressure. It bothered him, and it feltgood? Puzzled, he moved again. Yes, it felt good. Like scratching an itchy bug biteit almost hurt, but it eased something too. The stimulation was affecting him in other ways as well. His breathing had quickened a bit, and he could feel a light blush staining his cheeks. That wasnt all. Mortified, he glanced down at his groin. His rapidly hardening cock created a noticeable bulge in the scant leather covering he was wearing. Oh dear, he murmured as his body once again gained the upper hand. Problems, princeling? Kael dropped the history primer onto his lap, wincing a bit as it struck his crotch. No, Im fine. Really. Justhe squirmed and gaspedfine. The half demon walked over to where Kael sat, took his hand, and pulled him onto his feet. Kael caught the book before it could fall and held it in front of his groin. Standing did very interesting things to the plug, and he couldnt prevent a moan from escaping as the movement of the plug sent a bolt of pure fire to the base of his cock. The warlord took the book from his hands, marked his place by folding down a page, and placed the book on the small table next to the sofa. Deliberately he dropped the thick pillow Kael had been using as a backrest onto the floor, and just as deliberately unbuttoned the front of his trousers and pulled them off. He grasped the hem of his shirt and yanked it over his head with one graceful motion. Naked, he sat on the sofa and positioned himself with his legs open, his feet on either side of the cushion. Kneel. Swallowing hard, Kael did as he was told. He could feel the half demons eyes on him and felt his flush deepen as he took his position on the cushion between his owners knees, not quite touching the engorged penis. He looked up at the warlord.

Concubine

33

The half demon was grimacing, sweat standing out on his brow. Kael wondered if the smaller man was in pain. Sir? Part of him wanted to call Taren master, but he refused to give in so fully to the lure of submission. Wild violet eyes stared down at him. I want you too much. If I take you right now, Ill hurt you. He drew in a deep, shuddering breath. You need to make me come, so that I can be gentle when I fuck you. Kael shivered, hearing the feral edge in the half demons voice. His cock twitched as the other mans need fueled his own. He raised his hand, half-fearful, half in anticipation. He had the feeling that it wouldnt take much to make the other man climax, and then Then Stop. Kael froze at the barked command. Sir? Not with your hands. With your mouth. Kael stared at his owner in disbelief. You want me to? Hed never heard of such a thing. It had to be unsanitary. Oh yes, pet. The half demon reached one trembling hand out and traced Kaels lips with his fingertip. But why? He heard the plaintive tone in his voice as he tried to wrap his mind around this newest command. Did people do that? Because I wish it, Warlord Taren said, burying his hands in Kaels hair and urging Kaels head toward his erection. Open your mouth, pet. Ill guide you. The tip of his owners penis touched his lips, pressing for entry. Kael, still stunned by what he was being asked to do, obediently opened his mouth. Keep your teeth behind your lips. Kael made the adjustment as the head of the warlords cock slipped inside and pressed against his tongue. Yesssss, the other man growled. Now close your mouth around me. Feeling as if he were in a trance, Kael let his lips surround the rigid shaft. The weight of it felt strange in his mouth as he explored the silky skin with his tongue. Above him, his owner shuddered, snarling as Kael found the slight difference in texture between the half demons skin and scales. Again the intriguing taste of salt and sweetness mingled on his tongue. Im going to move. Dont fight me. His owners hips began to move in shallow thrusts. Kael tensed, his hands grasping the smaller mans knees for balance as the hard cock moved between his lips. The warlords hands urged Kael to bob up and down over his owners crotch, Tarens penis moving in and out of his mouth as the soapy fingers had moved in and out of his ass. The thrusts sped up and went deeper. Kael gagged as the head of his owners cock pressed against the back of his throat. Damn, the half demon said, pulling back until just the head of his shaft was inside Kaels mouth. Im close, pet. I want you to suck on me like youd suck a

34

Jill Knowles

sweet. Ill keep my movements shallow so I dont choke you. Im going to come in your mouth, pet, and I want you to drink me down. Kaels cock twitched at the raw need in his owners voice. He hollowed his cheeks and sucked greedily on the hard shaft. The warlord thrust several more times, then stiffened, his cock jerking as his seed spilled free. Kael nearly choked as his mouth was filled to overflowing but did his best to swallow his owners essence, though a significant amount drooled from between his lips. My sweet, sweet pet, Warlord Taren murmured, stroking Kaels hair. Gentle hands pushed at Kaels shoulders, encouraging him to sit back. Kael moaned as the still-hard cock slid from between his lips, and sat back. The change in position moved the plug inside him, and he shivered, wanting more. His owner sprawled back against the sofa, looking like a debauched god. A rush of pure lust flooded through Kael, and he rubbed his palms against the warlords thighs. He licked his lips, tasting his owners cum. Raspberry, he said, finally identifying the flavor hed been wondering about. The half demon stood and held a hand out to Kael. Knowing what was going to happen next, Kael placed his hand into his owners and let the other man pull him to his feet. He was scared, but Goddess help me, I want this. Before he could lose his nerve and back away, he was scooped into the smaller mans arms. Kael froze as his owner carried him into the bedroom and placed him gently on the bed. He was still afraid, but the strange, pleasurable pressure inside him kept him teetering on the edge of climax. His owners hot, wet mouth fastened onto one of his nipples, and he gasped, arching up into it. Kael moaned as his other nipple was pinched and twisted between insistent fingers. His fingers clenched the silky bedcovers, and he tried desperately to make his overwhelmed brain work. The half demon suckled him greedily, hand forsaking Kaels nipple to caress his leather-clad erection. Kael trembled at the sensation, his hips bucking under Tarens fingers. The motion pushed the plug deeper inside him. He wantedneededto understand the pleasures filling his senses. Please Make it Stop? Harder? He didnt know. Sh, pet. Let me take care of you. His owners voice was soft, soothing. Clever fingers slid to his waist and unbuckled the harness. Kael spread and lifted his legs in response to his owners unspoken request, sighing as the plug was eased out of him. He was glad it was gone, but at the same time, he feltempty. A soft thump told him the harness and plug had been dropped on the floor. Gentle hands urged him to turn over so he was lying on his stomach. He gasped at the feeling of silk bedding rubbing against his erection and wriggled to increase the friction. No, pet. Not yet. Not until Im buried deep inside you. A hand lightly slapped his right butt cheek, then trailed down the crease to brush lightly against his

Concubine

35

entrance. Kael tensed, realizing his position. Hes going to He didnt want to think about it, but at the same time he was desperate to come, to understand. The hand moved back upward and stroked his lower back. Sh. It will be better for both of us if you relax. Kael tried to gather his scattered wits before he panicked, but the gentle hands kneading the tense muscles of his back wouldnt let him. He melted under the expert massage, not even flinching when he smelled lavender. The oil was dripped onto his back and massaged into his skin, relaxing him further. He couldnt offer more than a token protest when his owners hands slid downward and caressed his ass. Involuntarily he spread his legs, allowing the half demon greater access. Slippery fingers pressed against, then into him. Kael jumped at the invasion, feeling the warlords fingers move deep inside him, deeper than hed yet been touched. They found that magic place, giving it firm pressure and making Kael see stars. It was so good to be touched like that. The fingers moved in and out of him, massaging his sweet spot each time. Moaning, he moved his hips, trying to get more friction. A third finger was added, causing Kael to cry out at the pain-pleasure of being so filled. Please, he whispered, need making his voice shake. On your hands and knees, pet, his owner said, fingers still working deep inside him. Kael struggled to comply with the soft command, his body clumsy with the unexpected delights he felt. Finally he was in position, his ass in the air, his forehead resting against a soft pillow, legs spread wide. Im going to fuck you now. The scent of lavender grew stronger, and Kael felt an insistent probing at his entrance. Before he could respond, he felt the large flared head of his owners shaft push past the guardian ring of muscles. It hurt. It hurt terribly. Please The half demons cock was simply too big. He wanted to beg the other man to stop, but pride and curiosity wouldnt let him. Easy, pet. A gentle kiss was placed on his shoulder. Kael tried to relax his muscles but tensed again as the penetration deepened. It hurts Tears squeezed from between tightly closed eyelids. I cant do this. He bit his lip against the pleas that wanted to escape. Relax for me, my prince. Let me in. The half demon stroked Kaels back, fingers kneading knotted muscles as he pushed inexorably forward. Kael cried out as his owner was completely sheathed inside him. He felt as though he were being split in half. The pain was excruciating, worse than anything hed ever endured. A sob forced its way out from between clenched teeth as Taren shifted, moving inside him. Soft kisses were pressed against his back, and the warlord petted his shoulders with gentle hands. The hands caressed his back, his sides, his chest, finally rubbing across his abdomen. Kael gasped as his flagging erection was stroked, then fisted by the other

36

Jill Knowles

man. Oh, he murmured as pleasure reawakened. Involuntarily his hips moved, seeking to increase the friction of the hand holding him. It caused the penis filling him to move also. Hurts, he moaned, his hips moving again. And yet Warlord Taren took charge then, pulling out, then pushing back in. Kael bit back a cry at the pain. Still fisting Kaels cock, he began moving inside him with slow, deep thrusts. Kael groaned as his sweet spot was caressed, pain and pleasure mingling inside him and making him into a creature of sensati on. The half demons thrusts quickened, and Kael moved with him, needing the contrast of being filled and emptied again and again. It was awful, it was wonderful, and he couldnt get enough of it. The hand fisting his cock moved faster, and he felt the first wave of orgasm crash over him. Goddess. Oh Goddess, he cried out, feeling as though he were being turned inside out. Master. His muscles clenched on the hard cock filling him, milking his owners shaft. His owner roared and climaxed, thrusting so deeply into him that Kael wasnt sure where he stopped and the other man began. The hot, wet explosion happening inside him deepened his pleasure. As aftershocks rushed through him, he howled his completion. Gasping, his breath coming in harsh pants, Kael saw bright, sparkling lights behind his eyelids before everything went dark.

Concubine

37

Chapter Seven
He awoke with his head resting on his masters chest. He stretched, then groaned when the movement jarred his aching ass. Sorry, pet. Youre going to be sore for a day or so. Goddess bless, I hurt. He was also uncomfortably sticky in front and behind from both his own seed and the warlords. Remembering his abject surrender to the other man, he closed his eyes. Hed not only submitted, hed enthusiastically participated in his deflowering. It had been much more painful than hed anticipated, but the pleasure was the most shocking thing. The half demon had pushed a hard cock into his ass, and after Kaels body had become accustomed to the intruder, hed enjoyed it. There was a name for men who liked to bend over for other men. Catamite. Hed done the forbidden, taken another man into his body. Such things might be overlooked among soldiers, but not among the royal family. He could never go home. Kael hadnt realized he still held the hope of freedom until the moment that hope abandoned him. There was no going back. His old life was gone forever. He was a concubine. He belonged to the man whod fucked him. He was a slave, a whore whose only duty was to sate his masters sexual demands. Ashamed, he pulled himself from the half demons arms and turned away, each movement jostling his abused ass and reminding him of his transgression. Despair swamped him, and he wrapped his arms around his chest in an effort to hold in his emotions. It was no use. The first sob shook him, jarring tender flesh. Kael gave in and wept. Hed been betrayed by his father, his king, and himself. Misery racked him, and he cried as he had cried after losing his mother when he was a boy. What had he done that his father would gift him to an enemy? Why would a king arrange for one of his subjects to be so unnaturally used? There were no answers. There probably never would be. Gradually he became aware that a gentle hand was caressing his shoulders and back. Kael sighed and turned onto his back. Taren sat with his back against the headboard, his expression unreadable. Wordlessly he handed Kael a handkerchief. Kael took the square of cloth and blotted the moisture from his cheeks, then blew his nose. Better? the warlord asked. Kael nodded and stared down at his clenched hands, unable to meet those knowing alien eyes. He could have endured cruelty, but not pity. Anything but that. Look at me, Kael.

38

Jill Knowles

Startled at the use of his given name, Kael looked up. There is no shame in what happened earlier. When I fucked you. The blunt words made Kael wince. The physical act is not shameful, and neither was your response. Taren sighed, rubbing a hand over his face. You are here, in Zandria, in my rooms and my bed as recompense for a decision made by your king. You are as duty bound to submit to me as you were to leading Gold Company. If you find pleasure in that duty, so much the better. Startled, Kael forgot his misery. You know I was the captain of Gold Company? Mm. My personal troops didnt meet yours, but my second says you are one of the best tacticians it has ever been her pleasure to battle. She also said your men fought with great skill and courage. Thank you. I was proud to be their captain. Kael focused on his hands once more. If they could see me now He shook his head. Goddess, theyd be so ashamed of me. Closing his eyes, he wished a hole would open i n the earth and suck him down. I disagree. The half demon raised Kaels chin with his fingers. Soldiers understand following orders that may not be to their liking. Who better than a warrior to understand sacrifice? Would any of your men have refused to go into battle, even knowing their life might be forfeit? No, I dont believe they would have. You have accepted a duty far more difficult than they will ever understand. Dying is easy. Its living a life you werent trained for thats difficult. I never expected my duty to include spreading my legs for a man. Lifes full of surprises, isnt it? Kael glared at the smaller man, but then the humor of the statement got the better of his outrage. Its been one long series of surprises for the past few days. He laughed and was relieved to hear only a tiny bit of hysteria in the sound. His owner laughed as well and slid out of bed. Come, pet, he said, offering a hand to Kael. Well soak the soreness from your muscles, and Ive a balm that will speed the healing process. The half demon was unselfconscious in his nakedness, his cock still standing at attention. Looking at it, Kael remembered the pain and pleasure of being taken and hesitated for a moment before sitting up and taking the proffered hand, allowing the smaller man to pull him from the bed. Hissing as his tender ass protested the movement, he followed his owner into the bathing chamber. He blushed, as he could feel the half demons cum drizzling down the backs of his thighs. Hes spilled himself into my hand, my mouth, and my ass. I suppose my debauchery is complete. After getting him seated in the water, the warlord left the room for several minutes. Kael rested his head on the smooth stone and let the hot water in the pool soothe his aching muscles. He swished water over his chest and shoulders, then slid off the bench to dunk his head under the water. Though he was tempted to run to

Concubine

39

the cabinet hed organized, grab soap, and try to scrub the memory of the other mans touch from his skin, Kael resisted. He couldnt clean away the truth, and he was smart enough not to try. My duty is clear. I will submit to my owner, and if I find satisfaction in that, so be it. The warlord came into the bathing chamber and took his place in the pool without speaking. They soaked in companionable silence for a while before the half demon levered himself from the pool and started toward the shower area. Come, pet. Lets clean up. Groaning, Kael stood and followed his owner. The hot water had eased the worst of the soreness, but his anus still felt raw and painful. Sitting isnt going to be fun anytime soon. Looking at his owners still-erect penis, he thought, I hope he doesnt want to use me again tonight. The thought of taking anything inside his tender ass made him flinch. The warlord had already soaped himself and was rinsing the suds away when Kael reluctantly joined him in the shower. He handed Kael the sponge and soap, then proceeded to wash his hair. Bemused by the fact that he was being allowed to bathe himself, Kael lathered the sponge and rubbed it briskly across his chest. As it pressed against his nipples, he gasped a bit. The tiny nubs were still sensitized and a bit sore from his owners attentions. He froze for a moment, remembering the feel of his owners mouth suckling greedily at the tender peaks and the feel of the other mans nipples between his lips. As his cock began to stir, Kael glared down at the offending member, hands on his hips. Now dont you start up again. A strangled sound made him look around. The warlord was leaning against the side of the shower wall, shaking with laughter. Well really, Kael said, imitating his first governess. There are limits. He managed to keep a scowl on his face for several seconds, but the incredulous look he was getting from Taren was too much. Mirth overcame him, and he laughed until tears ran down his face. Each time he almost got himself under control, hed catch the other mans eye, and they would both be off again. Finally, belly aching from the unexpected workout, and still occasionally releasing tiny demented giggles, Kael managed to finish bathing and wash and rinse his hair. Through it all, the half demon watched him, the fond smile on the other mans face never faltering. Back in the bedroom, he was surprised to find new linens on the bed. He stared at the place where his owner had shown him the reality of male-male coupling, unsure what he was feeling. A confusing welter of anger, shame, and arousal ebbed and flowed inside his mind, locking his body into place. On the bed, pet, on your hands and knees.

40

Jill Knowles

His belly clenching, Kael looked at the half demon, the urge to flee making his heart race. It hurt so bad. It felt so good. He didnt think he could endure the confusing experience again. If he demands it, I must submit. I hope I can. Im not going to fuck you again tonight, but I am going to put some of this he held up a small jar of blue-tinged white salveinside your hole. It will ease the soreness and help you heal so that I can fuck you again tomorrow evening. If he had said anything more or tried to physically push Kael onto the bed, Kael wasnt sure what would have happened. Instead the warlord simply waited patiently. Kael took a deep breath, crawled onto the bed, and took the required position. As he settled onto his elbows, ass in the air, he felt as if his heart were going to hammer its way out of his chest. He startled, nearly falling over when his owner rested a hand on the small of his back. Damn. Sorry, sir. Nothing to be sorry for, pet. The hand was joined by its mate, and the warlord spent a few minutes just massaging Kaels tight muscles. Kael felt himself relaxing underneath the expert manipulation. When the hands drifted down to rub and caress his buttocks, he tensed. You have a lovely ass, pet, Taren said, kneading the upturned cheeks. Kael squirmed, embarrassed at the compliment. I didnt get to fully appreciate your sweet cheeks earlier, but believe me, that will change in the future. A light slap on his right buttock made Kael jump. Bastard, he said, craning his head around to frown at his owner. Master, the half demon countered, slapping the other cheek. His fingers trailed down into the crease until they found the opening to Kaels body. Kael flinched, his cheeks tightening as he remembered how badly the other mans cock had hurt when it pushed inside him. Relax. His owner resumed kneading the globes of Kaels ass until his muscles released their tension. Thats good, pet. The fingers found Kaels anus again and stroked across the tender flesh. An involuntary shudder shook Kael as his nether cheeks were spread, his anus exposed to the other mans gaze. Youre a bit swollen, a bit inflamed, but theres no tearing. Good. A slippery finger stroked over his anus, then pushed inside. Kael hissed in discomfort but forced himself to remain still. The finger was pulled out, and he turned his head enough to watch his owner take another fingerful of the salve. He closed his eyes as the finger was inserted and moved around in a circle so that the healing ointment was thoroughly applied. Youre so tight, so hot here. The other mans voice was low and husky, laced through with arousal. Fucking yoummmm My pet, fucking you is sheer joy.

Concubine

41

Kael pressed his flushed face against the cool linen of his pillow as his cock stirred. What could he possibly say? The finger was removed, and his owner lay beside him on the bed. Kael, not speaking, stretched out onto his belly, then turned over, his back to the other man. To his great surprise, he fell asleep almost immediately.

42

Jill Knowles

Chapter Eight
Kael dug in his heels. No. Im not going out in public like this. He wore another pair of indecently tight velvet leggings, this time in pale, pale green. The shirt he wore was sleeveless with a deep V-neck that revealed far too much of his chest. It was made of sheer white silk, leaving his nipples clearly visible through the fabric. At least he had his own bootsbut only because his owner couldnt find an alternate pair of footwear that fit him. The half demon, clearly exasperated, stood in the doorway. You look fine, pet. We need to go. Weve a rather important appointment, and were going to be late if we dont hustle. He motioned for Kael to precede him. Kael refused to budge. Its indecent, he snapped, gesturing at his clothing. Everything is covered. The warlords eyes narrowed dangerously. Be grateful Im allowing you to wear anything. Many people keep their concubines naked all the time. Kael knew he was being given fair warning. Outmaneuvered, he walked forward, resisting the urge to stomp his feet like a petulant child, glaring at his owners back as Taren moved in front of him. The half demon led the way through several door-lined hallways and finally out into bright sunlight. Kael was surprised that even with the midmorning sun unobscured by clouds, the temperature was mildnothing like the heat and humidity he was used to. Looking around, there was no question that he was no longer in Korai. A closely cropped verdant green lawn, bisected by several white graveled paths, stretched from the side of the building theyd just left to a thick wall of greenery. And such greenery. Instead of the broad-leaved succulents, ferns, and palms he was used to, the enormous hedge had tiny yellow and green foliage. Many of the trees visible on the grounds had needles instead of leaves. Even the flowers were different. Kael was used to the vivid reds, brilliant yellows, and flamboyant fuchsias of tropical plants. The blossoms here were subtler, less intense pinks, pale yellows, and blue-purples. Small birds chirped and twittered as they went about their lives, darting in and out of the vegetation. None of them looked or sounded familiar, and as he looked around, he didnt see any of the large snow-white egrets strutting around. They were common on the palace lawns back home, where they were protected as royal pets. Herons also made occasional visits, as did wild parrots. He was used to hearing the raucous sound of their calls in the background.

Concubine

43

Princeling, his owner said, gesturing toward the large black wrought -iron gate that stood open in the center of the enormous hedge. Kael followed his owner through the gate and out onto a cobblestoned street, where a lavish carriage awaited them. They climbed inside, barely getting seated before the warlord gave the driver the order to proceed. As they moved through the bustling streets, Kael stared out the window like a bumpkin. Korai was a poor country cousin compared to the graceful sophistication he saw in every building, every fountain and lamppost. Kingston, the city that had sprung up around Korais royal palace, was a backward village in comparison. There were people everywhere, on foot, on horseback, and riding in a mindboggling array of wagons and carriages. The well-dressed, well-fed citizenry hurried through the city on Goddess only knew what important errands. Overwhelmed by the prosperity he saw everywhere he looked, he turned his attention back to his companion. The half demon was watching him with unconcealed fondness. Uncomfortable with the honest affection in his owners face, he blurted, We have nothing like this at home, feeling vaguely disloyal as he made the admission. Zandria is roughly three times as old as Korai and five times as large. In addition, we have the added influence of demonic culture, which is older still. Korai is a young country, but she shows great promise. I hope we live up to it, Kael said, his gaze drawn once again to the spectacle of the city surrounding them. After a few turns and one long delay while a spill of rye flour was cleaned from their path, they stopped in front of a nondescript, single-story building painted a rather unattractive shade of burnt orange. Dont be fooled by the exterior. The proprietor is a master of his craft. Dubiously Kael followed the other man into the shop. As his eyes adjusted to the dimmer light inside the windowless building, he looked around. Oh dear, was his stunned thought as his jaw dropped and every bit of blood in his body rushed to his face. Is it possible to die from blushing? The wall directly in front of him was covered with floor-to-ceiling shelves. Each shelf was lined with phalluses in every size and color, made of every sort of material. His astounded gaze cataloged glass, amber, marble, ceramic, and rubber before he wrenched his eyes away. Unfortunately for his peace of mind, the adjoining wall was covered with an assortment of cuffs, shackles, riding crops, and floggers that were clearly meant to be used on people. Even staring at the floor was no good. The tiles were painted with a dizzying series of explicit pictures of men and women coupling in every combination and position. Ah, Taren. Come in, come in. A small, wizened man strode forward, hands outstretched. As Kael watched in disbelief, his owner greeted the old man warmly, kissing each of the old mans wrinkled cheeks. After the greetings were exchanged, the half

44

Jill Knowles

demon said, Pet, this old reprobate is Soren Carver, the finest toymaker in all of Zandria. Soren, this is Prince Kael of Korai, my concubine. The old man bowed to Kael, who returned the courtesy. Did the harness work? Soren asked, stepping around Kael, his attention at groin height. Kael started to turn so that he could keep the old man in view, but a sharp headshake from his owner stopped him. The old man circled him several times, frowning and hmming to himself as he did so. It worked well enough, but it is a bit smaller than it should be. Hes much more muscular than I was anticipating. Ill want the new ones custom-made and in several colors. Kael wasnt sure he liked the sound of that. Hadnt the damned thing served its purpose? His owner had taken him last night, after all. Why were they buying moreand in several colors, no less? Of course, the old man said. Come, Your Highness. Lets get you measured. He motioned for Kael to follow him behind the counter that ran in front of one wall of the shop. Kael took his place on a small raised dais that stood in front of a fulllength, three-paneled mirrored screen. Disrobe, please. Kael stared at the old man, hoping his ears had deceived him. He was fully visible to the rest of the store. Come, come, lad. We cant get accurate measurements over cloth. With a glare at his blandly smiling owner, Kael removed his clothing, his motions graceless and jerky as impotent fury threatened to choke him. He endured the old mans hands as he was thoroughly assessed. At Sorens command, he raised his arms, spread his legs, and even held his nether cheeks apart so that Soren could note the exact placement of his anus. Kael amused himself by plotting the most painful, humiliating deaths he could for his owner, his father, and the persnickety old man who was poking and prodding him. To make matters worse, partway through the process, a beautiful blonde woman came into the shop. His owner nodded to her but didnt speak, and the old man ignored her completely. She leaned on the counter and watched as Kael was asked to turn this way and that, kneel, stand, and spread, please. Kael kept his shoulders back and held his head high, concentrating on not looking at anything in particular. He wished he possessed the ability some battle mages did, to move himself from place to place in the blink of an eye with a sorcerers gate. Hed transport himself back to Korai and Taren into the deepest, filthiest sewer he could find. Finally the ordeal was over. Kaels sigh of relief was premature, however. Anything else? Soren asked as he placed his measuring tools and notepad on the counter.

Concubine

45

These, the half demon said, showing the old man what he held. Very nice. I have a matching scrotal ring in back, if youd like. No, thank you. For now well just stick with the nipples. Let me get my tools. The old man retrieved a bundle of rolled red cloth. After setting it down on the countertop, he unrolled it, revealing an assortment of needles and clamps. Kaels eyes widened as the implication set in. He looked at his owner, who held out a hand, palm up. Resting on top of the pale skin were two small gold hoops. Mentally swearing vengeance, Kael clenched his fists and waited for the latest torture. As both his owner and the blonde watched, Kaels nipples were clamped and pierced with thick needles. The hoops were threaded through and locked into place, and healing salve was dabbed on. The procedure hurt like hell, and he found himself dreading putting the shirt back on. Gauzy as it was, he knew that right now anything that touched his nipples was going to hurt. Still, better to suffer pain than nudity. Once it was over and he was allowed to dress, he grabbed his leggings and shirt and jerked them on, not caring that it jostled tender flesh, just wanting to have some sort of barrier between his naked body and the world. Soren and the warlord walked to the front of the shop, discussing colors and fabrics and toys, leaving Kael alone with the woman. Since she still hadnt spoken, he sat on the dais to pull on his boots. Once the other men were fully engrossed in their conversation, she stepped close to Kael and glared. Dont get too comfortable, amateur. Hell tire of you soon enough and put you aside. Her thin pink-painted lips were pressed in a disapproving line as she looked him up and down. Excuse me? Kael said, stomping into his right boot. As he spoke, he studied her. She was about ten years older than him, voluptuous, and wearing a tight, lowcut dress made of dusty rose-colored silk. The material was translucent, and he could see the shadows of her nipples and pubic mound through the fine fabric. Youre a novelty, nothing more. That cant compare with years of training. Blue eyes glared at him, hatred making her ugly. Kael pulled on his other boot and stood, facing the woman. I think Im missing most of this conversation. Who are you, and why should I care that you dislike me? She drew herself up to her full height, barely taller than his owner. I am Larissa Sweetpetal, senior trainer for the Concubines Guild. Irritated by her antagonism, Kael revised her age up by a decade, raised an eyebrow, and said, And this concerns me how? She stepped closer to him, menace in every line of her body. Youve stolen one of our highest-ranking patrons. Dont think youll keep him. Ah, Kael said as understanding dawned. Stealing him wasnt my idea. Perverse pride made him add, Still, he seems happy to fuck me, and hes spending

46

Jill Knowles

a great deal of money on me today. Perhaps the practiced charms of the Concubines Guild have worn thin, Senior Trainer. She gasped and raised a hand to slap him. He caught her wrist. Do it, and Ill break all your fingers. Jerking free, she said, You wouldnt dare. She backed away from him. Try me, Kael growled, almost hoping she would. A little violence would do wonders for his nerves. Time to go, pet, the warlord called from the shops entrance. Kael nodded to the fuming blonde and obediently joined his owner. After leaving the toymakers shop, they visited two tailors and a cobblers store. Kael endured additional nudity and measurements, though none were as thorough as what Soren Carver had done. He was surprised to find his owner greeted with familiarity and friendship by the proprietors and employees of each shop. Warlord Taren was obviously a great favorite in Zandria. Kael felt a startling rush of pride at belonging to the smaller man. As Kael was being fussed over, several of the Zandrians took the opportunity to ask the warlord about progress on the new trade route. It wasnt until the thi rd time the question was asked that Kael realized the trade route they spoke of led from Zandria to the Korai port city of Korvale. After that Kael kept his ears open but didnt hear much in the way of specifics. He made a mental note to ask the half demon for clarification once they returned to their rooms. The other constant was the presence of guild concubines at each of the establishments they visited, including the inn where they ate their midday meal. Kael once again sat on a cushion at his owners feet as the half demon fed him. It was odd to watch as each bit of food was offered and not try to reach for the utensils to feed himself. Finally hed clasped his hands behind his back. Concentrating on keeping them in place let him relax enough to eat in peace. The smile of approval he got from his owner warmed him. They were eating in companionable silence when a concubinea young man approached Kaels owner, flirting outrageously. The warlord was polite but dismissive, making his disinterest in the other man plain. Undeterred, the guild concubine had knelt at the warlords other side and placed a familiar hand on the half demons knee. Kael rolled his eyes at the blatant come-on and ignored the interloper. When the guild concubines fingers strayed up and onto the warlords crotch, the half demons hand snapped down and removed the offending digits. Youre not wanted here, Warlord Taren growled. Leave now. But, Master, the other man whined. You do not have my permission to call me master, the warlord said. Leave now, or Ill have you before the king on charges of unwelcome sexual contact.

Concubine

47

The guild concubine snatched his hand free and stood. You dont know what youre missing. Im not missing anything, Warlord Taren said, offering a bite of bread to Kael. The concubine stood for a moment, glaring at both of them before turning and flouncing from the inn in a huff. You have to give him points for persistence, Kael commented before taking a bite of the melon being offered to him. The only point I will grant him is the one at the end of my dagger. The half demon took a sip of wine mixed with fruit juice and offered the cup to Kael. Kael drank, enjoying the tart-sweet flavor of the mixture. I noticed that several of them spoke to you, his owner said. Oh yes. None of them welcomed me to Zandria. He contemplated the offered bread. No, thank you. Im full. The warlord nodded and ate the morsel. Ill admit I didnt expect such vehement protests. Kael shrugged. Youre one of their highest-ranking patrons. They dont want to lose you. He wondered how many concubines his owner had contracted over the years. The other man snorted. I would hardly call myself a patron. Over the past dozen years Ive only contracted two concubines, and even then, it was for only a week each time. He shook his head. What a waste of time and money. They were no different than the concubines the palace keeps on retainer, and they bored me to tears. None of them seem to enjoy sex for all theyve chosen it as a profession. They even sound exactly the same as they fake their orgasms. Oh yes, oh, Master, fuck me hard. It was insulting. After the first two disappointments, I never bothered to contract another. Im surprised, Kael said. When his owner gave him an inquisitive look, he clarified. You seemhe hesitatedwell versed in the arts of coupling. Ive had many lovers, both men and women, over the years. I prefer my lovers to be real, not overly trained dolls who never show a true emotion or response. He made a rude noise. Kael laughed ruefully. I certainly meet those criteria. I have no training, and my emotions have been all over the place. A slender hand was placed on his shoulder. You please me, Kael. Never doubt that. Thank you. He hesitated for a moment before adding, Taren. The hand on his shoulder squeezed gently, letting Kael know it was permissible to use his owners name.

***

48

Jill Knowles

Back in Tarens suite, which Kael learned was in the War University, Kael was surprised to find a new wardrobe placed in Tarens bedroom. He looked at his owner, who said, We need somewhere to store the clothing we purchased today. We should start receiving pieces by tomorrow afternoon. You look good in my clothinghe leered as he looked at Kael, violet eyes lingering on the snug velvet covering Kaels crotchbut I want you in something more suitable. Since Kael hadnt seen everything that had been ordered, that phrase filled him with unease. That isnt the only thing filling. His owners frank regard was having an unanticipated effect on Kaels libido. His cock began to swell, and he blushed at the sultry smile the half demon gave him. Taren stalked forward and placed his hands on Kaels shoulders. I think clothing is not at all necessary right now. No. Kael breathed, arousal coursing through him in a dizzying rush. He swayed against the smaller man, feeling the warlords rigid cock press against his thighs. Once again, he was scooped into Tarens arms and carried to the bed. Marveling at his owners strength, he placed his arms around Tarens neck to steady himself. Luckily the half demon was only a few inches shorter than Kael, so the position wasnt too awkward. He was placed on his feet beside the bed. Strip, Taren said, removing his own clothing. Humph. Youre not the only one whos given me that particular order today, Kael said, toeing off his boots. The warlord chuckled. Seeing you naked and indignant while strangers took your measurements Ah, pet, it was sheer torture. I didnt know whether to tease you by inviting more witnesses or to leap in front of you and yell mine! While I plan to enjoy showing you off, I find I am possessive. No one may touch you but me. Goddess, Kael whispered at the fervent words. No one had ever wanted him so much. He wasnt sure if it was gratifying or frightening. As he removed his clothing for the fourth time, he watched as his owner did the same. As creamy scaledecorated skin was bared, Kael caught his breath at the beauty of the other man. His pulse quickened as he watched the play of muscles, saw the arrogant line of Tarens erection. His gaze never leaving his owner, Kael finished disrobing and lay on the bed. Hands up, the warlord ordered him. Kael reached toward the headboard and sighed as his wrists were cuffed. He wanted to stroke and pet the expanse of skin and scales Taren displayed so shamelessly. As if reading Kaels mind, Taren leaned over the side table, the muscles in his back and ass rippling with each movement. He retrieved a small bottle of oil and removed the stopper.

Concubine

49

The familiar scent of lavender made Kael tense with remembered pleasure and pain. Taren poured some of the oil into his hand and rubbed it over his cock. Watching the careless eroticism of the act made Kaels cock even harder, if that were possible. Truth time, pet. The half demons gaze roved over Kaels body. How sore are you? Kael met his owners gaze. Im still tender, but Im much better than I was. I He blushed but didnt look away. Im good. Sure? Swallowing against the upwelling of fondness that tightened his chest, he nodded. You wont hurt me. No, I wont, Taren said quietly. Then a gamine grin flitted across his face. At least not on accident. He leaned forward and poured a liberal splash of oil over the full length of Kaels erection. The slippery fluid dripped down and over his balls. Gah. Kael arch ed up as the cool liquid coated him. Bastard, he said, a fresh wave of desire shivering through him. Master. Legs open, pet. After Kael complied, Taren climbed onto the bed and positioned himself over Kael so that they lay cock to cock, chest to chest. Kael winced as the contact pressed his sore nipples, but even though they still stung a bit, it was nothing compared to the feeling of his owners shaft rubbing against his. I cant wait to slide into you, my pet, Taren whispered into his ear, punctuating the heated words by sucking Kaels earlobe. Youre so tight, so hot. Last night was exquisite, claiming you, seeing your surrender. He ground his cock against Kaels. New rule, pet. You dont come unless Im inside you. Gasping, Kael arched up against the other man, the slippery friction as they strained together spiking lust into his aching penis. Abruptly the half demon sat back and stared down at Kael with feral violet eyes. A low, thrumming growl rumbled from the other man. Kael was grateful for the cuffs shackling him to the bed. The look in his owners eyes held little of humanity, and Kael had the feeling that any resistance on his part would not be a good idea. Perversely, rather than frightening him, the clear evidence of his masters wildness amplified his desire. Still growling, Taren coated his fingers with oil and reached between Kaels legs, finding his anus and sliding an insistent finger inside. Kael hissed as his body was breached, but there was little pain. He canted his hips up as a second finger joined the first, staring at the man who was preparing to claim him. The lines of the half demons face were harsh with need, his lush lips pulled back in a grimace of hunger, baring his sharp canines.

50

Jill Knowles

As his body was opened, Kael found himself pressing back on the invading fingers, wanting to deepen the penetration. Taren pushed a third finger into Kael, and Kael moaned as the questing fingers found his sweet spot. It felt so good. Wave after wave of bliss pulsed through him, and he wanted more. Master, he said, spreading his legs wider and thrusting back against the other mans hand. Please, Master. Mine, Taren snarled, pulling his fingers free and positioning his cock at Kaels opening. Kael panted as his body was claimed, the pain of the invasion making his cock soften. When Taren sheathed himself in one hard thrust, Kael cried out, feeling as though he were about to be split in half. The half demon froze at the sound, his growl softening. He lay full length on top of Kael for a long moment, allowing Kael time to adjust to the size of his cock. As Kael felt his muscles begin to relax, the other man began to move. Kael groaned as his masters erection rubbed firmly over his sweet spot. As his body grew accustomed to Tarens shaft, he began to move with the other man, finding the rhythm that brought the greatest pleasure. His arousal was just hitting fever pitch when Taren stiffened and jerked against him. As the rush of hot fluid pulsed inside him and his owner shuddered against him, Kael felt strangely disappointed. That feeling didnt last long. Taren sat back on his knees and grasped Kaels thighs. After pulling them up until Kaels legs rested over his shoulders, the half demon resumed thrusting, sanity returning to his eyes. Kael was pleasure struck, shuddering as the change in position changed the angle of penetration. He stared at the man who moved between his thighs, helpless in the thrall of sensation, his cock hard and leaking. Laughing wickedly, Taren grasped Kaels ankles and held them out at arms length so that Kaels legs formed a V, and increased the pace of his thrusts. Wrists bound above his head, legs held in his owners iron grip, Kael could do nothing save feel. The tingling began at the base of his spine and spread throughout his body. Taren leaned forward and increased the speed of his rutting, his belly barely brushing Kaels cock. The added stimulation was too much, and Kael shouted as he fell over the precipice, his climax roaring through him with the force of a tidal wave. As shock after shock jolted through him, his master kept driving roughly into him. Kael shook as more stimulation was heaped on his oversensitized body. As he began to worry that he might not survive his masters pleasure, Taren bucked against him, howling out a second climax.

Concubine

51

Chapter Nine
Kael awoke and stretched, wincing as abused muscles made their complaints known. His master had taken him several more times the night before, leaving him sated, quite sore, and regrettably sticky. He looked around the room, realizing that it was late morning. Vaguely he remembered Taren awakening him to let him know that the warlord had duties to attend to. He crawled out of the bed and padded naked to the bathing chamber to sink into the heated pool. After soaking until he felt human, he used the shower to clean up, still puzzling over how the water was heated and transported to the small holes in the wall. Back in the bedchamber, he opened the new wardrobe, laughing when he saw the only thing insidea pair of dark blue velvet leggings. He pulled them on and went to the living area, hoping that Taren had left him some breakfast. Seeing the laden table, he smiled and walked over. The smile widened when he saw the purple cushion sitting on the chair. His mouth watering at the delicious smells, he sat down. He squirmed, grateful for the cushion, as sitting was rather uncomfortable. He was dishing a savory mixture of eggs, cheese, and mushrooms onto his plate when he heard someone clear their throat. Looking up, he saw the servant from the first day standing at the far end of the table. She wore a tailored dark blue dress and sturdy, sensible boots. Good morning, Miss. May I help you? She curtsied, thick brown curls wobbling with her movement. Good morning, Your Highness. I apologize for disturbing you, but I was instructed to make certain the meal met your requirements. Its wonderful. His lips curved in a bittersweet smile. In truth, its much better than what Im used to eating. Shaking away the threatening melancholy, he said, Would you please convey my compliments to the cook? Seeing her astonishment at his words, he added, If thats a problem or against a rule or something, I apologize. Im a stranger here. No, no, sir. She almost stuttered the words. It is not. She bit her lip, and Kael realized that she was rather pretty and not much older than he. Not many of the highborn would take the time to say they liked a meal. He nodded ruefully. Its the same in Korai. But Ive always thought it rude. After all, while I can do camp cooking if I need to, I havent the skill to create such a feast as this. He gestured at the table. Those who dont appreciate good foodor

52

Jill Knowles

any other good service, for that matterhave never half starved on their own cooking. She smiled at him, brown eyes twinkling. Yes, sir, thats true. I thank you for saying it, and I will not forget to present your compliments to Cook. She curtsied again and exited the room. Resisting the impulse to call her back, he turned his attention back to his meal. The rest of the day passed quietly. He spent some time in the library, choosing several new books, then returned to the living room. While he sat on the couch and read, a different servant, an older woman, came in and removed the remains of breakfast and tidied up the room. Though he said hello, this woman merely curtsied but didnt speak. His evening meal was also solitary, and he found that some of the savor had gone from the food with the absence of his owner. Taren didnt return to their rooms until late and seemed both surprised and pleased to find Kael curled up on the couch, waiting for him. They went to bed, where Taren took Kael several times, leaving Kael sated and sleepy. The next two mornings were repeats, and Kael found himself slowly going insane from loneliness and inactivity. The young servant whod been so friendly the first day had been more reserved on the following days. On the fourth morning, he waited impatiently for the woman to bring his breakfast. As she was setting everything on the table, he said, May I know your name? She startled and dropped the fork she was holding. Oh, well, its Milly, sir. She carefully retrieved the fork and set it into place. Is it against the rules for me to speak to you? Kael asked, hoping the answer would be no. No, sir. She folded a linen napkin with exaggerated care. Boredom drove him on, though he could see that his questions were making her uncomfortable. Milly, please. I dont want to get you into trouble, but Taren is gone most of the day, seeing to his duties, and He trailed off, unable to find the words. And youre in a strange place, she finished. Youre not at all what I expected. After making that intriguing statement, she stared at her hands for a moment, then nodded sharply. Ask, Your Highness. If I know the answer, Ill tell you. Thank you, he said. And please, call me Kael. At her cautious nod, he asked, What can you tell me about life here? You said that the aristocracy rarely thanks the servants. Is there anything I should know, any rules that I should be warned against breaking? Anyone I should avoid? She shrugged. Nobles are nobles. Servants are servants. Some nobles are nice, most ignore us, and some are deliberately cruel. Warlord Taren is always nice,

Concubine

53

always polite. Hes intervened when some of the nobles have hurt servants. We like him. Hes been smiling for the past several days, even with all the upheaval. You make him happy, and so we are disposed to like you as well. Unspoken was the hint that if Kael made the warlord unhappy, the servants would no longer look favorably on him. It was no small threat. Kael knew there were dozens of small things servants could do to get even with abusive nobles. Cold food, treasured property damaged or lost, clothing in poor repair, gossip. The servants arsenal was simple but quite, quite effective. Its my duty to satisfy Warlord Taren, he said. Duty and pleasure, he thought, unsure how he felt about that fact. He found himself missing the other man and wanting to talk to Taren about what he read in Zandrias histories. Just duty? she asked, glancing at the bedroom. Kaels face heated under that knowing gaze. I dont really know him all that well, except for the physical. I know that he can be kind, and playful, and intense, but I dont know the small things, like what his favorite color is, or whether or not he plays chess, or if he likes music. He shook his head. Goddess bless, I dont even know if hes married. Hes not married. As for the rest, why not ask him? Hes gone all day, and when he comes home, he just wants to, umhe looked toward the bedroomand then sleep. In the morning, hes usually in a hurry to leave. Kael replayed both his words and tone and winced. That was utterly pathetic, wasnt it? Milly smiled kindly. Moderately pathetic, yes. Warlord Taren works too hard. We all know it. Since Riwign sealed its borders and blocked off our main trade route, things have been tense. Kael must have had a surprised look on his face, because she laughed and explained. I work afternoons serving meals and drinks in the universitys meeting rooms. I overhear Warlord Taren and His Majesty and the guild leaders shouting at each other. Ah. Kael nodded. Servants in Korai rarely had any education to speak of, but Milly sounded like shed had more schooling than many of Korais nobility. I understand that a new trade route is being built to the port city of Korvale in my country. She nodded, setting her curls bouncing. Yes, the guild leaders are all quite happy about that. Most of them anyway. She hesitated, looking up at the translucent ceiling. Look at the time. I must finish here. She dropped a quick curtsy and strode into the bedroom. Kael resisted the urge to follow her, though he blushed furiously a few minutes later when she came out with an armful of linens. Linens that he knew held the musky aroma of sex and sweat. Milly opened the door, paused long enough to say, Talk to him, and left, closing the door firmly behind her.

***

54

Jill Knowles

Kael was waiting on the couch, one pillow behind his head, one in his lap, when the door opened. Taren came in, lines of fatigue evident on his face. You dont have to wait up for me, pet, he said. Go to bed. Ill clean up and join you. Heart in his throat, Kael stood, revealing his nudity. I would like join you, sir. Violet eyes leisurely examined Kaels body, lingering on pierced nipples and stiffening penis. Without speaking, he nodded and continued into the bathing chamber. Drawing in a shaky breath, Kael sent a prayer for courage to the Goddess and joined his owner. The warlord had stripped off his clothing and left it in a messy pile near the showering enclosure. He stood under the spray, face upturned into the warm water. Wet skin and scales glistened in the candlelight, muscles bunched and smoothed. He was, quite simply, stunning. Kael picked up the sponge hed placed next to the shower earlier that evening and stepped inside. He dampened the sponge and added the pine-scented soap, then worked it into a fragrant lather. When his owner stepped free of the water, Kael held up the sponge and waited for permission. After giving Kael a long, inscrutable look, Taren nodded his assent. Holding his owners gaze, Kael placed the soapy sponge on the smaller mans chest and slowly rubbed it across Tarens skin. As he bathed Taren, Kael concentrated on washing away the fatigue of the day as well as any sweat and dirt that might have accumulated. When hed finished the warlords chest and arms, he stepped forward and wrapped his own arms around Tarens soapy torso so that he could run the sponge over his owners back and buttocks. Held tightly against the other man, Kael was hyperaware of the hard cock pressed against his belly and of his own answering arousal. The pressure against the hoops in his nipples was pleasant, and he realized they had fully healed and that the gold rings increased his sensitivity. Reluctantly he stepped back and knelt so that he could wash Tarens legs and feet. Rinse, please, he said, standing. Silently Taren did as Kael requested, his face unreadable. Kael set the sponge aside, washed the soap from his body, and picked up the lavender-scented shampoo. Pouring a generous amount in his hand, he worked it through the smaller mans silky hair. A low, growling purr accompanied Kaels ministrations. Kael felt his breath quicken as Taren sighed and relaxed into the massage. Hed never bathed another person and was unprepared for the eroticism of the act. When hed worked the shampoo through completely, he once again stepped back and said, Rinse, please.

Concubine

55

Taren stepped into the shower stream, tilted his head back, and washed the soap from his long dark hair. The movement stretched his frame into a graceful arc of lean muscles and beautifully decorated skin. Desire rushed through Kael, making his aching cock leak with need. As his owner stepped free of the water and looked at him, he knelt at the other mans feet. The position put Tarens hard shaft at mouth height. Kael leaned forward and pressed a kiss just below the flared head of his owners cock. Hearing the half demon catch his breath, Kael looked up. May I? Please do. Scarcely believing his own daring, Kael took the rigid flesh into his mouth, moaning at the press of heated flesh against his tongue. The first time hed done this for his owner, hed been shocked, nervous, and confused by the chaotic welter of emotions flooding through him. This time Ah, this time he had the luxury of experiencing. His owners cock was silky-smooth skin and slightly rougher scales. Kael tasted clean water, salt, and musk, and just a hint of sweet-tart raspberries. He bobbed his head up and down several times, then pulled back and swirled his tongue around the flared cockhead. Tarens growls deepened, and his hands buried themselves in Kaels hair. Kael waited for his owner to guide him, but the other man seemed content to stroke and pet his hair. Pleased that he was being allowed to set the pace, Kael alternated between moving his mouth up and down the rigid shaft and suckling at the head of Tarens cock, tongue darting into the slit for a taste of his owners seed. The feel of velvet and steel flesh against his tongue made Kael shake with lust. As much as he enjoyed having Tarens cock in his mouth, he also wanted to come, but he remembered he wasnt allowed to climax unless his master was inside him. And his jaw was starting to ache. He sucked until his cheeks were hollowed, increasing the speed of his movements on his owners cock. The hands in his hair tightened almost painfully as the shaft in his mouth jerked. Warm, slick seed flooded his mouth, surging into him as Taren climaxed. Kael tried desperately to swallow it all, but some escaped to drip down his chin and onto his chest. When his owner had shuddered a last time, Kael sat back and looked up at the panting man. His penis diamond hard, he stood and reached for Tarens hand. The half demon allowed himself to be led into the bedchamber and into bed. He prepared Kael quickly and positioned himself between Kaels legs, then sank into Kael with a sigh of homecoming. Kael arched up to meet each leisurely thrust, moaning as he found his own satisfaction. As Tarens arms wrapped around him, he remembered his conversation with Milly and asked, Whats your favorite color? Taren murmured something, but Kael was asleep before the other man finished answering.

***

56

Jill Knowles

Kael moaned as tight heat surrounded his throbbing shaft. His hands wove themselves into silky-soft hair as he awakened to bliss. As his awareness sharpened, he opened his eyes. His owner lay between his open thighs, sucking and licking his cock. Stunned, he could do nothing save enjoy as the other mans mouth, tongue, and teeth worked him. His hips tried to move, but the half demons hands on his thighs held him still. He was amazed to see that Taren was fully dressed in uniform. Kael gave a strangled cry when Taren engulfed him down to the root, swallowing around him. The half demon began to growl, the vibration adding to the sensations surrounding Kaels cock. A pair of slick fingers were pushed into his anus, unerringly finding and rubbing his sweet spot. The intensity was too much, and he climaxed with a shout, coming in his owners greedy mouth. You Itsso good. He gasped as the other man released him. Taren stood, licking lush, swollen lips, and looked down at Kael, the front closure of his trousers open. He reached into his pants and eased his engorged penis free. The half demon stroked his cock, hand moving in a fast, almost punishing rhythm, gaze roaming over Kaels body. Panting, Kael stared at the hand stroking and twisting around his owners cock. He heard his owners growl intensify as lavender white seed spurted from Tarens cock, splashing down onto Kaels nipples. Seeing his owner climax, feeling the heat of Tarens seed on his own skin, awakened something primal in Kaels soul. Master, he said, fingertips rubbing his masters slick cum against his ringed nipples. My pet, Taren said, wiping his hands on the linen sheet, then tucking himself into his trousers. Your new clothes will be delivered today, and Ill be home early. We have a banquet to attend. Without another word, he turned and walked to the door of the bedchamber. Pausing at the door, he said, Blue. My favorite color is blue.

Concubine

57

Chapter Ten
Kael stared at himself in dismay. A dark blue harness had been buckled around his waist, a rubber plug pushed into him and held in place by the harness. It was long and thick enough to press against his sweet spot each time he took a step, and the end that buttoned into the harness had a large, beautifully faceted sapphire on it. His owner had made him turn around and look in the mirror, then held his cheeks open so Kael could see the glitter of the jewel. Over that, he wore loose gauzy blue pants that had slits at the sides from waist to ankle, where they bloused over dark blue leather ankle boots. Shirtless, he had only a sheer blue vest to provide a semblance of modesty. The gold rings in his nipples now sported sapphire drops that sparkled each time he moved. Kneel, pet. The warlord wore his formal uniform, complete with the insignia of the Royal House of Zandria. He looked regal, sexy, and more than a little dangerous. Kael sank to his knees, wishing he could sink all the way through the floor. His owners peerspeople who had once been his peerswere going to see him dressed as a whore, a concubine who had no will but who must submit to his owners every sexual whim. Hed embraced his duties in the past several days, but that was here, in the safety of their rooms. Now he would be on display, his changed status in full view of the Zandrian aristocracy, and that knowledge horrified him. Hold up your hair. Kael complied and was surprised when Taren stepped around behind him and unbuckled the black leather collar hed worn for the past week. He heard a muffled thump as the collar was tossed onto the bed. It felt strange to have a bare neck, but the strangeness didnt last as a wider collar was positioned around his throat. His owner stroked up the back of the collar, a warm tingling following in the wake of the fingertip as the leather was sealed with magic. Stand up and look into the mirror. Kael did as he was commanded, his breath catching as he saw the new collar he wore. Made of butter-soft black leather, it was three inches wide. Staring at his reflection, he raised a hand to trail his fingertips over the design that rested at the center of his throat. Deep blue sapphires and rich dark purple amethysts made the same diamond design as the glass decoration on the wall of the bedchamber. Like it? his owner asked, voice husky. Its beautiful, Kael said. He felt a mixture of pride and dismay as he look ed at the lovely thing. Confused, he turned to look at his owner. The collar was

58

Jill Knowles

exquisite, but it was a slave collar, a reminder that he was a possession. Hed been able to pretend that he was with Taren of his own free will since theyd returned from their shopping excursion, but now he was confronted with the reality of his situation. Its permanent, Taren said. It wont come off. Youre mine, Prince Kael of Korai. Forever. Kaels mind seemed to freeze as conflicting emotions raged through him. He stood quietly as a golden leash was attached to his collar, and he was led from the bedroom. The numbness remained as they traveled by coach from the War University to the main palace and into a lavishly appointed banquet hall. Taren was seated at the dais between the king and an older woman. Kael took his place at his masters feet, mechanically eating what he was offered. It wasnt until hed taken a bite of coconut-crusted pastry that he came back to himself. I hate coconut, he thought. He swallowed the offending pastry and refused a second bite. Back with me, pet? Taren asked, concern in his alien eyes. Kael nodded. May I have a drink, please? A fine glass goblet was placed at his lips, and he took a drink of water that had been flavored with lemon and mint. It did a wonderful job of removing the coconut taste andbleahdisgusting texture from his mouth. He took a second sip before leaning back slightly and looking up at his owner. Taren smiled down at him. I began to worry that I wouldnt find something you disliked. His owners smile quirked. Coconut, eh? Kael shuddered. Its not so much the taste as it is the texture. Taren chuckled. I feel the same way about cooked spinach. Huh. Ive always liked spinach, Kael said. The remainder of the banquetthe sweet coursewas full of quiet laughter as Kael and Taren traded likes and dislikes. Kael studiously ignored the other nobles attending the banquet with their own scantily dressed concubines. When the dinner was over, they adjourned to a luxuriant salon that held numerous low couches, backless lounging chaises, and silk and velvet pillows in every size and shape. Kael followed the warlord to one of the couches and was surprised to be pulled down onto the soft cushions beside Taren. Sir? I want you beside me, where I can get my hands on you, his owner said, tucking the end of Kaels leash into the waistband of his trousers. Well, boy, arent you going to introduce me to your concubine? a low contralto asked. It was the older woman whod been seated on Tarens other side. Dressed in a lovely cream-colored dress in the wraparound style that seemed so popular here, her dark hair twisted into an ornate braid that provided a frame for a diamondencrusted gold crown, she was the epitome of a well-born lady.

Concubine

59

Of course, Mother. Taren sprawled back on the couch, one hand resting possessively on Kaels thigh. Pet, this is my mother, Queen Raquel, widowed wife of the late King Gregor, mother to myself and my half brother, Zandrias King Grayson. Habit made Kael try to rise, but the leash wouldnt let him. He did the best he could with a seated bow. Your Majesty, he said, surprised to learn that Taren and Grayson shared the same mother; hed assumed they were related through their paternal side. That meant she had been married to a full-blooded demon at one time. He couldnt imagine this delicate woman submitting sexually to a demon. The flashes of inhuman wildness in his owner were frightening; he couldnt begin to guess how dangerous a full-blooded demon would be. Stand up, sweet, and let me look at you, she said. Giving her son a pointed look, she added, Let the boy stand, Taren. He has manners, even if you dont. Her tone was sharp, and he wondered if there was bad blood between the two of them. Very well. Taren loosened his hold on the leash. Kael stood. The Queen Mother offered him her hand, and he bowed over it, showing her the respect due to any noblewoman. Beautiful, elegant, and with exquisite manners, she would have put any of the women at home to shame. Very nice, she said as he straightened. Turn around, sweet. I want to see the whole package. She made a twirling gesture with one hand. A blush staining his cheek, Kael turned so that he faced away from her. A tug on his leash focused his awareness on his owner. Caught by slit-pupiled eyes, Kael watched as Taren wrapped a hand around the leash and began to pull. Slowly Kael was drawn downward until his face was mere inches away from his owners. For a moment he thought the other man was going to kiss him. He licked his lips in anticipation. Kissing had never been a particular turn-on for him, but he found himself wanting to feel Tarens lips against his. Small hands cupped his ass. Seeing both of Tarens hands resting in his lap, Kael froze. Very nice indeed. The hands slid farther south until they pressed against the plug in Kaels ass. And such a wonderful use for a gemstone. Ill have to have some jeweled toys designed for my concubines. As she spoke, she wiggled the end of the plug. He gasped as the treatment put pressure against his sweet spot. Hands off, Mother. This one is all mine. Taren smiled fondly up at her, but his eyes held a clear warning. Play with one of the palace concubines if youre bored. Kael concentrated on breathing. Hed never considered the thought that his owner might share him. Please, not that. He didnt want to be a piece of meat passed from person to person. Oh, very well. The hands were removed. Come back down here, pet. Ill protect you, the half demon said.

60

Jill Knowles

Face so hot he worried it might spontaneously combust, Kael resumed his place next to Taren on the couch. No one is allowed to touch you but me. You are mine. If anyone tries, tell them no, and then tell me. I will not have you abused. Kael nodded, relief stealing his breath away. I do apologize, Queen Raquel said. I know better than to fondle anothers personal concubine. Its just that so few people have them, I forget. She gave him a gamine grin. And you, my dear, are absolutely edible. She perched on the arm of the couch next to her son and leered at Kael. Youre also a breath of fresh air in this stuffy old place. She waved a slender hand at the room, and Kael was surprised to see a number of nobles with concubines kneeling at their feet. As he watched, a noblemans female concubine knelt in front of the man and lowered her mouth over his penis. Wrenching his gaze away, he saw a noblewoman lying back on a couch, suckling at her female concubines breasts. The king lounged on one of the odd backless couches, one woman moving over his penis while a second straddled his face. Around the room, nobles and concubines were locked in passionate embraces. Embarrassed, he stared down at his clasped hands, hoping fervently that Taren didnt demand such public pleasure of him. Oh dear. Weve shocked you, havent we, Prince Kael. The queen made it a statement rather than a question. Kael nodded, keeping his eyes lowered so he wouldnt see anything distressing. Youll get used to us, she said. She placed a finger beneath his chin and forced him to look at her. Theres nothing shameful about sex. I know we must seem terribly decadent to you, and I suppose we are. Then again, Id guess our banquets are much more fun than the ones you grew up attending. She patted his cheek, kissed her son on the temple, and stood. Striding away, she snapped her fingers, and a naked man and woman fell in behind her. She found a place on a nearby couch and sat down, untying the belt of her dress as she did so. She was naked underneath it. Dark teal scales made elaborate swirls across her creamy skin. Glancing at the others in the room, he noted that most of the nobles had bold patterns of scales in every color and hue on their skin. The concubines had fewer scales, mostly in pale greens and pinks. I wonder if the nobility has more demon blood or if the concubines are chosen for the specific color of their scales? Kael watched in horrified fascination as the male concubine sat beside the queen and began sucking at her firm breasts, while the female concubine knelt between the queens thighs and began feasting on her pussy. He closed his eyes. It didnt help. The wet sounds of sex and the soft moans and cries of the participants were clearly audible. Never had he felt so far from home. Lie down, pet. Put your head on my leg.

Concubine

61

Without opening his eyes, Kael did as instructed. When he lay with his legs stretched out on the soft cushions and his head resting on his owners thigh, he looked up at Taren. Thats it, Kael. Look at me. No one else here matters, just the two of us. He stroked Kaels cheek, traced his lower lip, and grazed his fingertips down Kaels chest. Shivering as the ring in his nipple was rubbed, sending a wash of lust through him, Kael kept his gaze on his masters face. I was right about these, Taren said, tugging on one of the hoops. You look lovely with your tits pierced. He twisted his fingers, rocking the ring in Kaels nipple. Someday soon, when youve learned to embrace your submission, Ill attach a leash to these and parade you before the court, showing everyone the gorgeous man who belongs to me. Taren held Kaels gaze with the strength of his violet regard. Kael moaned at the almost painful caress, his penis hardening in spite of his continued embarrassment. Thats it, pet. Let go. Give me your desire. Hypnotized by the soft words and his owners beautiful alien eyes, Kael let the sensations ebb and flow through him. The obscene sounds, the knowledge that others might be watching, all of it vanished beneath his masters hands and voice. His gaze never leaving Tarens, Kael sat up and straddled his masters legs, then fumbled Tarens pants open to release his owners rigid erection. Clever fingers slid inside his loose pants, unbuckled the harness, and removed the plug. They slid inside him, testing his readiness, then pushed the cloth aside and guided Kael down onto the warlords cock. As the large shaft sank inside him, Kael groaned, wrapping his arms around Tarens shoulders. A hot mouth closed on his sensitive nipple, making him cry out. As his master feasted at his tits, suckling, nipping, tugging the golden hoops with playful teeth, Kael rose and fell on the hard spear of Tarens erection. Nothing mattered except his masters mouth and cock, his masters pleasure. Kael felt completion threatening and bit his lip in an effort to hold back. He wanted to spill his own seed as Taren came inside him. Rough hands gripped his hips, grinding him down onto the half demons shaft. The increased pressure on his sweet spot sent Kael over the edge. He shouted as he tumbled over the precipice, his spasming passage clenching around his owners shaft. Taren shuddered against him, cock jerking as he exploded deep inside Kaels body. They rested together for a while as sweat dried and breathing slowed. Legs beginning to cramp, Kael shifted to one side, sighing when his masters shaft slid from him. As he turned around, he became aware of the silence in the room. Everyone was staring at them. He flushed at the avid lust he saw on the faces of the watching nobles.

62

Jill Knowles

The concubines stared as well, but their expressions held nothing of sex. It took Kael a moment to recognize the emotion, as it wasnt one he was used to seeing directed at him. Hatred. The concubines here all despised him. He saw Larissa, the woman from Soren Carvers shop, on her hands and knees in front of a large bear of a man. The man had apparently stopped in the middle of taking her in order to watch Kael and Taren. She glared at Kael, her glower promising retribution. Why are they so angry? he wondered. That was magnificent, brother mine, King Grayson said. The woman who had been poised over the kings face was sitting on the floor, staring at Kael with a nasty frown. Kael had the sneaking suspicion that the king had shoved her off rather than asking her to move. If looks were daggers, Kael and his owner would both be dead. Taren bowed to his brother. I have to admit, I didnt see the attraction of owning a concubine until now. Kael ismmmm. He trailed a careless hand over Kaels seed-slick belly, then raised his fingers to his mouth so he could taste the cum. Delicious. He laughed low and wicked, cleaning his fingers with relish. Wishing the floor would swallow him before the skin on his face caught fire, Kael wanted to duck and hideanything to get away from the lascivious attention of the nobles. But the palpable anger emanating from the concubines stopped him. Holding his head high, as befit a royal prince of Korai, he dared them all to speak against him. Youve certainly perked up this party, Queen Raquel said. Grayson, do be a dear and make a royal decree that your brother and his delightful Prince Kael must attend every royal banquet. The king laughed, and Kael could see the resemblance between the queen and her two sons. Its never worked before, Mother. I cant imagine it would now. Then againhe leered at Kaelhes never before had such a wonderful companion to bring. The playful words broke the tension in the room, and Kael relaxed as attention gradually shifted away from him. The hostility from the concubines, however, seemed to intensify as the night wore on.

Concubine

63

Chapter Eleven
How did you like your first Zandrian banquet? Milly asked, a bland smile curving her lips. Kael hid his flaming face in his hands. You heard. My lover is one of the undercooks. She said you and Warlord Taren put on quite a show in the salon. Goddess bless. Sighing, he straightened. Everybody watched us. He rested his head against the back of the couch. I nearly died of embarrassment when I realized we were the center of attention. The nobles were leering, and the concubines He blew out a breath as he recalled the ugly stares hed received. They hate me, though Ive no idea why. Milly perched on the wingback chair across from the sofa. Everyone watched you, she repeated. Yes. The memory of his frenzied public coupling made him blush even as his cock stiffened at the reminder of bliss. You dont understand. Everyone watched you, Kael, the blood-debt gift who has no training, no ties to the guild. Kael leaned forward, intent. Im listening. This was important. He was a long way from home, with no friends and ambiguous status. He did not need new enemies, not if he could avoid it. The concubines have only had a guild for the past sixty years. It used to be that anyone could sell themselves as a concubine. Parents regularly sold toddlers to the brothels, and nobles used younger sons and daughters as currency, paying off debts with the bodies of their children. She made the crescent sign of the Warrior Goddess on her chest. No one was safe. Rapes were common, and servants were forced to serve their employers in all things, whether or not they wanted to. She shuddered in revulsion. King Gregor changed that when he took the throne. He changed the laws and brought the out-ofcontrol nobles to heel. They tolerated it because he had no children. Everyone believed he was infertile. Kael flushed at having a woman speak so frankly to him, but fascination kept him from interrupting her. Then, thirty years ago, he married Queen Raquel. Shed been a demons mistress and already had a toddler son. When she became pregnant the second year of the marriage, there was some gossip that the babe wasnt King Gregors, and therefore not an heir. That rumor was quickly broken by the palace sorcerers. There

64

Jill Knowles

were a number of attempts on Queen Raquels life, but she is related to some of the most powerful of the pure demons. Her family sent bodyguards. They dont generally meddle in Zandrian affairs, but the demonfolk were appalled by the excesses of their human cousins. The demons thought the humans were behaving badly? Kael couldnt keep the incredulity from his voice. He was also deeply impressed by Millys concise description of the history. If all Zandrias people were so well educated, it was no wonder the city was so elegant. He made a mental note to ask Taren about it when the warlord returned to their rooms. Milly nodded. I know people in other countries are afraid of demons, but most demons are very gentle, moral creatures. She hesitated. Well, unless you make them angry. Then theyll rip your face off. Are there many full-blooded demons in Zandria? No. Most of them live in the demon realms, which can only be reached through a few sorcerers gates. They found dealing with humans and crossbreeds tiring. Were too illogical for them. She grinned at Kael and gave a theatrical shrug. Anywayshe tossed her curlsKing Gregor set the age of consent at sixteen and made the crime of rape punishable by dismemberment. He hired mages to use truth spells on anyone accused of rape as well as on the accuser. The Concubines Guild was created to ensure that all those working as concubines were willing to do so. Sex for hire became as regimented and regulated as the banking industry. And about as much fun. She smiled ruefully. Dont get me wrong; it needed to happen. The problem is that the control went too far. Now, with very few exceptions, concubines are all guild trained. Contracts are negotiated between concubine and master or mistress so that proper matches can be made. For someone to give themselves or one of their children to pay a debt, innocent blood must have been spilled by the debtor. Even then, the concubine has the right to refuse to pay their parents debt, and they will be released to return t o their lives. Had his king killed innocents? Kael supposed that the Zandrian soldiers who had died because of his fathers failure to stop the farmers from violating the border could be considered innocent. But why does the Concubines Guild hate me? Im no threat to them. He tucked an errant lock of chestnut hair behind one ear. The circumstances that gave me to Taren arent exactly common. Milly made the sign of the Goddess again. Honored Warrior, grant truth to your words. She sat for a moment, twirling a brown curl around her finger as she thought. It used to be that owning a concubine was a mark of status. The nobility had them, and the merchant class wanted them. With a rueful shrug, she added, And the poor supplied them. People would buy one or two concubines and keep them for life, eventually pensioning aging concubines off by buying them a house and giving them a stipend to live on. Sometimes concubines were sold, but it wasnt common.

Concubine

65

Kael nodded his understanding. And now? Now the guild trains all the concubines the same way. Ive heard several of the nobles complain that aside from their looks, all the concubines are interchangeable. Male, female, they all do the same things the same way. Onemonth contracts are the norm. Ive only heard of two yearlong contracts being made in the past six months, and one of those has already been broken by the buyer: she was so bored with the man shed purchased that she was willing to pay the forfeit to be rid of him. Now youre hereuntrained, different. Of course they hate you. She stood. I have to go. Ive shirked my duties too long as it is. She went to the door. Be careful, Kael. The guild hates you, and it is very powerful. Kael sat back on the couch. Sohe had powerful enemies. Concubines werent likely to be armed, but their supporters might be. Tonight when Taren came home, Kael would ask for a dagger. Anyone who attacked him would learn that, despite his current occupation, hed been trained as a warrior and had seen his share of fights.

***
Taren looked thoughtful after Kael made his request. My second gave me the same warning this afternoon. He rubbed a hand over his chin. Ill leave you a dagger and a sword and sheath before I go tomorrow morning. Wear them whenever you leave my personal rooms. Im allowed to leave? Kael asked, surprised he was even going to be allowed to bear arms. He missed the comforting weight of sword and dagger at his belt, if not the necessity of wearing them. Of course. Taren looked startled. You may go anywhere you like. I would suggest staying in the university for now, until youve had more time to learn your way around. He sighed. I will find the time to show you both the university and the city. He slumped down in the bath until just his head was above water. I am so tired of discussing the new trade route. Its being built as quickly as possible, and no matter how much the merchants complain, I cant make the builders move any faster. Why are they complaining to you? Kael asked. Quirking an eyebrow, Taren said, Because Im in charge of the whole mess. Realizing he might have offended the other man, Kael hastened to explain. But youre Warlord Taren, commander of the Zandrian army. You have duties to your soldiers and the students here at the university. Why should you have to take on this job as well? Taren sat up and motioned Kael to him. Scooting over until he sat thigh to thigh with his owner, Kael smiled when Taren placed an arm around his shoulders and pulled him close. Im providing the escort and protection for all the builders, and my troops are doing much of the hard labor. Kael nodded. It made sense. He wanted to ask more questions about the new route and how it would affect Korai, but he knew the half demon was heartily sick

66

Jill Knowles

of the subject. Casting about for something to keep the conversation going, he blurted, Do you like music? Excuse me? Taren looked at Kael as though hed grown a second head. Do you like music? Deciding he needed to give the other man some thing, Kael said, I love the old ballads. The ones that are part history and part mythology. My favorite is The Song of Lavan Giantkiller. Taren was quiet for so long, Kael wondered if the half demon had fallen asleep. I like comedy songs. Not the bawdy ones, although those can be very fun. I prefer the satirical ones that skewer those who take themselves too seriously. He turned so he could grin at Kael. Ive even got one dedicated to me. He shook his head. Ten years ago, when my brother had just come into power and named me warlord, I had a rather inflated opinion of myself. There was an incident with a pair of shackles and a block of ice. Laughing, he said, The Warlords Chilly Lover is quite clever, though some of the rhymes are forced. Purple and turtle, for instance. He rubbed his nose against Kaels cheek. Ill take you to a tavern and request it sometime. Id sing it for you, but my voice could shatter glass. Kael leaned into his owners caress. You could tell me the story. Oh, no, Taren said. I wont spoil it. Minstrel Ravenhof does a much better job than I ever could. He drew Kaels earlobe into his mouth and bit down gently, then blew into Kaels ear. Mmmm. Kael tilted his head to give his owner better access. He slid a h and into the warlords lap and stroked Tarens swollen cock, making his owner growl. Taren allowed Kael to pet him a few times, then captured his hand. Wait here, pet, he said, patting Kaels hand. He left the pool and disappeared into the bedchamber. Kael waited impatiently, giving his penis the occasional rub to keep up his interest. It felt strange to masturbate. It had been a long time since hed had to resort to self-pleasure. The last time was the night before the ceremony where I was given to Taren. Hed jerked off more in hopes of being able to sleep than because of any real desire. Counting back, he was startled to find that it had only been two weeks. Two weeks ago, being given to the half demon had seemed a fate worse than death. Now he waited eagerly for his owner to come back and take him. Have I really changed so much in so short a time? He could scarcely believe it, but he held hard evidence in his hand. Did Father see this in me? Did he know that a life of debauchery would suit me far better than that of a warrior? He must have been so disappointed to learn that one of his children was a catamite at heart. Kael jumped as something slapped down beside him, jarring him from his unwelcome thoughts. He frowned up at his owner, then looked at the odd cushion that had startled him. It was wide and flat, firmer than most of the cushions in their rooms, covered with dark blue canvas, and longer than he was tall.

Concubine

67

Trepidation and anticipation flashed into his belly as he wondered exactly what the cushion was going to be used for. Sit up on the edge of the pool, pet, Taren said. After Kael complied, he continued. Hands over your head, wrists together. He placed cuffs around Kaels wrists, binding them together. After telling Kael to put his hands back in his lap, he knelt behind Kael and caressed his shoulders. I think youre going to hate this, Kael, but Im still going to demand it of you. Taren? Kael craned his head to look up at his owner. Face forward. Kael obeyed. Taren reached around him. Kael saw a thin tube. It was the same width as a finger but twice as long, and it had a steel D ring at each end with straps attached. It looked much like the bit on a horse bridle. Open your mouth. Used to obeying, Kael did as he was instructed. The tube was placed in his mouth, and the straps were pulled tight around his head and buckled into place before he knew what was happening. No. He clenched his teeth in what turned out to be leather, shaking his head. The bit remained stubbornly in place. His owners hands gripped his shoulders, preventing him from falling. Kael raised his bound hands to try to pull the hateful thing from his mouth, but Taren caught his wrists before he could grasp the straps. Easy, Kael. You will accept this because I wish it. Fuming, Kael dropped his hands into his lap and sat still. Taren himself slid down into the water and stood before Kael. Kael closed his eyes, refusing to look at the man who would force such humiliation on him. A hand raised his chin up. Look at me, pet. Kael kept his eyes tightly shut. He was not an animal and shouldnt be bitted as if he were a recalcitrant stallion. Eyes opennow, Taren snapped. Sullenly Kael did as his owner commanded. Glaring at the smaller man, he concentrated on putting all the venom of his betrayed trust into his stare. Taren rubbed his thumb over Kaels lower lip. It took everything Kael had not to jerk away from the touch. This isnt punishment, pet. I have several gags Ill use on you in the future. A ball gag that will fill your mouth, holding it open but denying me access. A ring gag that will make your mouth into a hole for me to fuck. He rubbed the bit between Kaels teeth. Youre lovely like this, naked, hands and mouth bound. Im going to torment you, pet. Youll want to beg me to fuck you, but you wont be able to do anything save sink your teeth into the bit. Almost hypnotized by the low, sensual words, Kael watched as the strange cushion was placed so that it hung partway over the edge of the bathing pool. Kael was positioned so that his knees were on the ledge inside the pool, but lying forward

68

Jill Knowles

so his chest was on the edge of the pool, bound hands stretched out in front of him. The cushion was designed to protect his skin from being rubbed raw on the stone. The pose put his ass in an extremely vulnerable position, and his owner was quick to take advantage of that fact. Slender hands cupped his nether cheeks and kneaded the tension away. Kael stubbornly gritted his teeth into the leather bit and tried to maintain his anger. This newest humiliation was just another reminder that he was a whore. In an effort to divert himself from the distractingly sensual things happening to his ass, he concentrated on the rest of his body. It felt strange to be half in and half out of the water, and he was glad the air temperature was warm enough to keep him from being chilled. Then again, being cold would distract him from whatever devious plans the warlord had for him. The warlords fingers slid into Kaels crease and rubbed over the hidden opening. Kael, furious, remained stubbornly still. His owner wanted him to lose control and try to beg despite the bit; Kael resolved to remain a motionless lump while his body was used. The hand was removed, and the scent of pine soap wafted past Kaels nose. He gasped as two soapy fingers were pushed into him. The determination to not respond to the half demons caresses was sorely tested as Kaels sweet spot was pressed repeatedly. Kael ground his teeth against the gag and focused on his fury at the humiliating amalgamation of leather and steel caging his mouth. A third finger was added, filling him and breaking through his pose of indifference. As his owner roughly fucked him with slippery fingers, Kaels cock began to fill, and his hips moved in counterpoint to the half demons rhythm. Just as he began to arch his back in an effort to deepen the penetration, his owner stopped touching him. Kael groaned as a spongeful of warm water was squeezed over his buttocks. A second and third were emptied over him, and then the sponge was scrubbed briskly over his opening. He squawked at the almost impersonal touch, trying to spit the hated leather from his mouth so he could tell his owner off. More water cascaded over him, making him growl with frustration. He wanted the bit out of his mouth and his masters cock in his ass. In that order. As his nether cheeks were parted again, he thought, well finally. Then cool air was blown across his anus, and he stilled. What is he doing? Something hot and wet was dragged over his anus. Kaels cry of surprise was muffled by the tight gag. The touch was repeated again and again. He shook from head to toe as he understood what he was feeling. Taren was licking him, tasting his most secret place. Confused, frightened by the shockingly intimate caress, and so aroused he wanted to scream, he began to struggle. The canvas beneath him was slick, and he couldnt get any purchase to lever himself up onto his elbows. Strong hands gripped his thighs, holding him in place. Taren made a pleased sound deep in his throat and pressed his face against Kaels ass, licking and probing his body. As his opening was breached by his masters tongue, Kael scre amed, arching his back in a mute plea for more.

Concubine

69

The half demons hum of satisfaction vibrated against Kaels sensitized opening, making him groan and spread his legs wider. His knees slid painfully across the stone ledge, but Kael didnt care. He just wanted more of that incredible sensation. More. Harder. Deeper. He heard the desperate, muffled pleas escape around the gag in his mouth, but he couldnt find the strength to care that he was surrendering to his masters will once again. The tender torment continued. He sobbed, he begged, and still his masters tongue lashed him, taking him almost to the pinnacle, but not quite high enough. Abruptly the erotic torture ceased. Kael shook his head, back arched, anus spasming open and closed, pride subsumed by need. Please, Master. Please fuck me, he said, the words garbled beyond recognition. Rough hands grasped his wrists and dragged him fully onto the floor surrounding the bathing pool. He was rolled onto his back and stared up at his master. The half demons lips were drawn back in a snarl of lust. Purple scales seemed to swirl across his pale skin as he knelt and grasped Kaels ankles. Brutally he forced open legs that parted easily for him. Once his ankles were released, Kael planted his feet on the floor and canted up his hips, offering himself to his master. Taren lay on top of Kael, then sheathed his cock in Kaels ass with one vicious thrust. Kael cried out as pain and pleasure mingled so perfectly, he couldnt differentiate between them. Cruel fingers grasped his legs and pulled them up until Kaels knees rested over Tarens shoulders. Growling, wilder than Kael had ever seen him, Taren began to move. Strong hands grasped Kaels shackled wrists and pinned them above his head, holding him down, though he wasnt trying to get away. The half demon was pitiless in his lust, his cock stabbing into Kael again and again with savage ferocity. He climaxed, pumping his seed into Kael with a series of brutal jerks. Rather than calming him, the first orgasm made him wilder. Taren pulled out of Kael and rolled him over, then yanked him up onto his hands and knees. Before Kael could adjust to the new position, Tarens cock was shoved back inside him. Kael howled at the harsh penetration, teeth biting into the leather gag. The savage claiming was terrifying and wonderful, and he found himself grateful for the strip of leather in his mouth. His mind said he should beg Taren to stop, that Taren was dangerously out of control and that Kael needed to get away before he was injured. Instinct disagreed. It was the primal man who raised his ass into each ruthless thrust. As Taren fucked him, merciless as a beast in rut, Kael arched back against his master, seeking more. He vainly fought the cuffs binding his wrists, eager to get a hand on his aching cock. Frustrated, he ground his ass against Tarens groin. Responding to the wordless plea, Taren wrapped a strong arm around Kaels chest and pulled him back so that they were both upright. Kael shouted as his sweet spot was stabbed by the blunt cockhead, and he came violently, body bucking and spasming as his cock

70

Jill Knowles

erupted. His masters teeth worried the skin on his left shoulder, and he instinctively knew Taren wanted to sink them into his flesh, to place a claiming mark on Kaels shoulder for the world to see. At the same time, he sensed Taren wouldnt mark him unless Kael agreed to it. Everyone will know I belong to him. It will be permanently written on my skin. Do I want this? Yes. He tried to speak clearly around the gag. Yes, Master, he said again, pressing his shoulder against his masters mouth. Taren roared, Mine! and sank his teeth into Kaels skin. A second but no less powerful climax rushed through Kael as his master marked him. He felt blood streaming from the wounds, and then a fiery tingle spread from each of the punctures to sink into every part of his being. He opened his eyes and found himself surrounded by dark purple sparks. Kaels head lolled back against his masters shoulder as shimmering darkness dropped a veil over his eyes.

Concubine

71

Chapter Twelve
Kael was aware of bright light shining in his eyes and a sharp, burning pain in his shoulder. He groaned, raising his right hand to explore the injury. It was captured before it could connect. Easy, Kael. Tarens voice seemed richer, deeper. Kael turned his head to look at the other man, whimpering as the movement increased the agony in his shoulder. What happened? he asked. He remembered being taken, being claimed, pleasure and pain, andpurple sparks? His eyes squinted almost shut against the light until he could barely make out the outline of his owner. I marked you last night. Exultation rang in Tarens voice. Why is it so bright in here? Kael asked, hoping to get his fuzzy thoughts into some sort of order. His skin felt parched and tight, as if all the moisture had been dragged from his body. Its not. YoureTaren hesitatedill. You sound as though that pleases you, Kael accused. His owner also sounded tense, concerned. It does. Bastard, Kael said, meaning it. He groaned as a strong hand was placed beneath his back and he was eased into a sitting position. Drink this. It will help. A metal cup was placed against Kaels lips. Mechanically he opened for the cool liquid. It had an odd taste, metallic and sweet. Kael had the vague idea that he should be spitting it out, that something was wrong, but he wanted more. His good hand came up and grasped the cup as he greedily drank down the contents. Coldness burst into the wound on his shoulder, freezing him as completely as the fire had burned earlier. Purple sparks swirled in his vision like the scales swirled on his masters skin. Oh, theyre back, he murmured as darkness dragged him under.

***
His bodys urgent need woke him. Kael rolled out of bed and stumbled to the necessary room. As he relieved himself, his stomach growled. Ravenous, he washed his hands and padded to the main room, hoping there was food waiting at the table. There was. Feeling as if he hadnt eaten in weeks, Kael fell on the fruit, bread, and beef like a starving man. Although he generally preferred not to eat much meat first

72

Jill Knowles

thing in the morning, today he gulped it down. Finally sated, he pushed back from the table, astonished to note that hed eaten about three times what he normally would. A small noise behind him drew his attention. Turning, he saw his owner standing in the doorway to the bedchamber. From his pose, it was clear that the warlord had been there for some time. Done, pet? Kael laughed ruefully. Ive never been so hungry. I was afraid I might start on the plates. You got enough, though? As he spoke, Tarens attention kept drifting from Kaels face down and slightly to the left. Yes. Kael looked down at his left shoulder. He could see dark marks on his skin where his shoulder and neck met, but the angle was such that he couldnt make out any real details, just that there were marks. Remembering his surrender to instinct the last time theyd coupled, he strode toward the mirror over the cabinet in the bathing chamber. There was a peculiar design on his skin, a series of dots and lines. He leaned close to the image and examined the mark. The first thing he noted was that it was purple, the same purple as Tarens scales. The U-shaped design was present on the front and back of the skin over the large muscle where his shoulder and neck met. Remembering the bite Taren had given him last night, he understood that the dots marked where the half demons teeth had punctured his skin, most of them uniform in size, but two larger ones on either side of the mark corresponded to Tarens canines. A fine line, about a fingers width in length, radiated from each dot, though there was a small space between parent dot and line. Three lines marked the larger canine dots, joined together in a sort of three-pronged V. Kael gingerly reached up to touch it, surprised that it didnt hurt to do so. In fact, the design was more a tattoo than a scar. Taren came up behind him and placed his hand on Kaels opposite shoulder. Demons, full-blooded demons, think of themselves as two beings. Theres the rational part, the one who thinks and learns and loves, and theres the beast, who only feels. They love both parts, but they know to beware the beast because it can be dangerous. Until I met you, I had never felt the beast stir. I didnt think I possessed that aspect of my demonic heritage. Because youre only half demon, Kael said. He couldnt seem to take his gaze from the mark on his shoulder. Something was rising inside him, a giant, enormous thing he had no words for. It terrified him. Actually, Im more like three-quarters demon. His fingertips trailed across Kaels back and brushed over the mark. Kael tensed, the thing inside him welling up into his throat. I have always felt more demon than human, but never quite demon enough. He held his hand over the bite, not touching it. The beast knows its mate. That

Concubine

73

recognition sets off a change. Glands at the base of the canines swell with venom, and at the moment of completion, the beast bites its mate, injecting venom to permanently mark its chosen. Taren placed his hand over the bite. You are my mate. I recognize it, and my beast recognizes it. And we do not share. The thing broke free. Kael spun around, his foot sweeping against the smaller mans legs. As Taren fell, Kael went down atop him. Placing his forearm across his owners neck, he glared down at his captive. I wear your collar, Warlord Taren of Zandria. I wear the blindfold and the cuffs and the harness and the plug and the hoops and that hideous gag. Now I wear your mark. I belong to you; I do not dispute that. He was shaking with emotion. But make no mistake; you belong to me as well. Ive claimed you with my honor and my submission. Ive claimed you by taking your seed into my body. You and your beast belong to me. Giving in to the temptation hed felt for the last several days, he crushed his mouth over Tarens, claiming his master with a searing kiss. The warlords lips parted, and Kael delved deep, tangling his tongue with the other mans in a duel for supremacy. Kael was determined to win, at least this time. He nipped at Tarens lush lower lip, making the other man gasp. Plunging his tongue into his masters mouth over and over again, he staked his claim. When Taren tried to take control of the kiss, Kael caught Tarens lip with his teeth and bit down hard enough to draw blood. Once he tasted copper, he wrenched his mouth away and glared down at Taren. When the guild concubines bat their lashes at you and offer their well practiced favors, remember this: I do not share. He levered himself off the other man and strode from the bathing chamber out into the living area. Fury leaving as rapidly as it came, he sank down onto the chair and rested his elbows on the table, his face in his hands. Not the possessive type, hed always let lovers go easily, never trying to keep them. What did it say about him that none of them had seemed at all interested in keeping him? Taren was different. Taren was his. That certainty terrified him. Soft footsteps alerted him to the smaller mans presence. Not knowing what to expect, Kael was surprised to feel warm hands on his shoulders. He leaned back into Taren and looked up at his master. Slit-pupiled eyes gleamed with mischief and tenderness. Mate, he said. Mate, Kael agreed, letting the smaller man pull him to his feet. Strong arms wrapped around him, holding him tight. A brisk knock at the door disturbed them. Kael stepped backward, Tarens arms releasing him reluctantly. Unselfconsciously naked, Taren strode to the door. What? he snapped. Its Eldara, Warlord, a womans voice said. Sighing, Taren flung the door open. This better be important. A stocky woman wearing the Zandrian military uniform as well as the three stars that marked her as a high-ranking general stepped inside. Its foolishness, but its political foolishness. She stalked past her commander and perched on the

74

Jill Knowles

sofa. I know you said not to disturb you, but this couldnt wait. She looked past the warlord and let her gaze run up and down Kaels body. Very nice. Im surprised youve made it out of bed at all this week. Suddenly remembering that he was naked, Kael squawked and ducked into the bedchamber. Muttering under his breath about Zandrian perverts who had no sense of decency, he went to his wardrobe and yanked on black velvet leggings and a translucent red sleeveless shirt. After jamming his feet into soft black boots, he stomped back toward the main room. Taren, still naked, was sitting in the wingback chair across from the woman. Kael took a moment to observe her before stepping into the room. Her graying brown hair was cropped short, and she leaned forward intently as she spoke. Pet, this is my second, General Eldara Larsdatter. Eldara, Prince Kael of Korai, my concubine. He tossed a pillow onto the floor beside his feet. After bowing to the general, Kael sat on the pillow and leaned against his owners bare legs. She smiled at him. I thank you for making my friend happy. Standing, she gave Taren an unreadable look. What will you do? Wordlessly Taren grasped the neck of Kaels shirt and pulled it to the side, baring Kaels shoulder. She froze, staring at the mark. Congratulations. Shaking her head, she walked to the door. Ive got your back, Taren. After she left, Taren stood and walked into the bedroom. Kael waited on his pillow next to the chair. A few minutes passed, and Taren came back out. He held his hand out to Kael, and when Kael stood, he went to the couch. He sat at one end and indicated that Kael should sit at the other. Uneasy with the distance between them, Kael asked, Whats going on? Whatever it was, he knew it involved him. Your sister and her husband arrived at the palace an hour ago. Princess Jendri has offered to trade her estates for your freedom. Stunned, Kael stared at his owner. Jendri, as the oldest daughter, had inherited a vast tract of farmland that encompassed the entire northeastern corner of Korai. Gaining it would give Zandria control of most of the land surrounding the new trade route. She did what? She loved living on her estates with her husband, a brilliant research sorcerer. Jendri raised and trained warhorses for the army, and Alsander raised magically modified parrots that were intelligent enough to carry complex messages and return to their handlers once their mission was complete. He couldnt imagine his sister giving that life up. Why would she do such a thing? Tarens smile was bittersweet. Because she loves you. Kael let his head fall back onto the top of the sofa. Goddess. He stared up at the translucent ceiling, wondering what it would be like to never see it again. To never see him again. A few weeks ago, Id have given anything to make that bargain.

Concubine

75

And now? His masters voice was thick. Kael sat up straight and stared at Taren. He slid his hand beneath his shirt and covered the mark on his left shoulder. I meant what I said earlier. You belong to me. I will not return to Korai as long as you remain here. Youre mine, Taren, and I will not leave you. Hed never guessed he could find pleasure with another man. Now he found he couldnt give that pleasure up. A slow, sweet smile claimed the warlords face. Youre mine, Kael, and I will not let you go. Kael nodded. We agree, then. He held his hand out toward the other man, laughing as it was captured and he was pulled forward until he sprawled over his owners lap. Mine, he said, leaning in for a kiss. Yours, Taren agreed. Feeling his masters cock swell against him, he squirmed, deliberately teasing the engorged member. Taren moved beneath him, increasing the friction. They moved together languidly, and Kael used the time to formulate a plan. Taren began to growl as his excitement increased, and he slid his hands beneath Kaels leggings, cupping the globes of his ass. Off, he muttered, kneading Kaels skin. Kael broke the kiss and sat back. When his owner didnt remove the hands on his ass, he grinned. I cant strip if you dont let go of me. He rubbed a hand over his own erection where it tented the front of his leggings. Taren sighed and pushed out his lower lip in a pout. If I must. Lust surged in Kaels soul as he saw the small cut hed made earlier when hed captured his owners lip between his teeth. Mine, he said. Postponing his planned seduction for another time, he yanked off his clothing and pounced on Taren. He positioned himself over his shaft and pressed down. As the head of Tarens cock breached him, strong hands caught his hips. We need the oil. Kael shook his head. Im still slick from last night. He pressed down, taking another inch inside before Taren stopped him. Are you sure? Im sure, Master. Kael felt his owners penis jerk at the word. Master, my Master, he said, easing farther onto the hard shaft. His masters cock felt so good sliding into him. Holding his owners gaze, trying to convey all his need, all his certainty, he relaxed his thighs and sat back, taking the rigid shaft fully inside. It burned a bit, but he welcomed the small pain. Theirs wasnt a perfect joining. It never would be. Kael tensed his thighs and pulled most of the way off Tarens cock before sinking slowly back down. Claim me, my concubine, Taren whispered, his violet eyes glittering with emotion. Mine, Kael said, setting a slow, dreamy rhythm. They moved together in a synchronicity of sweat-sheened skin, push and pull, invade and retreat, until

76

Jill Knowles

steadily, the rising tide of completion surrounded them. They shared a curiously gentle climax, but it was no less powerful for its lack of fireworks. After, still joined, they slept.

Part Two:
Catamite Prince

Chapter Thirteen
Milly squealed as she looked at Kael. Congratulations! She gave him a brief hug. Did it hurt? Was the antivenom as awful as it sounds? Grinning, Kael said, Thank you. Yes, it hurt, but it was worth it. He tugged his shirt back into place. Wait, what antivenom? He remembered being compelled to drink something that he would have ordinarily found repulsive. The bastard poisoned me? What did I drink? Brown eyes wide with shock, Milly backed toward the door. You should ask Warlord Taren Stop right there, he ordered, glaring her into stillness. He pointed to the wingback chair. Sit. She sat. Talk. The demon mark. She nodded toward Kaels shoulder. The bite is poisonous. Its the poison that determines the color. It wont hurt demons, but its poisonous to humans and part humans. The cure is poison as well, but the two work against each other. What did I drink? Kael spoke through gritted teeth. Mercury mixed with honey. Kael blinked at her. Excuse me? He could not have heard correctly. Mercury was deadly. She shrugged. Apparently the two poisons cure each other. Taking a deep breath, Kael said, It tasted dreadful, metallic and sweet. I couldnt drink it fast enough. My body must have known I needed it. He shook his head. No wonder he sounded concerned. And smug. Definitely very, very smug. Milly giggled. As well he should. The claiming mark he put on you means you cannot be forced to separate. A mark like the one you bear is above all other laws. Good. Kael felt the tension hed been feeling since hearing about his sisters offer drain from his muscles. He wanted to stay with Taren, but more than that, hed been inexorably changed in the brief time hed been in Zandria. Hed grown up scoffing at ballads that claimed one couldnt go home again. Now he understood completely. Even if hed hated Taren, hated what theyd done together, Korai would have been forever lost to him. If hed endured a monsters attentions, as he was prepared to do on his first day here, submitting only because it was dishonorable to refuse, hed still be unable to return to his old life. He was no longer the same Prince Kael who had commanded Gold Company.

Concubine

79

More than that, his father had betrayed him. His king had betrayed him. Even though they were the same person, still it was a double betrayal. Millys description of the old Zandria came to mind. The nobles used their childrens bodies as currency. Kael shuddered as he imagined what his life could have been had Taren not been a decent person. What his father had done was unforgivable. Are you happy? Milly asked. Yes. Kael responded without having to think about it. Yes, he repeated. Im far happier than I ever was at He stopped before he said home. Because it no longer was. Im happier than I was in Korai. Zandria wasnt home either. Did he have a home? He wasnt sure. The sappy ballad answer was that his home was wherever Taren was, but that wasnt correct either. He belonged to Taren, and Taren belonged to him, but their relationship was complicated and still evolving. He was pretty sure he loved the other manor would love Taren eventuallybut their connection was full of contradictions and powerful, not always pleasant emotions. Then there was the whole issue of Kael being a concubine and Taren being his owner, his master. Im not who I was. Im not sure who Ill become. But I am sure that my future is here in Zandria, at Tarens side and in his bed. Im glad, Milly said. You seemed so lost those first few days. Im still lost, he said with stark honesty. But Im learning my way.

***
Kael ran his finger across the spines of the books, looking for one hed seen mentioned in one of the histories. If the references were to be believed, it would give him a detailed overview of demonic society. If Tarens demonic heritage was going to become more and more dominant, Kael wanted no more surprises. He was still angry his owner hadnt told him about the poisoning. Ah, there it is. He pulled the thick volume from the shelf and opened it. The printing was small but legible and was written in Common. Hed been worried it might be written in one of the numerous demonic languages. Cradling it in the crook of his elbow, he turned to leave the library, only to find a large man blocking the doorway. Excuse me, Kael said. The man insolently looked Kael up and down, licking his lips. You aint going anywhere, play pretty. Kael studied the other man. True, he was big, but slovenly. His clothes were worn and smelled strongly of horse and unwashed human. His thinning brown hair was raggedly cut and hadnt been washed in several days. The man wore no weapons, obviously used to relying on his size to win any fightsa dangerous assumption to make when he stood in the middle of the War University. Im going to pretend you didnt say anything, and youre going to stand aside.

80

Jill Knowles

The man laughed, a coarse braying sound. Im gonna enjoy fucking your uppity ass. Now get on your hands and knees, boy, and Ill show you a real man. He rubbed the crotch of his filthy brown trousers with one large hand. Icy calm descended over Kael. He felt the comforting weight of the sword at his left hip, the dagger at his right. He had no doubt he could easily skewer the brute, but he was curious to see how far the man would goand who had hired him. This fool couldnt have gotten into Tarens personal library without help. He was most likely some sort of day laborer and not terribly bright. Kael was far enough away from the man that he could easily get his blade free if the idiot was foolish enough to rush him. He set the book down on a nearby side table, where it wouldnt get damaged. Drawing himself up to his full height, he pulled on the mask of royalty that he hadnt donned in the time hed been in Zandria. I am Prince Kael of Korai, and my master is Warlord Taren. You do not want him as an enemy, and Im no pampered plaything whod rather bend over than fight. At the mention of Warlord Taren, the man blanched. Youre lying, he said, sweat breaking out on his forehead. The sharp stench of fear cut through the more pungent odors of horse and stale sweat. Kael pointed at the design on his collar. I wear his badge on my collar, and he pulled aside the neck of his shirt, baring Tarens markhis beast has claimed me as well. The man swallowed heavily. Im still going to ride your ass, boy. He tried to bluff, but Kael could see his erection no longer tented his trousers. Done playing, Kael drew his sword and had the point at the other mans throat in the blink of an eye. Who are you? The man glared at him. Kael pressed the point forward, piercing skin. As blood began to drip down his neck, the man said, Rogett Salson. Kael committed the name to memory. Who sent you? Rogetts gaze slid away from Kael, and he tried to inch back. Kael took a half step forward, his sword digging farther into the other mans throat. If I press any harder, Im going to do some serious damage. Id suggest you tell me what I want to know. Concubine. White blonde, blue eyes, Rogett said sullenly. Said shed show me all her training if I fucked you. He began to shake, his large hands curling into fists. Larissa. It has to be. Her name, Kael snapped. The urge to slit the idiots throat was getting stronger. He stepped firmly on it. Killing this untrained fool would be nothing short of murder. Kael was many things, but hed never been a killer. I dont know. The last word was almost shouted as the magnitude of the danger he was in finally penetrated into Rogetts thick skull.

Concubine

81

Kael believed him. Now there was the problem of what to do with him. Taren hadnt yet found the time to give Kael a tour of the university, so Kael had no idea where his owners offices were located or even if Taren was currently on university grounds. In addition, he had no idea who else was involved in Larissas plot, though it was a sure bet she had at least one person who knew the layout of the university and where Kael might be found. Still, he needed to have access to the man in case there was an investigation. A nasty smile lit his face as the solution came to him. He would put his masters mark on the vile man. With four quick slashes, he carved the letter T into each of Rogetts cheeks. The marks coupled with his name would make it easy enough to track him down if they needed him as a witness. Get out, Kael said, stepping back and flicking his sword toward the door. Blood dripping from his neck and face, Rogett backed away. You aint nothing but a whore, he yelled, voice shaking with fear and anger. And yet I outrank you, Kael answered. Sword at the ready, he followed as the other man left the small library and stumbled through the courtyard toward the buildings exit. Kael retrieved his book and went back to Tarens rooms, sword out, alert for any new dangers.

***
Grim-faced, Taren listened to Kaels description of the attempted attack. Put on your boots. Kael pulled on his old boots and buckled on his sword and dagger. They hadnt been out of reach since the confrontation with Rogett, not even when he had used the necessary. Taren nodded, resting a hand on his own sword. He led the way through several corridors, finally stopping at a battered oak door. He placed his palm in the center, just above a large scorch mark. The door swung open on silent hinges. Taren gestured for Kael to precede him into the room and then followed, shutting the door behind him. Kael looked around, knowing immediately that this was Tarens office and that until recently his owner had spent much of his time here. It had that messy, lived-in look that their quarters lacked. The warlords purple, blue, and black badge was painted on the wall over the imposing oak desk, a large map tacked into place next to it. Bookshelves lined one wall, and the opposite held weapons of every description. Kaels gaze lingered on an enormous double-headed ax, skimmed across two swords and a crossbow, and then paused again on a viciously hooked pike. Behind him, Taren sat at the desk. As Kael watched, he pulled out a jar of crumpled-looking dark green leaves. He removed one from the jar and put the others away. Smoothing the round, egg-size leaf out on the desktop, he startled Kael by spitting on it, then carefully folding it shut. Holding the leaf cupped in both hands, Taren blew on it. Kael watched, entranced, as the leaf began to glow brilliant yellow.

82

Jill Knowles

Its Taren. The warlord spoke into his hands. Tell the guard to arrest a man named Rogett Salson. Hell have Ts cut into both cheeks. I want him alive. Get Cantrell, and be in my office in one hour. Still using the leaf, he called Eldara and one other person. Kael was itching with curiosity by the time Taren closed his hands, crumpling the now shriveled and brown leaf into crumbs, and dropped it into the wastebasket. How does it work? he asked, fascinated at the use of magic such as hed never seen. The sorcerers Korai employed were human, using human magic. He wondered what type of spells Zandrias human-demon hybrids had access to. Qwea trees hold the power of air and speech in their leaves. The ones in the jar have been enchanted by our top mage to allow me to speak over distances. I rarely use them, but my pages are all in the dormitory and unable to carry messages. Kael nodded, wondering for the first time what had happened to his own assistant. Hopefully young Torlinson had found a place with the new commander of Gold Company. The thought of his replacement sent a pang through him. Much as hed hated the necessity of fighting, he had confidence in his ability to keep his soldiers safe. Would the new captain be as effective? Casting about for a diversion, he asked, Whats a Qwea tree? Theyre only found in the demonic realm. My father is a magic-user and made these up for me when I visited last year. Youve visited the demonic realm? Whats it like? Kael burned with curiosity. Its a still sort of place. Taren stared off in the distance, a frown on his face. Demons are terribly logical creatures. They love their beasts, but they spend their entire lifetimes ensuring that the beast never breaks free. I find it stifling after a few days. Ive never understood how Mother was able to live there for ten years. Tarens father was still alive? But that meant the queen had been divorced. How could a divorced woman ever marry a king? Yet another question for him to add to the pile of things that puzzled him. Will I ever understand this place? Taren stood and walked to a large bare space on the far wall. Kael wondered about it, as the rest of the wall space was covered with weapons, maps, or shelves of books and scrolls. Taren touched what Kael had taken for a knothole, and the wall slid open, revealing another room. Taren walked inside as though nothing strange had happened. More demon magic? Kael stepped forward to look at the wall. No, not magic engineering. The section that moved was simply a door that slid in between two wall panels. How ingenious. He continued into the room, where his owner was lighting oil lamps, revealing more maps tacked to the walls. He went to the nearest map, drawn by the dashed red line that led from Zandrias southern border with Korai and down to the royal port of Korvale. He traced what he guessed was the new trade route with his fingertip. As he studied it,

Concubine

83

he noted that the top of the line had been filled in so it was solid; the dashed portion resumed just above the border on the Zandrian side. The solid section is the part thats been built, Taren said. Ah. He studied the map again, trying to gauge the scale. Youve made amazing progress. The roads been pushed, what, four hundred miles? Just over that, Taren said. Weve got several hundred soldiers working from sunup to sundown and sometimes beyond. He replaced the globe on one of the lamps and walked to the next lamp. Kael noticed his owners footsteps were curiously muffled. A tap on the nearest wall told the story. Cork, he murmured. My predecessor three times removed worried about listening spells. He had the walls and ceiling lined with cork. For a while there was cork on the floor as well, but it quickly wore through and was removed. He lit the last lamp, leaving the small room quite well illuminated. Kael looked around with interest. Aside from the large table surrounded with six chairs and the maps and glass-globed lamps in wall sconces, the room was bare. Its too small for most of the meetings I must hold. I generally only use it when I need to spread papers out on a large table. He went back to his main office. Well wait in here for the others. Kael joined him, perching on the edge of the desk. Taren looked up at him for a moment. Your sister wants to see you. Tension knotted Kaels belly. No. The thought of Jendriof anyone from Koraiseeing him now made him ill. Shes been rather insistent about it, but Grayson and Mother have been stalling her. I dont want to see her. Kael bit the inside of his cheek until he tasted copper. That part of my life is over. It will do no good to revisit it. Taren nodded, violet eyes thoughtful. Ill make your wishes known. He reached up and ran his hand over Kaels groin. Someday soon, Ill have you join me here. You can kneel at my feet as I work, and when I feel the need for a break, you can suck me off. Then, at the end of the day, Ill bend you over the desk and fuck your delicious ass. Kael gave the other man a dirty look as blood rushed to his cock. He was not looking forward to meeting Tarens subordinates while sporting an erection. Having Eldara see him naked was bad enough; he didnt need to offer a free show as well. There was a brisk knock at the door, and then Eldara opened it and stepped inside. A short man with dark blond hair and an average-looking brunet followed her. Mendon will be here in just a moment. Hes arranging for tea to be served. Good, Taren said. He caught Kaels hand and linked their fingers together.

84

Jill Knowles

Smiling at his owner, Kael squeezed his fingers together, his smile widening as his were squeezed in return. Kael, this is Dean Cantrell, the head of the university. The blond bowed. And Captain Franks, commander of the city guards here in the university district. The brunet bowed as well. Gentlemen, Prince Kael of Korai, my honored concubine, mate to my beast. Franks looked surprised. Cantrell, pleased. Kael bowed to both men. Before anything could be said, a tall, thin man with impeccably groomed silver-streaked auburn hair stepped into the room, balancing a heavily laden tray. Before Kael could offer to help, the older man had waved away assistance from both Cantrell and Franks. He nodded to Taren and went straight into the small meeting room. Eldara followed him, then Cantrell and Franks. Taren stood and gestured for Kael to precede him into the room. Kael did so but stepped to the side of the door so he could see where his owner was going to sit and take the place next to him. To his annoyance, as Taren was closing the hidden door, Kael noted that the only remaining empty chairs were opposite each other at the head and foot of the table. Taren walked around to the one at the head of the table, leaving the foot for Kael. Kael sat, Eldara on his right, the new man on the left. He noted the exchange of fond glances between Taren and Captain Franks, and a hard kernel of jealousy settled into his chest. It was obvious that theyd been lovers long enough to become quite comfortable with each other. Were they still together? That didnt appear to be the case. I will not share him. He knew he might not have a choice; Taren was a free man, and as such was certainly within his rights to marry or take a lover. If he does, Ill kill them both. The fierceness of his thoughts was disturbing. Kael rubbed his hand over the claiming mark, wondering if it was more than simply a colored scar on his skin. Kael, this is my seneschal, Mendon Gleason. Kael bowed to the older man as he was introduced, glad for a distraction from his troubling speculations about Taren and Franks. It is a pleasure to meet my lords new delight, Mendon said, bowing to Kael. Kael blushed and murmured a polite greeting. He wasnt sure if there was an insult in that greeting or not. He hoped not. The seneschal was the most powerful servant in any householdnot an enemy to seek. Warlord Taren has spoken quite highly of your talents, as have both King Grayson and Queen Raquel. I must thank you for diverting Warlord Tarens attentions away from his tendency to meddle with the servants. He glanced sidelong at Taren, an unreadable expression on his face. Does he mean meddle as in have sex with or in giving orders? Embarrassment staining his cheeks, Kael smiled past gritted teeth. High praise indeed from the man who manages my owners household. Hed met men like this before, commoners or minor nobles who ruled the houses they managed with an iron fist. Fiercely loyal and proud, the highest ranked among the servants detested anyone or

Concubine

85

anything that posed a challenge to their authority. Damn, I hope he doesnt see me as a threat. He has the power to make my life a misery. Mendon smiled blandly at him and raised the teapot. I shall pour. He served Taren first, then Eldara, Cantrell, Kael, himself, and finally, Franks. The order was interesting. According to the etiquette Kael had been forced to learn, the person at the head of the table was served first, then the order went clockwise around to the server, who was always served last. From the jaundiced look Franks was giving Mendon, Kael had the feeling an insult was given and understood between the two men. Had the seneschal also been one of Tarens lovers? Or was it just the snobbery of an important servant toward a lesser man? He decided to watch Mendon for clues as to his relationship with the warlord. The Concubines Guild has sponsored an attack against Kael, Taren said. At his owners direction, Kael described the encounter with Larissa Sweetpetal in Soren Carvers shop, then the additional encounters with guild concubines, ending with Rogett Salson. As he spoke, he watched the faces of his tablemates. Eldara looked grim; Cantrell, bored; Franks, intent; and Mendon, scandalized. He finished the account and waited, his hands folded on the table in front of him. Mendon spoke first. This cannot be tolerated. The guild must be chastised for daring to meddle with the warlords property. He clenched his hands on top of the table as if hed like to strangle the nearest guild concubine. They get above themselves. Kael stared down at the table until he could school his expression, then raised his chin and held his head high. He refused to let the other man humiliate him. I am a prince of the blood. That I am also a concubine doesnt change that. I will carry myself with pride and let no man shame me. The words in his mind were brave and full of fire; he wished he truly believed them. We dont know that it was the guild. It could have been one person acting on her own. We dont know for sure that this white blonde is actually Larissa Sweetpetal, Dean Cantrell said. Shes not exactly a desperate criminal. His brown eyes held a sharp, impatient intelligence. Begging your pardon, Dean, Franks said, giving the man a seated bow. I dont know where Warlord Tarens personal library is located. Kaels heart gave a lurch at that. Taren and Franks might have bedded each other, but it looked as though Taren hadnt shared everything with the other man. Franks continued. Salson would have to have been given instructions on how to find the room. Theres also the fact that Sweetpetal seems to have a grudge against the prince. As he spoke, he kept his gaze on Tarens face like a puppy trying to win praise from his master. I wonder if he seeks to rekindle the relationship. Annoyed at the mans almost fawning attention toward his owner, Kael said, Ive fallen into the habit of going to the library after I finish breakfast. Rogett Salson not only knew where to go, but

86

Jill Knowles

when I would most likely be there. That argues for there being more than one person involved. He sent a narrow-eyed glare toward Taren. I do not share. I agree, Eldara said. We still dont know that an attack was sanctioned by the guild, Cantrell said. No, Franks agreed. We dont. However, given the preponderance of evidence pointing in that direction, I think wed be foolish not to investigate and take steps to keep Kael safe. If he were any more eager for Tarens approval, hed wag his tail. Hear, hear, Mendon said. He dropped one eyelid in a wink directed at Kael. Mendon must find Franks as tiresome as I do. Revising his opinion of the man, Kael nodded. I am in favor of that as well. Sighing, he added, I still dont understand why theyve targeted me. Im no threat to anyone. It doesnt make any sense. Captain Franks was shaking his head. Begging your pardon, Highness, but thats where youre wrong. Youve been the talk of the city. He looked sourly at Kael. Everyones been discussing the show you and Warlord Taren put on at the banquet. He glanced at Taren, longing clearly evident in his gaze. Franks had definitely spent time in Tarens bed. That infuriated Kael, though he refused to speculate on the reason for his negative emotions. Touch my master, and I will kill you. Casting his mind out for a change of subject, he blurted the first words that came to mind. But why? Kael could hear a hint of despair in his voice. Im nothing special, just the disgraced son of a rival king. He fli nched as the words escaped and pressed his lips together to keep from saying more. He would not humiliate himself before these people. Mendon nodded to him, flashing Kael a smile of commiseration. Last night, Barons Nevelle and Scuncin and the Duchess of Brett spent the evening in the Lucky Cat, one of the citys top brothels, Eldara said. They heard about the place from His Majesty, who apparently sampled several of the whores the day before. His Majesty learned of it from Queen Raquel, Captain Franks said. My guards have been laughing about it all week, that the nobility would be willing to pay by the hour for a whore rather than contracting a concubine who would be available around the clock. Taren was nodding. You arent the cause of the problems the Concubines Guild is having, Kael, but I fear youve become a sort of symbolic threat to its power.

Concubine

87

Chapter Fourteen
Back in Tarens rooms, Kael was made uneasy by his owners intense regard. Kael smiled wanly at the other man and padded in to use the necessary. Afterward he stripped off his clothing, leaving it just inside the bedroom door for Milly or one of the other servants to retrieve. He placed his sword and dagger against the wall beside the bed and climbed onto it naked, lying on top of the linens. His mind roiling with anger and despair, he stared up at the dark ceiling, wishing he could see the stars through its translucent stone. Why am I so angry? He turned the emotion around in his mind, probing and examining it. It wasnt just anger he felt; there was a strong component of misery as well. While I do have the right to be wretched, things are so much better than I feared they would be. I have the chance for a life here. True, not one he would have chosen, but there was the real possibility of happiness in his future. Unsettled, he was determined to unravel the tangle of his feelings. Taren came into the room and undressed, then stood looking down at Kael. I hate my father, Kael said, not looking at his owner. It felt good to say it aloud. Guilt gnawed at him. Hes my father, my blood. I should forgive him anything. Hands up, Taren said. Kael raised his arms so that his wrists rested against the cuffs. He stared up at the ceiling as his hands were shackled to the headboard. I hate my king. Kael lay passively as a pillow was placed beneath his hips, raising them up off the mattress. I hate my father, who is my king. Fury tightened his throat, making it difficult to speak. Goddess forgive me, I hate him. At that moment, he would have gladly plunged a dagger into his fathers chest and laughed while the older man died. Kael clenched his fists, welcoming the pain as his nails pressed into his palms. Padded cuffs were attached to his ankles, and his legs were drawn apart enough that he couldnt close his thighs, but not enough to be truly uncomfortable. He heard the clink as the glass stopper was removed from the jar of lubricant, smelled the scent of lavender. Knowing what the scent meant, his blood surged into his well-trained penis. Hes a bad father for giving me away, and Im a bad son for hating him. Kael gasped as Tarens cock was sheathed inside him. The burn of the initial invasion quickly eased as Taren began moving, finding a lazy rhythm, one that stimulated Kaels sweet spot with each pass. He sat back on his heels between Kaels thighs,

88

Jill Knowles

and the only points of contact between them were where his groin met Kaels ass, where Kaels thighs surrounded his hips, and where his hard shaft pierced Kaels center. Kael finally tore his gaze from the ceiling and looked at the man who was fucking him. I hate you. If you ever bed another, Ill kill you both. Taren smiled at him and kept up the steady pace of thrusts. I hate my father for giving me to you. He knew what you would do to me. Kael struggled against his bonds. He knew you would rape me, and he gave me to you anyway. One slender hand darted down and tugged at the ring in Kaels nipple. Kael gasped as pleasure shot from his tit to his cock. Damn you, he gritted out between clenched teeth. Get off me. He was being sodomized. His king had known his fate would include sodomy at the hands of a monster. And he still gave me away. Struggling in earnest, he tried to break the bonds holding him at the demons mercy. Get off. Tarens other hand encircled Kaels shaft and pumped it in time with his thrusts. His back arching as his body was inundated with sensation, Kael howled, I dont want this! Rough fingers pulled the hoop in his nipple, the sharp pleasure and pain making him buck against his owner, driving Tarens cock farther inside him. I dont want this. I dont want to want you. The words were torn from him. Goddess, I wish you had held me down and raped me. Why couldnt you have made it horrible? Why didnt you hurt me? He stopped pulling at the cuffs, tears standing in his eyes. I want you. I crave this. He was a deviant of the worst kinda man who liked being taken by another man. I thought I knew myself, but I never knew I could need this more than I need to breathe. How can my body know things my mind never guessed? Hips moving in perfect counterpoint to his masters movements, he felt the tingle in his balls that told him climax was imminent. Im your whore, and I hate myself for it. Taren abruptly pulled away, withdrawing from Kaels body. No, Kael protested as his need for completion was denied. Taren, cock gloriously erect, dragged a chair over beside the bed and sat down, violet eyes trained expectantly on Kaels face. Take me, damn it, Kael shouted, twisting his hands inside the cuffs as his body screamed with denied passion. His anus felt emptyso emptyand he wanted it filled. Take me, use me, fill me, he chanted, hips moving in shallow thrusts as he futilely strained for release. You made me your whore. Take me. Use me. Kael trembled with rage. Fuck me, damn you. Why? Taren asked quietly. Why should I fuck you? Thats what I am. Im your catamite. I like being fucked by you. Its what I am, a pair of holes for you to fuck. He stopped pulling at the cuffs. Its all that I

Concubine

89

am. Closing his eyes, he sagged against the mattress, the fight leaking from him like water from a broken glass. Thats all that I am, he repeated. Horseshit. Startled by the unexpected crude denial, Kael turned his head to look at the other man. I beg your pardon, he sputtered. Horseshit, Taren repeated. You have every right to be angry at your father, at me, and even at yourself. You even have the right to hate all three of us. He leaned forward, holding Kaels gaze. You are Prince Kael of Korai. Royal. Captain of Gold Company. Son. Brother. Concubine. Mate. Pain in the collective ass of the Concubines Guild. Kael snorted at the last. Whore. Catamite. Taren nodded at him. Those things as well. Nowhe cocked his head to one side like a curious dogwhy is that a bad thing? What? Kael stared incredulously at the other man. Prince, whore, catamite. Why are those final two things bad? Why is whore a dirty thing, but prince is good? II Kael stuttered. Because whores arewhores. People pay to fuck them. I fuck you for free. And why is it bad to be paid for sex? Sex makes people happy. Princes do all sorts of things, but making people happy is low on the list. Flummoxed, Kael stared up at him. What? He seemed to be asking that a lot. Princes are fighters or administrators. Neither of those things do much to spread joy in the world. Whores, concubines, and catamites, on the other hand, are all about giving satisfaction. Now granted, sexual pleasure is a temporary sort of happiness, but it is better than a new tax or a sword in the gut. That interpretation had never occurred to him. As Kael was trying to wrap his mind around the idea, Taren continued. Which of the descriptions is it that causes you the most distress? Concubine? Whore? Catamite? Kael couldnt stop his flinch at the last word. Ah, thats what I thought. Taren studied Kael for a long moment. It bothers you that you like it when I fuck you. Do you think it makes you less of a man? Women get taken. Men do the taking. The words were pulled from Kael against his will. Was I always like this? I must have been. He pulled vainly against the cuffs. I am ewe to your ram. How can I call myself a man anymore? Taren snorted. The penis is a dead giveaway. Shaking his head, he stood, the jar of lubricant in his hand. After pulling off the stopper, he poured some on his fingers and reached behind himself. Kael watched, not comprehending what he was seeing until Taren shuddered and began to growl. He cant Violet eyes narrowed, desire stark on his face, Taren straddled his hips and grasped Kaels cock, positioning it between his cheeks.

90

Jill Knowles

As the tip of his shaft pressed inside the guardian ring, Kael began to shake. Y-y-you c-cant he stuttered. Taren raised his eyebrow and sat back, impaling himself on Kaels cock. Engulfed in scorching velvet, Kael cried out. So warm, so good. It was different than being inside a womans body. Tighter, hotter, harder. Goddess, he groaned. Master, Taren corrected, raising himself, then sinking back down. Kael moaned, unable to do anything save experience the new sensations as Zandrias warlord rode him. Taren threw back his head as he worked his ass on Kaels shaft. I love being filled. He grinned wickedly down at Kael. Be prepared, pet. Now that I know how good it feels to have you inside me, youll spend a fair amount of time tied up with me fucking myself on your cock. He reached out and toyed with the rings in Kaels nipples. You, spread-eagle on the bed, a nice thick plug filling your ass, a ring gag in your mouth, holding it open for my fingers while I ride you. Mmmmm. I like that image. He increased the speed and strength of his thrusts. Kael was moaning steadily now as sizzling muscles clenched and released around him. Master, he said, words passion slurred. So close. Come for me, my pet. My whore, my catamite prince. Spill your seed inside me. With a wordless shout, Kael did just that. As the first tremors began to shake him, Taren snarled and jerked against him, tight inner muscles clamping around Kaels shaft. Kaels hips bucked as his seed flooded into his owner. Tarens cock spasmed as hot, slick cum burst from him. As their breath quieted, Taren dragged a fingertip through the cum on Kaels chest, raised it to Kaels mouth, and painted his lips. Kaels tongue darted out for a taste. Eyes darkening with renewed hunger, Taren scooped up more seed and pressed his fingers into Kaels mouth. Kael sucked raspberry saltiness from his masters hand, wanting to please the other man. After feeding Kael most of his seed, Taren raised himself off Kaels shaft and knelt between his open legs. Kael tilted his hips up in anticipation as his masters penis nudged his entrance. Taren slid inside easily and brushed unerringly over Kaels sweet spot. Leaning over, he then pressed a kiss against Kaels mouth. This is pleasure, my catamite prince. I can taste my cum in your mouth while yours drizzles from my ass. Im going to spill inside you soon, and then well sleep, and Ill fuck you again tomorrow.

Concubine

91

Chapter Fifteen
Kael couldnt stop staring at the bruises on his wrists. Hed purged the bile that had been curdling inside him since his fathers betrayal. Taren had listened and made him face his anger at his father, Taren, and himself, and had done so in a peculiarly Taren way. Fucking as catharsis; who would have guessed? Snickering, he rubbed his fingers over the purple-blue mark on his skin. Apparently purple is my color. Since Ive moved here, everything seems to conspire to brand me with purple. He rested his head back on the couch and let himself remember the previous night. Ive been afraid of words, he said aloud. Whore. Catamite. Why do they have such power over me? Determined to work this out before it tore him apart, he forced himself to look at them objectively. Certainly in Korai they were ugly words, insults that could spur a blood feud, a duel to the death between combatants. And yet, with the minor exception of Rogett Salson, Kael was the only one here whod used the words as an insult. Hed been introduced as Prince Kael and Captain Kael of Gold Company. They were titles he was comfortable with, but the latter was no longer relevant, though no one could take the former from him. Now he was a concubine. Whore. Catamite. Why was it so important that he use ugliness to define himself? He hadnt made the choices that had exiled him to sexual servitude. Why was he punishing himself? Because I enjoy it when my master fucks me. His gut clenched as he whispered the words. Shame heated his face. But why? Taren was going to take him regardless of whether Kael liked or hated the experience. What was so wrong about finding pleasure in necessity? Part of him still wished Taren had forced him, raped him savagely. A cruel violation would have let him hate Taren, let him avoid the questions he now had to face about his own preferences. It was what Kael had been expecting, after all, not brusque insistence and aggressive tenderness as his body was claimed with blindfolds and cuffs, fingers and plugs. He gentled me, Kael thought, finally understanding his owners intention. He taught my body to accept pleasure from him. Like a wild horse, Kael could have been coerced by whips and cruelty. Instead hed been tamed, trained to his owners pleasure without having his spirit broken. Shaking his head at the epiphany, he cursed himself for a fool. Hadnt his oldest sister taught him how to gentle a horse? Dont hurt him, Jendri had said. Isolate him so that he hears only your voice, smells only your scent. You have to get him to accept your dominance. Dont hurt him or make him afraid, but insist that he submit his will to you. You must be the one to

92

Jill Knowles

feed him. Never withhold the food; give him as much as he wants, as long as you give it to him. Once youve gained his trust, its time to put on bridle and saddle. Be gentle but firm. He wont like the bit or the saddle straps, but hell accept them because you ask him to. When its time to mount him, expect him to protest. Dont give up. If youre patient, he will eventually allow you to ride him; hell even enjoy it. Face flaming, Kael replayed his first few days in Zandria. Hed capitulated much faster than the stallion hed trained as a boy. Does that make me brighter than the horse or dumber? Laughter welled up inside him, banishing melancholy. He tumbled to his side as mirth chased away introspection. It was too rich. Hed been gentled with the very techniques hed used on his favorite stallion. Finally, exhausted, he lay on the sofa and stared at the door to the bedchamber. He gentled me. He wanted me to find pleasure in his touch, or at least not to be repulsed. I do not let my horse starve, nor would I leave my sword out to rust in the rain. Taren had said that the second day Kael had been in Zandria. He values me. First as a possession, and now as his mate. Why, then, cant I value myself? The door opened, sending him rolling off the couch to come up with his sword at the ready. A veiled woman dressed as a servant stepped into the room. Kael readied himself for a fight, sure he was facing an enemy. When she saw him, the woman froze. Dont think I wont use this, Kael said. The thought of harming a woman was horrible, but he was not about to let the bitch kill him. Tanned hands came up and pushed the veil back. As his visitors face was revealed, his jawand the sworddropped. Jendri? Was he hallucinating? Had his thoughts of her somehow conjured her presence? She hurried to him, pulling the satchel from her shoulder. Kael, thank the Goddess. She pulled a wad of brown material from the bag and thrust it at him. Quickly, put this on. We dont have much time. Her gaze darted around the room. The servants who got me in can guarantee well be alone only for a short while. Mechanically he took the material and shook it out. It was a skirt made of rough cotton, something a lesser servant would wear. No, he said, offering it back to her. I love that you wanted to buy me back from Taren, but I cant go back. He should have expected her to seek him out. Shed always ignored rules that she didnt agree with; his refusal to see her would hardly keep her away if she was determined to speak to him. Anger flared inside him at her disregard for his wishes. You shouldnt have come. Damn it, theres no time for this. Her gaze went to the bruises on his wrists. Oh Goddess, Kael, Im so sorry. I know youre afraid, but Im going to get you someplace safe where that creature can never hurt you again.

Concubine

93

Wait a minute. Is this a rescue? Kael didnt know whether to laugh or cry at the absurdity of it. This is ridiculous. Even if I were willing to go with you, theres no way we could escape detection. Im prepared to do whatever I have to do to get you away from that monster. Hell. I should have agreed to speak to her; we could have avoided all this. The sullen anger hed been trying to ignore flared up at the necessity of having to deal with yet another family member who was trying to decide his future. Kael wanted to yell at her to leave him alone, but he knew that would only make her dig in her heels. I have to make her see reason. You have it wrong, Jendri. Taren isnt a monster. Hes been kind to me. Kael searched for an explanation she would understand, knowing all the while that if their roles were reversed, he would have difficulty believing she would want to stay in this situation. Jendris bright blue-eyed gaze swept over him, her expression hardening as she saw the gold hoops in his nipples, visible through his t ranslucent robins egg blue shirt, and the skintight black velvet leggings that highlighted rather than hid his male attributes. I dont care what hes done to you. I love you, and Im going to get you out. She gestured at the skirt. Put that on. I wont go. I cant dishonor my family or my country. He backed away from her, wanting to get some distance between them in case she tried anything foolish. I was afraid of this. She reached into the satchel and withdrew a small glass globe. Before Kael could react, shed shattered it at his feet. As virulent yellow smoke scented with jasmine surrounded him, Kaels last thought was of Taren.

94

Jill Knowles

Chapter Sixteen
Heat. Movement. Damn, that hurts. Kael opened his eyes to darkness. Blinking, he was able to focus through the pain to see that the darkness was created by a heavy blanket that had been thrown over him. Groaning, he raised his hands and pushed it aside. He was resting on the seat of a well-appointed carriage. The confrontation with his sister came back to him, and he froze, taking stock of his surroundings. He was unfettered and still a bit groggy from the sleep smoke, but unharmed other than the vicious headache that throbbed at his temples. He sat up carefully, trying not to move his head more than necessary. Jendri sat across from him, a loaded crossbow across her knees. Seeing him awake, she offered him a waterskin. I think not, he said, not trusting that the water wouldnt be drugged. He pushed the curtain aside and peered out the carriage window. They were in a city, hopefully still the capital city, though he had no idea how long hed been unconscious. Stop the carriage and let me out. Who had helped her with this insane kidnapping plot? He didnt see anyone following them, but there was no way she could have traveled to Zandria and made her way to the university and into his rooms without help. And there was certainly no way she could have spirited him into this carriage without assistance. No. Jendri frowned at him. I wont let you stay with that monster for one more minute. Jendri. Kael reached forward, took her hand from the crossbow, and held it in both of his. I love that you came for me, but I have to go back. She opened her mouth to protest, but he shook his head. Listen to me. I cant go to Korai. This could restart the war. More people will die, and I dont want that on my shoulders. Youre being tortured, she said. No, Im not. And even if I were, my life balanced against how many dead? Thats a bargain I will make anytime. How to make her understand? I cant go back to Korai. Even if Taren had agreed to your price, I could never go back. Thats foolishness, she said. Kael reached up and touched the collar on his neck. This wont come off, ever. He pulled the shirt collar to one side, revealing his claiming mark. Neither will this. He pressed his palm against his chest and tugged the material of his shirt tight so that the rings in his nipples were clearly visible. These can be removed, but they were there. Ive spent the last three weeks sharing my owners bed. Hes taken me in every way a man can be taken.

Concubine

95

I will kill him for that, she spat. You will let me go back to him, Kael countered. Our countrys honor aside, what kind of life can I have in Korai? I cant go back to being captain of Gold Company. The men wont follow a man whos been compromised as I have. I cant make an alliance marriage; Im damaged goods. I would be forced to endure disgrace, pity, and perhaps worse. I cant go back. She winced at the last reason, but he noted she didnt leap to argue. You can stay on my estates. None of my people will be disrespectful. She wasnt going to listen to reason. Stop the carriage and let me go back to the palace. Its the only choice we have. Whoever it was that helped you do this isnt a friend. You have to let me go before anyone misses me. Goddess, let me get back to Taren before this madness is discovered. Kael didnt want to imagine the consequences if he was discovered mid-escape. The royal house of Korai would be branded as oathbreakers, destroying any hope of an equal alliance with Zandria. Tugging her hand free, she touched the bruises on his wrists. I cant leave you here, not if this is the price. He sighed. These were my fault. I will kill him slowly, Jendri said, glaring at Kael. Do you remember when Starscape got his halter caught on the paddock fence and panicked? he asked, a way to hopefully make her understand coming to mind. A misadventure suffered by the stallion shed helped him train might do the trick. Yesss She was looking at him as if she worried about his sanity. A fair worry, he thought. Taren, my ownerhis sisters eyes narrowed at the descriptionwas helping me work through some anger. I panicked and struggled against the cuffs. The bruises were the result of that. Hes never hurt me intentionally. Except for the claiming mark, he thought, but she didnt need to know about that, and it hadnt really hurt him. Cuffs? Her voice rose on the word. He tied you down? Death is too kind. I will maim him and leave him to suffer. He has the right to tie me down. Kael forced the words from between clenched teeth. He has the right to do anything he wants to me. I am a gift given to settle a blood debt. I am a concubine, given away by King Harrimund. Anger rushed into him at being forced to say those words to her. Jendri stared at him, and Kael realized he was shouting. Let me go, Kael said quietly. Theres no other choice. You have to let me go. Goddess bless, why did you take such a foolish risk? You have to know you wont be able to get me out of the country. Even if you do get me back to Korai, Ill find a way to get free and return here. I accepted my kings will; I am Warlord Tarens concubine, and I will wear that title past my death. Saying it aloud hurt. Why, Jendri? Why did you come here? He hated the fact that shed seen him like this. It was a struggle not to hate her for forcing the issue. Its killing Father, she said.

96

Jill Knowles

His belly clenched. What did you say? Kaels anger was approaching the boiling point. Since you wereshe hesitatedtaken away, Father has become a shadow of himself. Im taking you home partially for his sake. Father can die for all I care. Kael spit the words out. He knew what my fate would be. Goddess, Jendri, Taren was patient and kind, and it still hurt the first time he took me. If hed been the half-demon monster I believed him to be, the monster Father believed him to be He shook his head. My life here could so easily have been one of degradation and pain. The life Father chose for me. She looked shocked, off balance. Kael Pressing his advantage, he added, My king made me a concubine, a catamite. I have duties to attend to, most of which involve spreading my legs. She recoiled back from him. If logic wouldnt work, perhaps venom would. Let me go. My master may wish to fuck me. I need to be available for his pleasure. Jendri stared at him, tears standing in her eyes. Without speaking, she pulled a small rope, ringing the bell that signaled the driver to stop. A small window opened above at the top of the carriage. Jendri? It was Alsanders voice. No wonder shed been willing to take the risk of leading this ill-considered rescue. Alsander was a powerful sorcerer, easily capable of protecting his wife from most threats. Take us back to the palace, Jendri said, her voice strong and steady, though her expression was one of anguish. No. Kael shook his head. Its too dangerous. As furious as he was at his sister, he loved her and didnt want her hurt. I can make my way back on my own. You need to leave the country before anyone learns you tried to kidnap me. He wiped his hand over his face. Our family has enough problems without adding a kidnapping charge to the account. What the Concubines Guild would make of a botched escapeeven one itd supporteddidnt bear thinking about. I dont need this. He rubbed his eyes. The carriage stopped, and he quickly stood. He had to be free before she had a chance to change her mind. Kael, she started to protest. Before she could say anything, he opened the door. Be well, Jendri. He jumped down from the carriage. I love you, baby brother, she said, handing him her dagger. Father loves you as well. Never doubt that. Looking up at her, he nodded curtly, then turned away. He looked at the sheathed dagger and realized he had no belt to attach it to. The best he could do was tuck it inside his shirt, where it would be out of the way but still available if he needed it.

Concubine

97

He strode quickly to the side of the street, looking for any recognizable landmarks. In the distance, he could see the outline of the palace, but it would be a long walk. The War University was at one end of the palace grounds. Around him he could see small, shabby shops. The people bustling about were poor but proud enough that what little they had was neat and clean. The streets were dusty, hard-packed earth. Kael looked ruefully down at the soft leather ankle boots he wore, wishing hed put his old boots on when hed dressed this morning. Thinking of the rest of his clothing, he wished for something a bit sturdier, something that didnt clearly state his status as a concubine. I should have asked her for enough money to hire a coach. It was too late now. Hed just have to walk. Using the palace as his guide, he made his way through the city. Though wary of being accosted, to his surprise he was mostly ignored except for the occasional leer. Hed passed from the respectable but poor section of the city to a more prosperous but less well-tended area. Alert for pickpockets and less subtle criminals, he tried to avoid eye contact that might give an unsavory person an opening to approach him. Not that he was anything to look at right now. His hair and shirt were plastered to him with a mixture of sweat and dust. Blisters were forming on his feet, he knew, and he hoped hed make it back to the university before they broke. As a cab for hire passed him, he resolved to make sure he had money with him at all times in the future. A sharp pain in his right foot made him gasp. The first blister had broken. Spying the mouth of an alley, he ducked into it and out of the flow of traffic. The alley was filthy but empty of anything large that an assailant could hide behindas safe a place to rest for a moment as anywhere on the street. A shadow about halfway down drew his attention, and he limped toward it. It was a small alcove with a battered stone bench built into one side. Sitting with a sigh of relief, he decided hed rest for a few minutes before restarting his trek. Looking around, he realized his sanctuary had once been the entrance to a shop, but it was now boarded up. He leaned against the wall, the stone cool against his cheek. Damn it, he was just here. Where did he go? Kael froze. A womans voice answered. We should have just killed him rather than let that bitch take him. Cautiously Kael sat up and peered around the edge of the alcove. Two uniformed city guards stood with a small red-haired woman just inside the mouth of the alley. Kael recognized her as one of the concubines who had attended the king at the banquetthe one whod been pushed to the floor. Damn. He eased back, drew the dagger from his shirt, and unsheathed it. He then tucked the sheath back into his shirt.

98

Jill Knowles

Is he in here? one of the guards asked. Theres nothing in there except rats, the other man said. Find him, the woman hissed. Kill him. Make sure you dump the body somewhere it wont be found. Give us something to make it worth our while. Kael heard the rustle of cloth and the sound of flesh striking flesh. The woman spoke. Unhand me. Im no whore to give you a penny upright. When youve fulfilled the contract, Ill spend the night showing you just what someone with my training can do. Her tone turned wheedling and sultry. I promise youve never had what I can give you. There was coarse laughter and the sound of footsteps leaving the alley. Im in trouble. Kael looked down at the dagger. He could defend himself, but a dagger against a trained swordsman was a recipe for a quick defeat. I need help. He hadnt thought to go to the city guard for assistance but was now glad he had not. Some of them were obviously being paid to hunt him, and there was no way of knowing how deep the corruption went. He rested his head back against the stone wall behind him. Im not dressed for a fight. I have at least one broken blister on my foot, and more that are going to break. Ideally he needed a sword and transportation to the university. Barring that, he would settle for a disguise of some sort. His boots were a lost cause, but new boots would be just as likely to cause blisters. My feet will heal. Eventually. But not if Im dead. Closing his eyes, he did something he hadnt dared to do since hed entered Zandria. Lady of the Harvest, I know Ive broken the law of Korai. He sent the prayer heavenward; it was a true prayer, a supplication to his countrys patron Goddess. Perhaps I no longer have the right to call on you. Would the Goddess still hear him, compromised as he was? Thinking back, he couldnt recall ever hearing that the Goddess specifically forbade congress between two men. No, it was human law, not divine that outlawed homosexuality. Im still your devoted worshipper, revered Lady. Please guide my steps. He waited for a bit longer, then cautiously eased his way out of the alcove and to the mouth of the alley. He didnt see any guard uniforms, but he did see something that might be helpful. A few doors down, a sign advertised used clothing. At the top of the sign was a drawing of a sheaf of wheat, the symbol of the Goddess as she was worshipped in Korai. His Goddess. Kael stared at it. Thank you. He squared his shoulders and started toward the shop. I might be able to trade what Im wearing for something else. The fine silk shirt and velvet leggings were of top-quality material. If worse came to worst, the hoops piercing his nipples were gold. The thought of giving them to a stranger made him wince, but getting back to Taren was more important. He rubbed the claiming mark on his shoulder, wishing it meant there was some sort of mental link between the two of them so that he could call his owner to him with a thought. Something useful rather than merely decorative.

Concubine

99

He slipped into the shop and waited until a pair of young women finished their bargaining. When they turned around to leave, Kael saw that, though both wore the wraparound dresses the queen seemed to favor, only one was female. The pretty young mans brown eyes widened when he saw Kael, but he quickly blushed and ducked away, pulling the woman from the shop and whispering furiously to her. Kael, hoping fiercely that he wasnt about to be turned over to the guards, addressed the proprietor. Honored lady. He hoped the modes of address were the same here as they were in Korai, and he addressed her as he would any older woman who wasnt a member of the nobility. Feeling like the ingenue in a heroic ballad, he chose his words carefully. I find myself in something of a bind. I need some different clothes, but alas, the only thing I can offer is a trade for what Im currently wearing. The proprietress, a matronly gray-haired woman who still bore traces of the beauty shed had when younger, looked him up and down. Standing still under her regard, he watched as she gauged the value of what he was wearing. That shouldnt be a problem, she said, a smile creasing her lined face. As the familiar accent washed over him, Kael relaxed. Youre from Korai. She nodded. I left when I was a young woman, but Ive never fully lost the accent. Can we make a bargain? he asked. Hearing a commotion on the street, he looked over his shoulder and saw two men in the city guards uniform arguing with a dark-haired man standing before a produce stall. Back here, lad, the woman said, pointing to a curtain-covered doorway at the rear of the shop. Kael shot her a grateful look and hurried behind the curtain. Once there, his eyes widened at what he found. Clothing was everywhereand such clothing. Racks of wispy gauze wrap dresses in every color and pattern covered most of the floor space. There were veils and headdresses and wigs on the tables that lined two walls. A third wall held a countertop with cosmetics. Displays on the walls held trousers that had no material covering crotch and ass. Beside the trousers were womens bodices that had cutouts designed to bare the wearers breasts. The clothing was new and well made, though of cotton and linen rather than silk and velvet. Kael eyed the trousers, wondering if Taren would like to see him in a pair. The shops owner came into the back and pulled a dark fuchsia wrap dress from the rack. Put this on, Highness, she said, holding it up as if to measure it against him. You know? he asked, pulling his shirt off. Of course I know. I also know the guild bitches would love to get their hands on you. Kael quickly shimmied out of his leggings, blushing furiously as his countrywoman eyed him with appreciation. He accepted the dress and wrapped it around him, then tied it into place. I need to get back to the university. He

100

Jill Knowles

reached beneath the dress and unsnapped the hoops from his nipples. Holding his hand out, he offered them to her. Can you give me enough money for cab fare home? These are gold; you should be able to sell them for a decent price. She wrapped her hands around his, closing the rings inside. Ill give you the money, lad. The clothes youre leaving behind are worth far more than the dress youre wearing. The bell over the entrance to the shop jingled. Behind the counter, she said, pointing toward the cosmetics. Kael went behind the counter, drawing his dagger and hoping there wasnt going to be a fight. He didnt want this generous woman injured in any way, nor did he want damage to come to the shop. He set the dagger down on the floor and quickly replaced the hoops in his nipples. It was silly to take the chance, he knew, but he didnt want to lose them. He vowed to see to it that Taren sent her a generous amount of moneyand perhaps some high-quality fabricsas a thankyou for her kindness. Mother, a mans voice lilted. Your favorite son is here. Out of the way, play pretty, a rough voice said. Oh, what a strong man you are, Sergeant, the first man cooed. From his hiding place, Kael heard the shops owner say, What can I do for the city guard? Have you seen a young man, reddish brown hair, blue eyes, wearing a blue shirt and black velvet leggings? Sounds adorable, the shop owners son simpered. Hes wanted for crimes against the Concubines Guild, a womans voice growled. Sugar pie, there isnt a concubine alive whod willingly set foot in this place. This is where real working girls like my fabulous self shop. If you see him, send a runner to the guild, the woman snapped. Theres a reward. Silence, except for the soft murmuring of voices. Hoping he wasnt being turned in, Kael gripped the dagger and prepared to fight. Soft footsteps came toward his hiding place. Kael eased into a crouch, dagger at the ready. A mass of blond ringlets came into view above the counter. They surrounded a beautiful face with lively brown eyes and a pink cupids bow of a mouth. Well, well, arent you the handsome one, the man said. Stand up and let me get a look at you, honey. Bemused, Kael stood. Prince Kael of Korai, he said, offering his hand. And might I know your name, Miss? Devon Maeson. He took Kaels hand.

Concubine

101

Enchanted, Kael said. Rather than shaking the hand, as he would a mans, he raised it to his lips and pressed a kiss to the back. Well, Devon said, high color staining his cheeks. I can see why Warlord Taren is so smitten with you. The shops owner stepped into the back room. Honored lady, Kael said. Thank you. Im Mother Mae, lad. And Devon and I are going to get you to the university. Mother Mae, Miss Devon, I am in your debt. Name it, and if its in my power, I will make it happen. He knew Taren had some wealth, and he fully intended to see that the warlord shared it with these two. Pish, Mae said. I may live here in Zandria, but I was born in Korai. Youre my prince. I will not let a bunch of jumped-up hussies threaten you. Sit here, Highness, Miss Devon said, pointing to the chair hed placed in front of the cosmetics counter. Please, call me Kael, he said, sitting down. Meeting the other mans eyes i n the mirror, he smiled. Devon winked at him. When Im finished with you, youll be the prettiest boy the university has ever seen. Well, he said, grinning, the prettiest after me, anyway. Im in your hands, milady, Kael said. Oh, dont I wish, he muttered, giving Kael a smoldering look. Blushing, Kael raised his hand and tugged the dress aside, revealing Tarens claiming mark. If it werent for this, Id invite you into bed with Taren and me. He wasnt just mouthing kind untruths. This lovely man-woman intrigued him. I wonder what Taren would look like made up to resemble a woman? The eroticism of the image sent a rush of blood to his cock. Miss Devon patted the other shoulder. Its true, then. Wed heard the warlord marked you. Youre so lucky. Im beginning to believe that, Kael said, hoping his erection didnt show and give the ladies the wrong impression. Devon picked up a jar of pale pink liquid and a razor. Hold still, sugar. This wont hurt a bit.

102

Jill Knowles

Chapter Seventeen
Kael stared at his reflection, unable to believe the exotic creature staring back was him. Wow. His cheeks had been shaved; then pale, flesh-colored makeup had been smoothed over his face and neck and down onto his shoulders. Silver powder glistened on his eyelids, his eyes made large and sultry by the kohl lining them. A light dusting of pink defined his cheekbones, and his lips had been painted a shade darker than the dark fuchsia dress he wore. A wig of shoulder-length mahogany curls and a fuchsia scarf that covered his collar completed the disguise. He looked up at Devon. I look He trailed off, unable to find the proper words. Fabulous. He completed the description. Im taking some girlsreal girls and boy-girlsfrom the Lucky Cat up to the palace. Youll fit right in. Now, I love my fellow whores, but I dont trust them not to be tempted by the reward, so we need a name for you. Hmm. Princess? Kael winced. Miss Cat? he countered, remembering Taren calling him my catamite prince. Miss Kitty, Mother Mae said. The two painted men studied Kaels reflection. Miss Kitty. Devon nodded. I like it. Kael blew him a kiss. Miss Devon, you are a miracle worker. I know, he said, curtsying.

***
Kael sat in the wagon, listening to the whores dish about their clients, their families, and each other. Hed been surprised at how easily theyd accepted him when Devon had introduced him as my little cousin from the south. The twentytwo whores had all welcomed Miss Kitty into their midst. Mother Mae had somehow commandeered a wagon to carry the gathered whores up to the palace, where Queen Raquel had invited them to attend a soiree. Kael planned to find the queen and ask her to get word of his whereabouts to Taren. The wagon lurched to a stop, and Kael tensed as he heard Captain Frankss familiar voice. Was the captain privy to the concubines plans? Could he risk identifying himself to the other man? He suspected Franks wanted to resume the relationship hed had with Taren. Was the guard captain working with the guild in order to remove the competition for the warlords affections? Kael decided he didnt dare take a chance on trusting the other man. Are there any guild concubines in the wagon? Franks called.

Concubine

103

Whos asking, sugar pie? Devon called. Captain Franks of the university district guard. I have orders to detain any guild concubines. Kael looked around, seeing scorn, annoyance, and longing on the faces of his companions. He looked down, right into the captains brown eyes, but saw no recognition. The captain looked exhausted, like a man whod spent the day searching for someone. The problem was that Kael didnt know if Franks was reporting to Taren or to Larissa. No, Captain, Devon said. Guild concubines wouldnt ride with ladies of our profession. Continue, then. Franks raised his hand, and the wagon lurched forward. Kael breathed a sigh of relief as they went past Franks. The wagon passed the gates to the university. It took all of Kaels discipline to not fling himself from the wagon and dart through the gates. He still didnt know his way around, and someoneor several someonesinside had helped with the first attack and then helped his sister to get inside to kidnap him. I hate not knowing who to trust. If nothing else, he wanted the guild to pay for stealing away his equilibrium just as he was starting to find his balance in this new life. Finally, when he was so tense he was ready to scream, the wagon slowed in front of the palace. And there, standing in the entryway, was his master. Is it a coincidence, or did he somehow feel me coming? The wagon stopped. Kael, giddy with relief, climbed out and sashayed up to Taren, putting extra wiggle into his walk. Hi there, handsome, he husked. Looking for a good time? Taren glanced at him, then did a double take as he recognized Kael. What? You can call me Miss Kitty. Kael placed his hand on Tarens chest and leaned forward to whisper, Or catamite prince, into Tarens ear. He wanted to sink into his owners arms, but he wasnt sure if any enemies were watching and who, if anyone, knew hed been kidnapped. Ill take this one, Taren said, scooping Kael up and tossing him over his shoulder. Kael squealed and giggled like he imagined Miss Kitty would. He was curious as to why his owner was meeting a wagonload of whores at the gate. If he was planning to choose a paramour for the night, I will castrate him with a dull knife. Have fun, dear heart, Miss Devon called. Ta, love. Kael settled himself on Tarens shoulder, not the most comfortable position, but after the day hed had, it was sheer heaven. Taren carried him into the shadow beneath an apple tree and set him down, then pulled him into a tight hug. Kael wrapped his arms around his owner and held on tight. I wasnt sure Id see you again, Kael said, voicing the fear he hadnt let himself think. Thank you, Goddess, for helping me find my way back to him.

104

Jill Knowles

When I got word that you would be on the wagon, I could barely dare to hope. Lets go home, Taren said. I want you safe, and then I want your story, and then I want you. Hand in hand, they strolled across the palace grounds and through the university gates. Kael limped a bit on his blistered feet but couldnt bring himself to care. He was back with his master, and that was far more important than a little pain. Reaching the doorway to their rooms, Kael squeaked as he was swept into Tarens arms and carried through the door, then placed on the sofa. Taren sat beside him, holding his hand. What happened? Kael described the rescue, his escape from the guards, his adventures with Mother Mae and Miss Devon, and his trip to the palace with the wagonload of whores. Who sent the message that Id be on the wagon? He suspected it was Mother Mae and made a note to add this to the heap of thanks he owed her. The note was unsigned. Taren grimaced, rubbing his forehead. Your sister didnt say who helped her? She refused, Kael said. Not that he had pushed her too much for information. Hed been far more concerned about getting away and seeing that she was able to escape arrest for kidnapping him. This is a mess, Taren said. I cannot believe your sister wou ld do such an idiotic thing. He sighed and rubbed a hand over his eyes. I should report this violation of our borders to my brother. Please dont, Kael said. Youre right. I know youre right, but what good will it do, truly? Korai has nothing more of value to give, unless you make them pay a tithe, and its the ordinary people who would suffer for it, not the royals or the nobility. Taren nodded. I will tell my brother in confidence, but I think he will agree with your assessment, as I do. If sheor anyone else in your familydoes anything more, I will have to take steps. Thank you. Kael kissed Tarens cheek, then laughed at the bright mark he left behind. Ive marked you, he said, rubbing it away with his thumb. About this, Taren said, sliding his hand up under the hem of Kaels dress. Why, Warlord Taren, Kael said, dropping his voice to a husky contralto. Are you trying to compromise me? He closed his hand over Kaels cock. Yes, yes, I am. Good. Kael reached behind the sofa pillow and pulled out the jar of oil hed hidden there that morning. Someday hed actually get to carry out the slow seduction he had planned, but he was certainly willing to improvise. He freed Tarens erection from his uniform trousers and slicked it up.

Concubine

105

Hiking his dress around his hips, he then straddled his owners lap. Just sit back and let Miss Kitty take care of you. He guided Tarens cock to his opening and slowly sat back on it, moaning as he was filled. Taren held still until he was fully sheathed inside, then began a series of shallow thrusts. Kael shivered as his sweet spot was stimulated and placed his hands on Tarens shoulders for balance. Taren stared at him, a smile quirking his lips. You lookexotic, beautiful. I prefer my Kael, but Miss Kitty intrigues me. Kael looked down, seeing his hard penis peeking from beneath the hem of his dress. Shrugging, he leaned forward for a kiss. The moment his lips touched Tarens, the warlord pulled him close and devoured Kaels mouth. Kael surrendered to the aggressive kiss, enjoying his masters rough claim. With a snarl, Taren stood, hands beneath Kaels ass, holding him in place. Kael groaned as the change in position deepened the penetration. Taren turned and laid Kael on the couch. Kael obligingly wrapped his legs around Tarens hips as the intense mating continued. All too soon, he felt his body quicken and cried out as a powerful orgasm rushed through him. Taren followed him over the precipice but didnt let the climax slow him down. He took Kael a second, third, and fourth time before finally collapsing, holding Kael tightly to him. Exhausted, they both slept.

***
Kael awoke, groaning. His legs ached, and his feet felt like hed been dancing barefoot on wasps. Damn, he said, rubbing his hand over his face. Taren was sprawled on top of him, their bodies still joined. Kael clenched his ass cheeks, grinning when he felt Tarens cock harden inside him. Mmmmm, Taren said, levering himself up and blurrily looking down at Kael. Seeing the other mans face, Kael began to laugh. Taren looked at him, did a double take, then joined in the merriment. Kael grinned at his ownerthe fierce warlord of demon-tainted Zandriawho currently had dark pink paint smeared messily around his mouth. Taren leered at him and began moving inside him. I always wanted to be able to laugh with my bedmate. Laugh with, yes. Kael arched his back as his sweet spot was rubbed. I hate to tell you this, Master mine, but Im laughing at you. I think youre wearing more lip paint than I am. That may be, my sweet catamite prince, but you are still wearing the delightful Miss Kittys cosmeticshe tilted his head to one side as he studied Kaels faceonly not where they were initially applied. Oh Goddess, Kael said, cringing as he imagined the state of his face. I nearly lost you, Taren said. The other mans violet eyes darkened with lust and possessiveness.

106

Jill Knowles

Kaels wrists were captured and held above his head as Taren leaned forward to plunder his mouth. Kael wrapped his legs around his masters body, holding tight the only way he was able to. He welcomed the rigid shaft piercing him so intimately. I dont want to give this up. If that truly makes me a catamite prince, then so be it.

Concubine

107

Chapter Eighteen
General Eldara sat in the wingback chair, studying both of them, a smirk playing on her mouth. Kael had scrubbed his face, but his lips were pinker than usual. Taren also had a pale, pale halo of pink surrounding his mouth still. Whatever the lip paint had been made of, it certainly held color well. I wish youd tell me more about the kidnapper, Eldara said. If Im to stop a plot against your concubine, its critical that I have access to all of the facts. This isnt just the usual political intrigue that infests the royal court; this is attempted murder. Kael shared a long look with his owner. Taren inclined his head in a slight nod, leaving the decision up to Kael. One of my family members was involved, as well as a powerful sorcerer from the household. He spoke carefully. He was certain the general would have a strong idea of who the family member was, but he wanted to avoid using his sisters name if at all possibleno sense in confirming Eldaras suspicions. Their plan was simply to spirit me from the city, then open a sorcerers gate back to Korai where I would be hidden on one of the country estates. Kael and Taren sat together on the sofa, Kaels healing salve-covered feet propped up on one armrest, his head in Tarens lap. He flexed his toes, grimacing at the pain. Several of the blisters had broken and bled. He wasnt going to be walking comfortably anytime soon. Goddess help him if it came to a fight. Eldara drew her lips together in a soundless whistle. That would have been a major incident. And a perfect way to discredit Kael and tarnish him in the eyes of the nobles. Im not sure I follow, Taren said, stroking Kaels hair. Kael answered. Hed puzzled over why the guild would have been willing to help his sister kidnap him while hed been waiting for the wagon that had delivered him and the other girls to the palace. Only one thing made sense. New and different doesnt mean much if Im also an oathbreaker and the son of an oathbreaker. Nodding, Eldara added, I would guess thats why the guild was willing to help the kidnappers. Dead, Kael is a martyr as well as an inspiration. A live oathbreaker is a different kettle of fish altogether. You know how the titled idiots are about honor. The nobility would most likely stop seeking sex outside the guild, and the concubines would recover some of the power theyve lost recently. And then I had to ruin things by getting away, Kael murmured. Exactly, she agreed.

108

Jill Knowles

And now hes tweaked their tails, escaping his kidnappers and getting away from the city guard. Taren summed up the current situation. The three of them looked at each other for a long moment. It was a mess, one Kael couldnt see a way out of. Do you think Captain Franks is involved? Kael asked. I dont want to believe it, Taren said. We were lovers for several years until our lives were pulled in different directions, mine by the deteriorating situation with Riwign and his by his promotion to captain of the university district. We parted amiably and have remained friends. He wants to resume the relationship, Kael said, nerves making his voice tight. I know. He spoke of it yesterday. I told him no. Taren rested his hand over the claiming mark, one finger caressing the edge of Kaels collar. I have found my mate. There will be no other lovers. Smiling up at his owner, Kael said, Good. I didnt want to have to kill you. The warlord grinned at him. No, that would be unpleasant. If we might focus, Eldara said acidly. The guards who were hunting Kael werent from his district, were they? No, as far as we can tell, none of them were, Taren said. Mother Maes shop and the Lucky Cat are all part of the downwind district. Franks has no authority there. Downwind guards are a rough bunch. University district guards tend to be a bit more educated. Theres also the fact that he isnt familiar with the inside of the university. He glanced down at Kael. Hes never been to my rooms. Someone here at the university had to have helped. Mendon has been questioning the servants, but so far they all deny any involvement in sneaking someone into the building. The level of access the conspirators have been able to gain argues that someone of high rank is involved. Franks doesnt have the status to make some of the arrang ements. Hes also a good man. A bitter half smile creased his lips. At least, I always thought so. Dean Cantrell? Kael asked. Or one of his subordinates? Eldara snorted. He doesnt give a damn about anything but the university. Youre of absolutely no threat to him. None of his subordinates would dare cross him. Trust me on that. The dean has a vicious streak. Well watch him, but Eldaras right. Its unlikely that Cantrell is involved, Taren said. What about Seneschal Mendon? He doesnt seem to like me much. Kael decided they might as well discuss everyone who had been at the meeting the previous night. Warlord and general exchanged a long look. Mendon wont have anything to do with the Concubines Guild, Taren said. With good reason, Eldara added.

Concubine

109

Can you be sure of that? Curious, Kael waited to see if they would elaborate. He disliked having information kept from him. Ruefully he admitted he was also jealous that Taren and Eldara held a secret together. Enough. He forced the jealousy back into its cage. The only people Im sure of right now are myself and you two. Eldara glanced at Kael. I wasnt sure about him until this morning. Eldara, Taren growled. Master. Kael rested his palm against Tarens cheek. Shes right to be wary of me. Im the stranger here, and the problems have all centered on me. I could be lying about everything, trying to cause problems, either as a spy or to get revenge for my change in status. He turned his head to look at Eldara. What convinced you that Im trustworthy? She gestured toward his feet. You walked your feet bloody to get back to him. Nodding, Kael quirked his lips into a small smile. And, forgive me, but why should we trust you? Beneath his head, Tarens thigh muscles tensed. Eldara threw back her head and laughed, shaking her finger at Taren. Ah, my friend, youve met your match in this one. She grinned at Kael. When we were littles, just starting at the university, we became best friends. There was never any romance between us; my tastes run exclusively to women, and while he will occasionally dally with a woman, hes always preferred men. We were teased a great deal, though, and our families talked of arranging a marriage between us. Taren snorted. Can you imagine the two of us married? Wed have killed one another within the first week. The first night, she countered. Our mothers are best friends and occasional lovers, and they very much wanted us to marry. In an effort to discourage that idea and make it clear that there was no chance of a romance ever blossoming, we hatched a desperate plan. We sneaked into the restricted section of the library and found a truth-telling spell, Taren said. We wanted them to understand there could never be a love match between the two of us, and since thats want they wanted, we reasoned that if they understood that, theyd stop throwing us at each other. What can I say? Taren smiled ruefully. We were young; it seemed like a good idea at the time. Only we used too much sulfur in the mixture, Eldara interrupted. Way too much sulfur. After the smoke from the explosion cleared And the debris was removed, Taren interjected. And thatshe agreed with a grinwe convinced our mothers that we were not sexually compatible in any way. Unfortunately the spell had an unexpected side effect: neither of us can lie to the other. Excuse me? Kael asked. Had he heard that correctly? We cant lie to each other. If we try, we choke on the words.

110

Jill Knowles

Squashing the jealousy that threatened, Kael looked up at Taren. Have you asked her? Eldara spoke. I am not involved in any plot against you or your concubine, Taren. In addition, I am truly happy that the two of you are together. Kael is good for you, and I hope you have a long life together. Thank you, Kael said to her. She nodded. This is all very touching, gentlemen, but we need to formulate a plan. What do we know? Taren asked. The three of them discussed the situation, going over it from every angle, trying to discern a way they could expose the Concubines Guild. Theres no help for it, Kael said. Were going to have to use me as bait.

Concubine

111

Chapter Nineteen
The chance came sooner than any of them had imagined. Captain Franks contacted Taren with the news that the body of a man believed to be Rogett Salson had been found in the burned-out husk of a stable. Kael, dressed in a Zandrian army uniform, accompanied Taren to identify the body of the man who had accosted him. It felt strange to be wearing a uniform again, especially what hed come to think of as an enemys uniform. Kael wasnt sure he liked it. At least his feet were much better today, the healing salve having done its work. He wore his old boots and was thankful for their support. There were still tender areas where blisters had broken and bled, but he was no longer limping. If they were attacked, he wouldnt be too hampered by the injury. Seated across from him in the carriage, Taren had an indiscernible expression on his face. A silver for your thoughts, Kael said. You lookTaren licked his lipsedible in that uniform. When we get home, Im going to take great delight in tearing it from your body. Heat pooled in his groin at the delicious promise in his owners voice . He cleared his throat. Lets hope this excursion bears fruit. Then we can truly celebrate once we get home. Looking down at his hardening penis, he added, I hope this subsides before we get to the guardhouse. Its bad form to look at a body while sporting an erection. Taren gaped at him, then doubled over, laughing. Kael, my pet, you have a rare turn of phrase. Tension defused, Kael settled back into the comfortable cushioned seats. Which district are we visiting? Salson hadnt been found in either the university or downwind districts. Temple. Most of the religious houses are located there. We even have a shrine dedicated to your Goddess, if youd like to visit. I would. Kael thought of his prayer while hidden in the alley and of Mother Maes shop, the best possible place he could have visited. I need to make an offering. His Goddess hadnt abandoned him, and that was a far greater comfort than hed ever imagined. Silence descended. Plans were in place. A pair of traps waited to be sprung. Now it was a matter of time to see which trap proved the strongertheirs or the guilds.

112

Jill Knowles

The carriage stopped. Taren exited first, and when he gave the all clear, Kael joined him. Two of the warlords most trusted soldiers flanked them. The darkhaired twins, introduced as Hickson and Risson, had ridden atop the carriage with Tarens driver. A guard with sergeants stripes on her shoulders welcomed them and led them to a small building next to the temple district guardhouse. I am Sergeant Njalsdatter. The body is resting here in the cooling shed. She gestured for the two men to precede her into the building. Taren went in first, then Kael, followed by the twins. It was quite cold inside the shed. Several shroud-covered bodies rested on narrow wheeled tables. Warlord Taren, a white-coated forensic sorcerer said, coming forward. Welcome. Ive been examining Salsons body, and Ive found something quite fascinating. She gestured to the far side of the room, where what Kael assumed was the body of Rogett Salson was covered with a sheet stained with smears of dried blood. Exchanging a dubious look with his owner, Kael walked to the narrow table the sorcerer indicated. Oh, where are my manners, she said. I am Riva Bonecutter, senior forensic sorcerer for the city guard. Warlord Taren and Prince Kael, Taren said. Ive heard of your work from Captain Franks. Kael tensed at the other mans name. Was Taren trying to warn him? The older woman was a high-ranking sorcerer. Why was she working for the city guard? In Korai, a sorcerer with such high skill and status would be able to work wherever he or she so chose. Did the same hold true in Zandria? Why would anyone wish to work with dead bodies if they didnt have to? Bonecutter stepped to one side of the body and motioned Kael and Taren to the other side. Drawing the sheet back, she exposed the dead mans face. Kael looked at the corpse, feeling his gorge rise. The mans eyes were open and staring, his skin a mottled gray. The Ts cut in his cheeks were stark and black against the pale skin. Is this him? she asked. Kael nodded. Good. She flipped the sheet back, baring the dead man clear to the knees. Look at this. She pointed to the mans testicles. They were swollen and bruised a deep blue-black. Dried blood stained the tip of the misshapen penis. Kael winced. Beside him, Taren did the same. What happened? Poison. It was a favorite method of torture years ago. King Gregor outlawed it when he came to power. Taren growled his revulsion. Cyandream dust, he said. Youve heard of it? Bonecutter seemed delighted.

Concubine

113

What is it? Kael asked, unable to look away from the grotesquely swollen genitalia. He resisted the urge to cross his legs. Poison, as I said, but it works in several ways. Bonecutter held one hand up. Male assassins used to swallow it and then seduce their targets. It makes semen poisonous. They would bed their partner and, when they spent themselves, inject poison into their victims pussy, ass, or mouth. The victims would be fine for two days, then suffer convulsions and die. The problem is that if the assassin doesnt have sex within six hours of taking the poison, it causes his semen to turn to acid, which eats through the surrounding tissue. Essentially they bleed to death from their penises. Grisly, isnt it? Kaels hands involuntarily moved down to cover his genitals. Thats horrible. And it had almost happened to him. If Rogett had succeeded in raping him, Kael would be nearing the end of his own life. Before it was outlawed, nobles used to give it to subjects who displeased them, then prevent them from finding release. Its an ugly way to die, Taren said as he glared down at the corpse. Though not ugly enough for what this one intended. I would have flayed him alive. Kael was ashamed at how much his owners threat pleased him. I was supposed to die, even then. Bonecutter shook her head. Youre fully human, are you not? No demon blood? After Kael shook his head, she said, The poison wouldnt have affected you. Seeing the questioning looks both men directed at her, she explained. I made a study of it while I was at the Sorcerers University. Cyandream will not harm a full-blooded human. Moreover, it doesnt react with a full humans semen to create poison. Kael really didnt want to know how shed carried out her study. Bleah. Then the full import of her words struck him. This doesnt make any sense! The words burst from Kael in a shout. He clenched his hands into fists, wanting to strike out at whoever was trying to steal his life. No, Taren said. It doesnt. Were missing something. I didnt know that cyandream dust would only kill someone who had demon blood. Is it common knowledge? There was a choking sound behind them. Kael whirled around in time to see one of the twins clutching his throat. The second twin mirrored his brothers actions, falling to his knees, then down to the floor. The scent of rancid cinnamon and jasmine filled the air. Kael drew his sword, trying to breathe shallowly so that he didnt take much of whatever it was into his lungs. Beside him, Taren had also drawn his weapon. Oh no, they dont, Riva Bonecutter said. She stepped in front of Kael, her hands held up in front of her. Brilliant yellow-ivory light flared from her palms. It pressed forward, striking a writhing greenish brown mist. The mist seemed to fight back, pushing at the light.

114

Jill Knowles

Ha! Bonecutter raised her hands, closing them into fists. The light surrounded the mist, compressing it into two barrel-size globes held up near the ceiling. Guards, swords drawn, poured into the shed. Apparently expecting to find everyone inside either dead or incapacitated, they hesitated for a moment before Sergeant Njalsdatter lunged forward. Kill them. Guard the sorcerer, Taren said, stepping to meet the approaching guards. Done, Kael said. He maneuvered Bonecutter back behind the table holding Salsons body and put himself on the other side. The twins might still be alive, but whatever spell was in the mist would certainly incapacitate them all if it were freed, so, much as he wanted to fight beside Taren, he was needed here. Not that Taren needed the help. Kael watched as his owner gutted Njalsdatter, then in a continuation of the same move, sliced another guards throat and turned to engage a third. Two more guards flanked the warlord and came at Kael. Kael blocked one sword thrust and used his dagger to fend off the other man. Goddess, theyre fast. He remembered fighting the Zandrians while he still commanded Gold Company. The soldiers, with their mixed demon and human blood, were quick and strong. He was at a disadvantage thenand now. He parried a flurry of blows, but while he was the better fighter, his enemies enhanced strengthand the fact that there were two of themmeant he was overmatched. Knowing he had to end this quickly, he stepped forward, crowding one of the men. Kael blocked a stab from the mans sword and jammed his dagger into the mans thigh, cutting the large artery. The man screamed and fell to the ground , blood spraying from his leg. He stepped away from the fallen guard and faced his remaining assailant. The man was staring at his dying cohort rather than paying attention to the fight. Kael didnt hesitate in running the man through. With a shriek, the second man fell to his knees. Kael cut the fallen mans throat with one quick swipe. The clash of steel was loud in the small room, but Kael heard the footsteps coming up behind him. He spun around just in time to counter a sword slash that would have taken off his head. Goddess, protect me. The man facing him was huge. Even splashed with blood and holding his left arm tightly against his side, the man exuded an aura of menace. Kael raised his weapons even as his heart sank. At least the sounds of battle from near the front of the shed told him that Taren was still holding his own. Kael had only a moment to prepare before the guard was on him. The man attacked with a vicious explosion of blows, driving Kael back into the table holding Salsons body. It took everything Kael had just to keep from being skewered, leaving him no chance to strike. Their blades locked against each other. The man closed in on him, using his superior size and strength to bend Kael back over the corpse. Feeling the cold, rigid

Concubine

115

flesh beneath his back, Kael desperately tried to push his assailant away. It was no use. The enormous guard was too damned big. As the crossed swords came inexorably closer to his face, he brought his knee up, smashing it into the guards crotch. The guards brown eyes widened as he made a high-pitched squeaking sound. The pressure against Kaels blades decreased, giving him enough slack to force the other man back so that he could twist away from the table and get free. Not wasting his advantage, he raised his dagger and jammed it into the mans ear. The guard screamed and fell to the ground, taking the dagger with him. He screamed again as his body spasmed in convulsions. One of his flailing feet struck Kael in the left knee. Kael cried out as his injured leg went out from under him. He managed to keep hold of his sword, but when he tried to stand, he found his left leg wouldnt hold him. Using his hands and good leg, he was able to push himself under the table. The floor was slick with bloodboth a hindrance and a help. He collided with Bonecutters legs and stopped. Surveying the scene before him, he saw Taren still engaging three guards. The rest were down, unable to fight, though not all of them were dead. As he watched, one of Tarens attackers broke free and started toward Kael. Damn, damn, damn. As the guardswoman stalked him, Kael risked a glance to either side. Please, let this work. A nasty smirk on her face, the woman raised her sword and let out a victory cry as she rushed forward. Kael dropped his sword and grabbed the tables legs, then threw all his strength into toppling it into the advancing guard. Hed misjudged her speed, and instead of hitting her in the belly, it hit her in the shins, knocking her forward and onto Kael. He groaned as his injured leg took another blow and shoved her off him. Whimpering as each movement shot agony into his knee, he retrieved his sword and jabbed it into the bottom of her jaw before she could recover. She began to thrash. Gritting his teeth, he pushed it farther up until he felt something give. She went still. Silence. Kael yanked his sword free and pushed himself into a sitting position. Thank you, Goddess. Taren stood swaying in the center of the room, surrounded by bodies. Their eyes met, and Taren started toward him. I cant hold this much longer, Riva Bonecutter said from behind him. We need to get out of here before my shields break. Kael, can you walk? Taren asked, kneeling in front of him. The warlord had a slash across his forehead and was bleeding from numerous other small wounds, but was otherwise unharmed. No. Kael glanced down at his knee, wincing when he saw it bent in the wrong direction. Im losing it, Bonecutter said. We have to move now.

116

Jill Knowles

Not wasting any more words, Taren wrapped his arms around Kael and lifted him over his shoulder. As his leg was moved, pain lanced upward, tearing a scream from Kaels throat. Run! Bonecutter yelled. Kael smelled rancid cinnamon and jasmine for an instant before everything went dark.

Concubine

117

Chapter Twenty
Kael awoke with the taste of raspberries filling his mouth. He stared up at the ceiling, noting the pale light that shone through it. It had been early afternoon when theyd left to go to the temple district guardhouse. The attack. What happened? Images of flashing swords, blood, and bone white light washed over him. Taren? Good morning. Kael turned his head to see Milly standing in the doorway. Wheres Taren? Hell be back soon. Where is he? Kael sat up, surprised to find he didnt hurt anywhere. Cautiously he reached down and prodded his knee. No swelling, no pain, not even any tenderness. Please lie back down, Your Highness. He knew something was wrong when the servant retreated into politeness. Milly, tell me where my master is. Kael swung his legs over the edge of the bed, glancing down long enough to note that he was naked. Deciding he didnt care, he stood up. Dizziness made him sway, but he quickly caught his balance. Kael, please, Milly said, stepping close to him and placing her hands on his shoulders. I promise that Warlord Taren will be here soon. Take me to him. Its not safe. Now were getting somewhere. He went to the wardrobe and removed a pair of leggings and a shirt. Tell me everything, he said as he pulled the leggings on. You almost died, Milly said. Kael paused with the leggings pulled just above his knees and stared at her. I beg your pardon? You almost died. The sorcerer lost control of the shield, and the mist got free. It was a mixture of two types of sleep smoke, but you didnt react well to it. You stopped breathing. Fear clenched an icy hand around his heart. Where is Taren? He didnt remember the other man having any injuries, but something might have happened after he lost consciousness.

118

Jill Knowles

Bonecutter was able to keep you alive until we could get to the healer. Where is Taren? Kael finished dressing. Tell me where he is, or I will take this place apart until I find him. She looked at him for a long moment. Hes two doors down in the private salon. He hadnt been inside that room yet, but he understood it was a sort of sexual playroom. Next to the library? Yes. Kael nodded and sat down long enough to pull on his boots. The small amount of time he lost was worth it; he didnt plan on being caught with inadequate footwear again anytime soon. Weapons. He looked around but didnt see a sword or dagger. Dont do this, Milly said. Its not safe. You said that already. He opened the door, startling the two soldiers standing guard. They each looked at him, then went back to scanning the courtyard for trouble. Hickson, Risson, youre okay. Kael was relieved. The last time hed seen the twins, theyd been crumpled unconscious on the ground. Both soldiers saluted him. One said, Glad to see you, Highness. We wont let you down again. Kael saluted back. Thank you, gentlemen. He wanted to reassure them that they werent to blame for being knocked out in the cooling shed, but he didnt know all the facts. Perhaps they had been negligent in watching for an attack. Until he knew Taren was okay, he wasnt prepared to offer anyone absolution. Turning on his heel, he then walked to the second door, opened it, and stepped inside. Kael. Eldara stepped in front of him. You shouldnt be here. I want to see Taren. He sidestepped around her. The sight that met his eyes filled him with fury. A man-size cage occupied one corner of the room. Taren lay curled on the floor of the cage, naked. Taren! Kael shouted, starting toward his owner. At the sound of his voice, Taren leaped to his feet. No. Eldara grabbed Kael and yanked him backward. With a howl, Taren hit the side of the cage, fingers curved into talons as he reached through the bars. Goddess. Kael was amazed at Tarens speed. He hadnt seen the other man move. What is going on? Kael asked, wrenching free of Eldara. He wanted to rush to his owners side but didnt quite dare. Taren growled, pacing back and forth in the small cage, gaze moving between Kael and Eldara.

Concubine

119

You almost died yesterday, she said. Kael held up his hand to stop her. Milly told me most of it. Focusing on the most important issue, he asked, What happened to Taren? He inched forward, freezing as Taren reached for him. Taren? Feral slit-pupiled violet eyes glared at him. Tarens muscles were taut, the purple scales almost seeming to move where they swirled hypnotically across his skin. His purple-black hair was wild, standing out around his head like a lions mane. He was beautiful; he was terrifying. I love him. The claiming mark on his shoulder seemed to itch and burn. I need to go to him. Only the need for more information kept him from his owners side. The healer had to borrow some of his strength to keep you alive, Eldara said. Almost losing his mate then providing the energy for you to be healed woke his beast. Once hes calm, Taren should regain control, but for now She trailed off. Should. Kael spoke flatly. Theres a chance he may stay like this? Hed heard of healers burning themselves and their assistants out, dying because they fought too hard to save a life. Was it possible that in helping him, Taren could lose his humanity? Not this time. I cant lose him. I wont lose him. She nodded. It doesnt happen often, but sometimes the beast is too strong. Hesitating, she added, Tarens beast is new to him. Im afraid that his losing control to it this soon after its emergence means he wont be able to find his way back. I wont let that happen, Kael said, easing closer to the bars. A plan was starting to form in his mind. Taren leaned toward him, sniffing the air. The smaller mans attention was focused almost completely on Kael. Taren has to defeat the beast and take control. Until then, hes too dangerous to be loose. She gripped the back of Kaels shirt, preventing him from getting closer. Taren snarled and lunged at them, clawing ineffectually through the bars of his cage. Eldara flung herself backward, pulling Kael with her. He only gets angry when she touches me. Leave. His owner had risked everything to save him. Kael could do no less. She blinked at him. Excuse me? I need to be alone with him. Not going to happen, she stated. Kael put his hands on her shoulders, willing her to believe him. I can bring him out of it, but I cant do it if youre here. Please give me to the key to the cage door and go. She looked at him, then over at Taren. He may not recognize you.

120

Jill Knowles

Kael opened his shirt, baring the claiming mark. And I thought it was merely decorative. Hell know me. Not giving an inch, she said, That doesnt mean he wont hurt you. If he does, hell never forgive himself. Lips quirking into a wry smile, Kael said, Oh, Ill probably bleed a bit before were through, but it wont be anything that really harms me. The beast knows his mate. Taren knows me. Ill be fine. We both will be. I hope. He toed off his boots and placed both his hands on the waistband of his leggings. Eldara, go. Id rather not have an audience for this. She nodded at him. Well be just outside. She pulled a key from one of her pockets. This will open the cage door. She looked at it for several seconds before tossing it to him. If you get yourself killed, Ill make you regret it. Kael caught the key. Thanks. General Eldara saluted him, turned on her heel, and strode from the room, shutting the door carefully behind her. Kael took a deep breath and removed his leggings. Naked, he padded closer to the cage, the key in his hand. Taren once again crouched at the far side of the cage, watching Kaels every move. Kael unlocked the cage and opened the door wide. Backing away, he said, Taren, come to me. Claim your mate. He was positive that once the beast knew its mate was well, it would retreat and let the thinking man come forward. If Im wrong Taren stood in one fluid motion and stalked from the cage, growling softly. His erect cock swayed with each of his steps. Taren circled him, the low rumbling punctuated by deep breaths as the beast drew in Kaels scent. Kael tilted his head to one side, baring the mark on his shoulder. Im yours, my Taren, my Master. Remember me and claim your catamite prince. Dont let me be wrong. The feral man moved close behind Kael and rubbed his body against Kaels back. Hot breath ghosted over Kaels neck, and he went completely still as Tarens mouth clamped down on his shoulder, precisely on the claiming mark. Not daring to breathe, he waited as Tarens teeth gradually closed tighter, until just one more hint of pressure would break through the skin. Taren ground his cock against Kaels ass and pressed his body forward, forcing Kael to take a step as well. They inched forward like that until Kael felt his feet touch his clothing. Taren released his hold on Kaels shoulder and placed his hands on Kaels sides, indicating that Kael should kneel. Not protesting, Kael knelt on his leggings, then went down onto his elbows, presenting his ass to his master. I can do this, he reassured himself. He wont hurt me. It took all of Kaels willpower to hold his submissive pose. Unnerved and not a little turned on, Kael slipped a hand down onto his cock, coaxing it to full hardness.

Concubine

121

This was going to be rough, he knew. The more aroused he was when his owner took him, the easier it would be for him to accept. Slender hands rubbed across his ass and spread his cheeks. Kael took a calming breath and deliberately relaxed his anal muscles, wishing hed thought to grab the lavender oil before coming to find Taren. I never guessed Id be fucking my master back to sanity. Next time Ill be sure to plan ahead. A hysterical giggle bubbled up in his throat, but he refused to let it escape. Hot wetness pressed against his anus. Kael sighed and settled himself onto his elbows as Tarens tongue rubbed over and over his opening. The nimble tongue pushed into him, making him gasp and open his legs wider. Taren pressed his mouth against Kaels ass, feasting on Kael as he fucked him with his tongue. Kael whimpered, curving his back as he offered himself to his master. Hope sprang forth in his spirit. The beast needed to claim him but understood that doing so would hurt Kael unless he was prepared. The wicked mouth left him, and Kael whined. Now, Master, he said. Claim me. A blunt probing at his opening made him shudder and press backward. The head of Tarens cock pushed through the guardian ring of muscle. Kael gasped at the intrusion, breathing at the burning sensation as his owner pushed inexorably into him. It hurt because of the lack of adequate lubrication, but the past several weeks of practice had trained his body to accommodate Tarens cock. Taren withdrew almost completely and surged forward again, stroking over Kaels sweet spot. Kael groaned and curved his body back into his master as he was taken with quick, hard thrusts. Mine, Taren snarled, hips moving in sharp jerks as he worked his shaft in and out of Kaels body, fucking him cruelly. Kael keened as his sweet spot was roughly stimulated. Taren began moving faster, rutting savagely at Kael. It was terrible; it was wonderful. Pain and pleasure and fear and desire meshed into an amazing riot of sensations and emotions. Master, Kael screamed as the first wave of his orgasm crashed over him, his anal muscles clenching around Tarens cock. Taren howled and ground so deeply into him that Kael wasnt sure where he stopped and Taren started. They collapsed onto the floor, still joined, both panting from the strenuous mating.

122

Jill Knowles

Chapter Twenty-one
After catching his breath, Kael craned his neck so he could see his owners face. Taren? You are ridiculously brave, pet, Taren said, moving off Kael. Kael sighed when the still-hard cock slid from his body. I knew you wouldnt hurt me, Kael said. He turned around and brushed his lips across his owners mouth. Taren nipped Kaels lip and stood, drawing Kael to his feet as well. He picked Kael up and carried him to a low backless lounge. Sitting, he kept Kael on his lap. You trust the beast. I wish you could trust the man. I do, Kael said. Do you truly? Of course, Kael said, puzzled. Unease fizzed in his belly. Was Taren right? Did he not trust the other man? Look around. Taren gestured at the room. Kael did so, and his mouth dropped open in astonishment. I You Its Hed been so focused on Taren being locked in the cage that he hadnt paid any attention to the rest of the area. He blushed furiously as he realized the room was designed as a sexual play space. There were more couches and a peculiarly padded backless chair that did strange, quivery things to Kaels insides. Paddles, crops, and a single-tailed whip were hung on the wall. Cuffs, shackles, and blindfolds held wall space next to the paddles. Gags of different sorts hung there as well. He recognized the bitlike one Taren had put on him, as well as one that held a ball, one that held a penis-shaped piece of rubber, and one that was simply a ring in the center of a pair of straps. A shelf held plugs and phalluses of every size and material. Several of the harnesses hung there as well. The sight of so many devices designed for the purpose of sex was shocking. Kael looked at Taren and saw a mixture of lust and sadness on the smaller mans face. Understanding hit not with a flash, but with a deep sense of distress. He didnt fear the beast because the beast acted on instinct. The man was a different thing entirely. My body has accepted his ownership, but I still balk. I submit to him because honor says I must. I enjoy his caresses, but still I fight his ownership in my mind. Ive been fighting myself as well. This amazing man risked everything for me. I thought I was taking a chance when I offered myself to the beast. I was wrong. He gambled his sanity for me. I can do no less.

Concubine

123

Kael slid off the lounge and knelt at his owners feet. Master, your concubine awaits your pleasure. He smiled up at Taren. All that I was, all that I am, all that I will be, I submit to you. His smile quirked to one side, and he offered, Take me, Im yours. Taren looked down at him, a slow grin spreading across his face. My catamite prince, he said, stroking his hand over Kaels cheek. Kael held still, awaiting his masters pleasure. Tarens fingertips caressed Kaels lips before pressing lightly for entrance. Kael opened his mouth and drew them in, suckling his masters first two fingers as he would his masters cock. Thats a good pet, Taren said as he pulled his fingers away just enough to slip a third finger inside. Kael opened wide, shivering as callous fingertips rubbed against his tongue. His cock grew hard as his body began to thrum in anticipation. He made a small whimper of disappointment when Tarens hand pulled away, then moaned as all four of Tarens fingers were pushed into his mouth, stretching it wide. Determined to please, Kael did his best to suck on the intruding digits, ignoring how the fullness made him drool saliva. Taren pulled his hand away again and cupped his thumb against his slick fingers. He offered his hand to Kael. Not hesitating, Kael opened his mouth wide and took in as much of his masters hand as he could. His jaw ached, but he was determined not to fail. Taren moved his hand in and out of Kaels mouth a few times, then removed it completely. Wait here, pet, he said, standing. Kael did as he was commanded, staring down at the dark blue velvet covering the lounge. His mouth felt stretched, almost sore, and he felt as if he were going to shatter. I have to give him this. I have to give me this. He hoped he had the courage to see this through. He could hear tantalizing rustles and then one ominous thump before Taren rejoined him, dropping a jumble ofthingson the seat of the lounge. Taren sat down in front of Kael. Stand up. Kael did as he was instructed and waited patiently as a harness was buckled around his pelvis. Once the harness was in place, except for the strap that passed between his cheeks, Taren paused and picked up two plugs. Both made of rubber in the shape of penises, the purple one was short and thick, while the blue one had less girth but was nearly as long as Tarens cock. Which one? Taren mused. He rubbed first one, then the other against Kaels shaft. He scooted back on the lounge and gestured to his thighs. Lie down, pet. Kael lay across his owners legs, his ass positioned so Taren had access. Clever fingers massaged up and down his cleft and pressed against his opening. Kael opened his legs as best he could. He stilled as cool rubber was stroked between his cheeks. First it was the long plug, and then the shorter, thicker one. Shivering, he wondered which his owner would choose. None of the plugs that had been used on him before had been nearly as big, though Tarens cock was bigger still. The clink of glass and the scent of lavender warned him that his master had made a choice. Rubber pressed against his opening and moved past the guardian ring. Kael hissed as the plug was inserted, and panted against the uncomfortable

124

Jill Knowles

intrusion. The plug felt huge, and he wondered if his owner had chosen a different one. He concentrated on breathing as the plug was attached to the harness and the harness was buckled into place. Taren petted and squeezed his ass cheeks, then wiggled the end of the plug, startling a groan from Kael. Up, pet. We need to finish getting you ready. Kael carefully raised himself from his owners lap, gasping as the movement shifted the plug inside him. He looked down and saw that his master held the longer dark blue phallus. The purple one must be inside him. It seemed enormous, but he knew it wasnt. Taren held up a pair of leather cuffs and motioned for Kael to turn around. Kael did, raising his hands so that his wrists could be fastened together at the small of his back. Kneel. Kael went down on his knees, facing his master. Taren raised a small gold chain and attached each end to one of the hoops piercing Kaels nipples. Once it was fastened, he tugged gently. Kael huffed out a breath as pleasure darted from his chest to his cock. He could feel precum start to leak from it. Taren grasped his balls, then rolled and tugged them. Kael moaned, his hips jerking in shallow thrusts. He remembered the male concubines hed seen at the banquet who wore leather cock rings that prevented them from ejaculating, and wondered if his master intended to put one on him. As if reading his mind, Taren said, One day Ill put a ring on you and keep you on the edge for hours. Not today. Today I want every bit of your pleasure. He fisted Kaels cock, gripping tightly enough that it was almost painful. Kaels hips stuttered, as he couldnt decide if he wanted to get away from the rough caress or lean into it. Before he could decide, Taren moved his hand away. Kaels eyes widened as he saw what his owner held. The wide rubber ring was the first thing that captured his attention before he noted the black leather straps that would hold it into place. He met Tarens gaze, seeing anticipation in those violet eyes. Kael smiled at his owner and opened his mouth, submitting to his masters desire. Taren growled, alien eyes darkening as his beast swam near the surface. With exquisite care, he positioned the ring in Kaels mouth and waited patiently as Kael set his teeth into the hard rubber. When the ring was seated, Taren fastened the straps, buckling the gag tightly into place. Kael closed his eyes, panting as he got used to the sensation of his mouth being held open. I want to do this, he thought, feeling the beginnings of panic spark in his chest. I will not disappoint my master. He opened his eyes and saw Taren watching him, concern evident. Kael nodded, instinctively trying to smile. He huffed and shook his head slightly at the odd sensation of barely being able to move his lips. Relaxing, he looked at Taren, waiting for his masters next instruction.

Concubine

125

Taren placed a hand beneath Kaels chin and tilted up his head. He leaned down and put his mouth over Kaels, licked around the open lips, then thrust his tongue inside to taste and explore Kaels bound mouth. Kael responded, caressing Tarens tongue with his own. Pulling away, Taren said, Be still, pet. Let me explore. Kael nodded to show he understood, then waited passively for his masters touch. Not wasting any time, Taren once again fastened his mouth over Kaels . Kael trembled as his owner investigated his mouth with lips, teeth, and tongue. It was startlingly arousing to remain still beneath the thorough exploration. As he surrendered completely to his masters will, he understood why hed been holding the last piece of himself back. Hed been terrified that if he gave in and fully submitted to his master and to his own desires, he would lose his sense of self, and his logical mind would be devoured by the sensual. As Tarens tongue traced his lips, pressing into the crease between his teeth and the ring, Kael knew his fear was unfounded. This isnt losing myself; its accepting both parts of myself. The scholar exists beside the wanton. For the first time in my life, Im whole. Breathing heavily, Taren sat back. Kael found himself swaying toward his owner and forced himself back upright. He hadnt been given permission to move. Thats my good pet, Taren said. He stood and walked to one of the tables, where a neat pile of clothing rested. As Kael watched avidly, he pulled on dark blue trousers and a slightly paler shirt. Padding barefoot back to Kael, he then sat on the couch and motioned for Kael to come closer. Kael leaned forward in anticipation. Taren placed his first two fingers in Kaels mouth and swiped them across Kaels tongue. Kael giggled and squirmed as the touch tickled his tongue, then moaned as the damp fingers were removed and rubbed over one of his nipples. Taren rewetted his fingers and pinched the other nipple. Watch my hand, Taren said. Stay still. Kael looked down, scarcely daring to breathe as his masters fingers grasped the chain linking his hoops and pulled. As his nipples were tugged, he shuddered. Taren kept pulling, the hoops stretching Kaels nipples almost painfully. The pressure eased, but even as Kael was relaxing, the chain was jerked again, drawing a startled cry from him. Taren kept pulling, and the sensation went from uncomfortable to painful. Kael felt tears prickle in his eyes and wondered if his master intended to tear the hoops from his body. Just when he was certain he couldnt bear anymore, the pressure stopped. One more, pet. Be brave for me, Taren said, his fingers tightening on the chain. Violet eyes stared into blue, a question and a promise there. In that instant, Kael knew Taren wasnt doing this because he enjoyed hurting him. This was Kaels reward for submitting completely; his master trusted him to accept this show of dominance. Determined not to disappoint his master, Kael clenched his teeth into the gag as the chain was pulled once again. The pain was a sharp, throbbing burn against his chest, making him desperate to lean forward to

126

Jill Knowles

relieve some of the tension. He didnt move. Still the pressure increased. A sob escaped, and the chain went slack. Kael closed his eyes, letting his head fall back as he panted through the pain. Im so proud of you, Kael, Taren said, sliding his fingers into Kaels mouth to rub over Kaels tongue. Pleasure shivered through Kael at the knowledge that hed pleased his master. The logical part of his mind basked in the praise; the sensual wanted to be closer to the other man. On my lap, pet. Kael eagerly straddled his masters thighs and sank down. The position put his chest in reach of Tarens mouth, and the smaller man wasted no time in fastening his lips over one of Kaels nipples. As the abused flesh was suckled, Kael whimpered. The caress was comforting, but his flesh was so sensitized that even the gentle motion of Tarens mouth bordered on pain. Moaning, he rested against Taren, taking comfort from the other mans nearness. Strong hands smoothed over the skin of his back and shoulders, making Kael feel cherished. Tarens mouth moved to the other nipple, soothing the pain away. Too soon, Taren leaned back. Kneel in front of me. Kael stood and then went gracefully to his knees between his masters spread thighs. He could see the bulge of Tarens cock behind his trousers and wondered if his master was going to fuck his mouth. He hoped so. Taren picked up the blue rubber phallus and held it in front of Kaels mouth. Lick. Kael looked at his owner for a moment, not sure hed understood the command. Lick the cock, pet. Kael nodded and flicked his tongue out to explore the end of the phallus. It tasted of salt with hints of soap and rubber. When his master made no further move to correct him, he licked the soft rubber as he would an icicle. It felt strange to work the artificial penis with his tongue while his mouth was held open, but if that was what his master wanted, Kael would do it. Suck it. Kael didnt hesitate. He lowered his mouth over the phallus and bobbed up and down as he would on his masters cock. The rubber, feeling almost like skin, warmed against his mouth as he fellated it. Stop. Kael froze, the phallus resting against his teeth. It was removed from his mouth and dropped to the floor. Taren stood and opened his trousers, freeing his erection. He grasped Kaels head between both hands and guided Kaels mouth over his rigid flesh. Kael sighed

Concubine

127

as his masters cock filled his mouth. He began to bob his head up and down. Taren let him move for a few minutes, then held Kael still and began to fuck his mouth. Breathe through your nose, pet, he instructed. Kael obeyed but nearly gagged as Tarens cock was pushed farther inside. His master used his mouth roughly, thrusting in and out with no concern for Kaels comfort. Kael held still, submitting to the ruthless claiming. Taren snarled, his cock jerking inside Kaels mouth. Kael tried to swallow his masters cum, but having his mouth bound open made it difficult, and most of it drooled from his mouth, painting his chin and dripping down onto his chest. As he knelt, panting at his masters feet, his own cock diamond hard, Kael felt utterly free. He was tugged to his feet, and he held perfectly still while a leash was fastened to his collar. He was then led from the salon. He blinked against the brilliant sunlight, stopping when his master did. I see youre back with us, Eldara said, her gaze wandering over Kael. I am, Taren said. He glanced at the twins, who still guarded his rooms, and growled. Kael had the feeling his master wasnt happy to see the two men. Dont fail me again, Taren snapped, ignoring the salutes the twins gave him. Kael followed his master into their rooms, startled to see Milly waiting just inside the door. The expected embarrassment at her seeing him naked and bound didnt come. He kept his head up, proud at belonging to such a magnificent master. Is there anything you need, Warlord? she asked, her eyes sparkling as she glanced at Kael. Send up dinner in an hour, Taren said. She curtsied, winked at Kael, and exited the room. Kael was led into the bedroom and positioned over the chest at the foot of the bed. Harness and plug were removed from his body with brisk efficiency, and he was lifted and placed on his back on the bed. It was uncomfortable to lie on his bound wrists, but the thought of protesting never entered his mind. Offer yourself to me, Taren said, staring down at him. Kael spread his legs, bending his knees to cant his hips up toward his master. Good, pet. Taren settled between Kaels legs and sheathed himself w ith one hard thrust. Kael hummed his pleasure at being filled. Taren sat back on his heels and pulled Kaels legs over his shoulders. Kael groaned as the change in position deepened his connection with his master. Taren began thrusting, setting a brisk rhythm that rubbed deliciously over Kaels sweet spot. As he moved, Taren reached up and thrust his fingers in and out of Kaels open mouth in the same rhythm. Kael quivered, tilting his head to give his master easier access to his mouth.

128

Jill Knowles

Youre so beautiful, my catamite prince, Taren said. He increased the speed of his thrusts, ramming his cock into Kael. Kael arched his back, his tongue rubbing against his masters fingers as he was brutally fucked. A sharp yank on the chain linking his nipples ripped his orgasm from him. He screamed as he came, feeling his master spasm against him.

Concubine

129

Chapter Twenty-two
Dinner was reminiscent of Kaels first few days in Zandria. He sat at his masters feet, hands bound behind his back, while Taren fed him. Once hed had enough to eat, he leaned against his masters leg. What happened after I passed out? The muscles in Tarens thigh tightened. Bonecutter lost her hold on the sleep smoke just as we were getting out of the cooling shed. We all got a mild dose of it. It wasnt enough to knock out a Zandrian, but you reacted badly to it and stopped breathing. A strong hand clutched Kaels shoulder over the claiming mark. I almost lost you, Kael. Im still here, he said, rubbing his cheek against Tarens forearm. Bonecutter saved your life. She was exhausted, but she managed to keep you breathing until the healer arrived. The guards, Kael said. Did more of them attack? Franks showed up with thirty of the university district guards and the district healer. Apparently one of his men overheard one of the temple district guards bragging about fucking a palace concubine and told Franks about it. He went to the university to warn me, and Mendon told him where we were. He and his squad got there just as we got out of the cooling shed. The guards surrounded us while the healer worked on you. Relief coursed through Kael. Hes not involved, then. Im so glad. No, hes not. The temple district guards cleared him and confirmed that Larissa Sweetpetal hired them. Bitch, Kael growled. I hope they hang her. If shes found guilty, which is likely, shell be drawn and quartered. Ugh. Nasty. He looked up at his master. Has the entire guild been implicated, or was she working alone? A little of both. The guild is implicated, but denying any and all involvement. It has threatened to pull all the concubines from the palace. Kaels heart sank. He hoped the king wasnt angry. Can they do that? Taren shrugged. They can. But I think they will find that it does them more harm than good. There are rumors that the younger guild members are disgusted with the guild councils machinations. They may refuse to break their contracts.

130

Jill Knowles

They finished the meal and spent time just enjoying each others company. Kael reveled in the freedom to seek his masters touch, even as he quizzed Taren about the details of the guilds legal standing. Toward the end of the day, it was time to get ready for another banquet. They discussed not attending but decided they needed to make an appearance. I do love showing you off, Taren said, grinning at Kael. Kael looked in the mirror, stunned at the serenity in the blue eyes that looked back at him. There would be moments of doubt in the future, he knew, but they would work through them together. I look like a virgin bride. Complete with diamonds, Taren quipped. Kael snorted. He wore a white leather harness and an open white silk vest. The vest was cut so that his shoulders were left bare, the claiming mark fully visible. He wore white leather ankle bootsproper boots with proper soles and a hidden inside pocket that held a few gold coins. The only color he wore was provided by the sapphires and amethysts on his collar and the purple on his shoulder. Diamond drops glittered from each of his nipple hoops. Giving his master a fond look, he turned around to see the rest of his costume. The large faceted diamond decorating the end of the butt plug shone in the light, but it was the myriad tiny chains that hung down from it that really captured attention. A hundred spider silk-fine gold chains dangled from the plug, each one with a sparkling diamond chip at the end. Kael moved his hips, making the chains sway. They hung down to midthigh and tickled against his skin. You have a gift for designing beautiful accessories, Taren, though why you feel the need to decorate my asshole with gemstones escapes me. Its my favorite part of youafter your mind. Charmer, Kael said, smiling in spite of himself. Taren stepped up beside him, and Kael looked at their reflection. The warlord looked stunning dressed in skintight leather trousers, a sleeveless black silk shirt, and high-heeled thigh-high black boots that actually made him taller than Kael. The sword belt buckled around his slim hips was also black. The swords wire wrapped steel hilt was the only thing that relieved the starkness of the outfit. Tarens purple-black hair was pulled back from his face in a ponytail, highlighting the sharp cheekbones, slit-pupiled violet eyes, and full lips. Kael leaned into his master, sighing when Tarens arm surrounded him and pulled him closer. The panther and the sex kitten, Kael said. We look good together. We are good together. Taren lifted the towel from the countertop and revealed what was underneath. Smiling, he handed Kael the white leather belt, complete with a dagger in a white scabbard. My sex kitten needs claws in case he must defend us. Kael rolled his eyes at the bad joke and buckled the belt into place, settling the dagger comfortably on his right hip. The king will allow us to attend the banquet

Concubine

131

while armed? In Korai, such a thing would never happen. Only the kings personal bodyguards were allowed to wear weapons in his presence. He knows and approves. So does Mother. Good. Kael looked at his owner. I believe you intended to show me off, Master? Taren stepped away from Kael and offered his elbow. Shall we? Kael placed his hand on Tarens arm and was escorted from the room.

***
Kael sat next to his owner in defiance of centuries of tradition. Hed been surprised when hed been placed in a chair at Tarens right side rather than on a pillow at his masters feet. Luckily the seat of the chair had a thick cushion, and Kael sat carefully so that his tail wasnt pulled. Tarens muttered explanation, I dont want you on the floor if were attacked, mollified him, but the scandalized glances from the few concubines in attendance spoke volumes. Try this, Prince Kael. I believe you will enjoy it, Seneschal Mendon said, offering Kael a puff pastry filled with cherries. Thank you, Kael said, accepting the dessert. Convention had once again been broken when the warlords seneschal had taken charge of serving Taren and Kael, rather than the palaces servants. They were taking no chances that one of the conspirators had been missed and might try to take revenge on Kael. Since Taren was deep in conversation with his mother, Kael took the opportunity to study the other attendees. This banquet was small, perhaps fifteen nobles in attendance, though only a few of them were accompanied by concubines. Eldara leaned over and said, The lovely Miss Devon and her friends are waiting in the salon. The guild pulled all its concubines from the palace in protest over Larissas arrest. These fiveshe waved her hand at the concubineswere the only ones who defied the guild. Are the nobles angry? Kael asked. He hoped they hadnt solved one problem and created another. Most of them havent noticed. Eldara smirked. The guild is in for a very unpleasant surprise. It doesnt have nearly the amount of power it thought it did. It couldnt happen to a nicer group of people. He grinned at her and took a bite of the cherry pastry, moaning as the tart sweetness exploded over his tongue. As he chewed, he happened to catch Seneschal Mendons eye. The older man loo ked triumphant. Chilled, Kael put the pastry down on his plate and picked up his wine. As he sipped, he surreptitiously watched the seneschal, turning things over in his mind. He told Franks where to find us at the temple district guardhouse. How did he know we were going there? Taren didnt tell the driver where the carriage was bound until wed driven aimlessly around the city for half an hour. Mendon poured more wine for Eldara, his movements betraying a jittery nervousness.

132

Jill Knowles

Kael lifted the pastry to his mouth and pretended to take another bite. Another sip of wine. Then he said, Seneschal Mendon, I must commend you on this. Its quite the best pastry Ive had since Ive been here in Zandria. Hoping that he was correct about what sort of poison the pastry contained, he forced himself to remain still. Mendon nodded, brown eyes sparkling with manic energy. Im so pleased you like it. I had Cook make them especially for this gathering. His gaze darted to Taren, and Kael saw a flash of hatred directed at the warlord. Everything fell into place. You loved him. Mendon froze. I beg your pardon. Thats what this is about. You wanted him to yourself, and we kept getting in the way. It was the only thing that made sense of all the evidence. The older man laughed, the sound like stone grating over broken glass. What are you talking about, Your Highness? The room had gone eerily silent. Kael concentrated on projecting his voice so everyone could hear. Myself, Captain Franks, even members of the Concubines Guild You wanted him for yourself, but we kept interfering, didnt we? So you decided to get rid of us once and for all. You used the guilds anger toward me to get them to hurt me, and you suggested bribing the city guards so that Franks would fall under suspicion. It was a beautiful plan, and one that wouldnt point toward you. After I was gone and Franks accused of conspiring to have me murdered, you would step in and offer to comfort Taren. But it didnt work, and you got angry. He could feel Taren stiffen beside him and knew his owner was preparing for an attack. Dont interfere. There had to be no doubts about Mendons guilt. This was all speculation, and while Kael was certain he was correct, a judge might not see it that way. Lies, Mendon said, sweat beading on his forehead. Taren was growling, a low, vicious sound that made the primitive part of Kaels brain waver between running away and enticing Taren to pounce. You realized you could never have him, didnt you? When you saw this? Kael rubbed his hand across the claiming mark on his shoulder. Im his mate, and there will never be a place for you in his bed. You arent worthy of him, Mendon spat. Im a prince of the blood, Kael said arrogantly. Youre a concubine. The amount of hatred and contempt Mendon put in the last word was unnerving. Im his concubine, mate to his demon, Kael continued implacably. Is that when you decided to kill him? On Kaels other side, he saw General Eldara nodding as she followed his logic. She shifted in her seat, getting ready for a physical confrontation. Kael felt a bit of tension leak from him. Eldara believed him, and she was one of Mendons closest friends. I would never harm Warlord Taren. I am his loyal servant.

Concubine

133

Kael noddedit made a twisted sort of sense. No, but you wanted him to die. He tapped the plate holding the cherry pastry. Im guessing this holds cyandream poison. Taren would die from the poison in two days, and Id be put to death as his murderer. Wasnt that your plan? Mendon didnt speak, instead glaring at Kael. Damn. Hed been hoping to get a confession from the older man. Time for the dramatic gesture. Theres just one problem. Kael picked up the pastry, sending a prayer to the Goddess that he hadnt guessed wrong. I am fully human. Cyandream dust only works on those with demon blood. Youve failed once again, Mendon. He took a bite of pastry, chewed, and swallowed. Beside him he heard Tarens growl deepen. Howling, Mendon leaped toward him, fingers curled like claws. Before he could reach Kael, Taren was between them, catching Mendon and forcing him facedown on the table.

134

Jill Knowles

Chapter Twenty-three
Kael flung himself into Tarens arms. Its over. Its truly over. Mendon had been arrested and taken away. The head palace healer had examined Kael and determined that yes, the pastry had contained cyandream poison, and that no, Kael wasnt affected in any way. For Kael, the poison, so deadly to most in Zandria, was as harmless as water. It would not kill him, nor would it pool in his genitals and change his semen to poison. I never guessed, Taren said, arms wrapping tightly around Kael. I knew he disliked Franks, but I put that down to snobbery. He sighed. Hes detested the Concubines Guild for as long as Ive known him, with very good reason. Did he ever try to seduce you? Shaking his head, Taren said, Once, about two years ago. I turned him down, using the excuse of the deteriorating situation with Riwign. I told him that I simply didnt have time for a lover. It was true, but there was another reason as well. What was it? I dont find him attractive. Theres something servile about him, and Ive never been attracted to weak men. Kael pulled back, staring at his owner in disbelief. You arent weak, Taren said. In fact, youre the strongest man Ive ever met. Kael blinked. Changing the subject, he asked, Why does he hate the guild so much? I dont owe him silence on this anymore. Taren led him to the sofa and sank down, pulling Kael onto his lap. Its the usual sordid story. His parents were minor nobility and had a problem with gambling. They were killed in a carriage accident, leaving sixteen-year-old Mendon and his fourteen-year-old sister with nothing but a pile of debts. Mendon tried to get accepted into the guild, but they turned him down. His sister was sent to live in the country with an aunttheir mothers sister. The aunt refused to take Mendon because hed sullied the family honor by trying to become a concubine, something only the lower classes did. He wasnt allowed to say good-bye to his sister or have any further contact with her. She died of a fever less than a year later. Goddess bless and keep her, Kael said, pitying the boy whose life had been destroyed so thoroughly. How did he get into service? He knew that high-ranking servants jealously guarded their positions.

Concubine

135

His parents seneschal took him in after his sister was sent away, and saw that he got the proper training. How dreadful for him, to lose everything and be forced into servitude. Kael decided to ask the king to grant Mendon mercy. No wonder he succumbed to hatred. You didnt. Kael tensed. I The words lodged in his throat, and he looked helplessly at his master. As I saidTaren pressed a kiss to Kaels cheekyoure the strongest man Ive ever met. Im not asking you to agree; Im just stating the truth as I see it. Kael opened his mouth to protest, only to find it captured by his owners. He turned so that he straddled Tarens lap and devoured his masters mouth. As they kissed, Tarens hand snaked around Kaels hips and wiggled the plug in Kaels ass. Kael groaned as his sweet spot was stimulated. Taren broke the kiss, wicked mischief lighting his violet eyes. Go to the toy chest. Theres a dark blue velvet bag inside. Bring it and the lavender oil here. Kael stole another kiss and then stood and went to the bedchamber, taking care to twitch his ass to make the golden tail he wore sparkle. Taren laughed and whistled his appreciation. Once in the bedchamber, Kael wasted no time locating the item his owner sent him to find. The bag was curiously heavy. A knot composed of anticipation and apprehension settled in his belly, and his cock began to stiffen. He retrieved the bottle of oil from the bedside table, carried both to the main room, and offered them to Taren. Kneel, Taren said, taking them. As Kael knelt, Taren placed the bottle of oil beside him on the couch, opened the velvet bag, and reached inside. Kaels eyes widened as the bags cargo was revealed. Taren held a large cobalt blue phallus, perfect in every detail, down to the balls at the base. It was translucent, and Kael realized it was made of glass. A replica of my own cock. Taren stroked the phallus intimately. I love watching my cock slide into you, but I must admit the sensation of your hot, tight hole squeezing me is distracting. He rubbed the tip of the phallus against Kaels cheek. With this, I get to enjoy the sight of you being fucked without any distractions. Kael swallowed hard. The phallus looked huge. It was huge if it was a replica of his masters penis. But somehow, the glass cock seemed almostthreatening. What? He licked his lips and tried again. What position would yo u like me in, Master? Tarens expression softened. Over my lap. He placed a pillow on the sofa. Head here. Patted his thighs. Ass here. Kael lay over his masters lap, sighing when the jeweled plug was removed from him, only to be replaced by Tarens fingers. So slick and hot. My catamite prince, are you ready for your masters cock?

136

Jill Knowles

Kael opened his legs as wide as he could in the somewhat constricted position he was in. Yes, Master. The fingers were removed, and the scent of lavender filled his nostrils. The tip of the glass phallus nudged his anus, and he concentrated on relaxing. The head of the cock pushed past the guardian ring and into him. Kael panted at the burn as the hard shaft speared him. The glass had no give, and so it felt huge and foreign inside him. He made himself relax and shuddered as his body allowed the phallus all the way in. The cool glass balls nestled against his ass for a moment; then the phallus was slowly withdrawn completely and pushed in again. Kael moaned as his sweet spot was stimulated. Kael, my Kael, you look so beautiful like this, Taren whispered, twisting the phallus inside him. The unexpected motion drew a cry of surprised delight from Kael. Thats my good pet. Give me everything, love. I want it all. Taren chuckled and began to work the phallus in and out of Kael, twisting and thrusting with it. He varied the speed and strength of his motions as well. His world narrowed to the hard cock at his center, Kael squirmed, groaned, and whimpered, hiding nothing from his owner. He was teased almost to the brink of orgasm several times; then his master would stop moving the phallus and massage his ass cheeks. Kael grumbled his dissatisfaction with not being allowed to come but waited eagerly for his masters attentions to begin anew. He knew that once Taren decided to put the toy away and fuck him, he would be more than compensated for the current denial. Knock. Knock. Knock. Taren muttered an oath. He pushed the phallus all the way into Kael and used the harnesss back strap to keep it in place. Stand up, pet. Kael eased off Tarens lap, whimpering as the huge phallus shifted inside him. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Taren stalked to the door, scooping his sword up on the way. He flung the door open and leveled the sword at the visitors throat. And good evening to you as well, Eldara said. She used the long roll of paper she held to push the tip of the sword out of the way, then stepped into the room. She looked at Kael, then frowned at Taren. I thought surely youd be naked by now. Eldara. Taren gritted her name through clenched teeth. Kael glowered at the woman, wanting her to say her piece and then leave so his master could continue fucking him. Ignoring both of them, she walked to the table and unrolled the paper she carried. Taren joined her. Kael, wincing as each movement shifted the glass phallus inside him, walked to his masters side. Explain. Taren barked the word out, every inch the warlord.

Concubine

137

Smedka has invaded Korais southern border. There hasnt been a formal declaration of war yet, but Korai expects one soon. Kael stared down at the map without seeing it. Empire-building Smedka had finally made its move. Goddess, protect them. His countrymen were going to be slaughtered. Korais army, already exhausted from spending the past several years chasing bandits, had been dealt a vicious blow in the battles with Zandria. Damn it, Father, why didnt you stop the problems with Zandria before our people died ? Why had his king allowed such a disastrous series of events to take place? Take all fifteen blue companies and three each of the artillery, scout, and cavalry companies. We need to send a strong message to Smedka that Korai isnt without allies. Taren tapped the map. Have the sorcerers call up mist, and see if you cant flank the bastards and cut off their supply lines. He shared a nasty grin with Eldara. They arent going to be expecting us. Lets make the surprise extra special. He and Eldara leaned over the map, discussing tactics. Kael listened to them, following their plan with part of his mind while the bulk of his thoughts churned over the fact that Zandria was sending troopsseveral thousand of themto help defend Korai. Now, finally, his fathers actions made sense. Korai desperately needed an alliance with Zandria, but the rigid laws forbidding fraternization with demons and sexual deviants had prevented the king from making that alliance. The farmers greed in violating the border must have seemed like a gift from the Goddess. Korai couldnt offer an alliance to demon tainted Zandria, but it could accept one forced on it after losing a war. King Harrimund had acted ruthlessly, spending the lives of a few of his subjects so that the bulk would live. It was not the act of a kind man or a good one. It was the act of a great king. Kael himself had been the final piece to the puzzle. He glanced down at the white leather and silk he wore. The joke that he looked like a bride was not far from the truth. Korais king had the alliance the country needed, and Kaels father had the courage to sacrifice a son to cement the alliance. A royal prince of Korai belonged to the warlord of Zandria. It wasnt a marriage, but it was a permanent relationshipthe next best thing to such a marriage. Kael remembered his sister saying their father was wasting away and his own angry tirade in response. Goddess, forgive me. He walked to his desk and picked up a piece of paper and a pen. He considered for a moment, then sat at his chair, biting his lip as the pressure pushed the phallus deep. How fitting that he had a replica of his masters cock inside him as he wrote this particular note. When it was finished, he contemplated it for a moment, then walked back to the table. Master? When Taren looked up at him, he asked, Are you leading the troops? No. Things are a bit too unsettled here for me to leave right now. Eldara will be in charge of the Korai delegation.

138

Jill Knowles

Kael offered the letter to his owner. I would like to send this to my father, if its permissible. Taren scanned it and looked up at Kael, a blinding smile curving his full lips. Ill say it again. You, Prince Kael of Korai, my princeling, my pet, my mate, my catamite prince, are the bravest man I know. Oh, Eldara said. Thats lovely. She beamed at both of them for a few seconds, then scowled. Now can we go back to planning things, so I dont get my shapely ass shot full of Smedkan arrows? Taren handed her the letter. She glanced at Kael, and when he nodded, she scanned the content. Hed kept it brief. Father: I understand. I forgive you. I love you. Kael. Eldara folded it in half and tucked it into her satchel. She stepped around Taren, paused long enough to say, Deal with it, and caught Kael in a bone crushing hug. Kael laughed as his breath left him in a sharp oooff. Beside him, he could hear Tarens growls grow to dangerous levels. Releasing him, Eldara planted a kiss on his lips. Hmmm, she murmured, nudging his mouth open with her tongue so she could taste him and drawing a snarl from Taren. She stepped back and smirked at her best friend. Delicious. For this honey, I could be persuaded to try men. Taren stepped between them and pushed Eldara firmly back. Mine. He then pounced on Kael, devouring Kaels mouth with a bruising kiss, his hand sliding down to toy with the phallus in Kaels ass as he did so. Eldara laughed. Play with your concubine later, Warlord. We have a battle to plan. Taren let Kael go and glanced down at the table. Id rather do both. He gestured to the end of the table not holding the map. Up here, pet. On your back, ass at the edge of the table. Desire rushing through him, Kael did as he was instructed. For the next several hours, he lay on the table, his master fucking him with the phallus while planning the best ways to not only stop the current invasion of Korai, but to send Smedka running away, tail tucked firmly between its legs.

Concubine

139

Epilogue
Home
Kael carefully applied the scarlet paint to his lips. He could hear Taren pacing in the next room but was determined to take his time and do this right. This night was a gift to his master for ensuring Korais freedom from invasion by Smedka, and Kael wasnt going to let the other man prevent him from carrying out his carefully made plans. He blotted the excess paint away and checked his reflection in the mirror. His chestnut hair was tousled to look as though hed just left his masters bed, his eyes heavily rimmed with kohl, and his mouth the deep red of a Heartsblood rose. Yes. Hed been worried that the sapphires and amethysts in his collar would clash with the red, but careful selection of just the right shades of scarlet had provided harmony. He stood, shivering as the phallus hed commissioned shifted. Grinning, he couldnt wait until his master saw it. Kael had contacted Soren Carver and had him create a second replica of Tarens cock, this time in rubber, the end capped with a stunning ruby. The harness that held it in place was crafted of fine spellstrengthened gold chain. A second gold chain linked the hoops in his nipples, a ruby teardrop suspended in the center of the chain providing just enough weight to stimulate the hard little nubs each time Kael moved. Small rubies glittered from each of his ears. Soft black leather cuffs ringed his wrists and ankles, though they hadnt been linked together yet, and a ruby-studded leather ring circled his cock and balls. He intended to give his master total control over him tonight, including whether he was allowed to come. He checked his reflection in the mirror one more time. A sensual creature looked back at him, every movement an invitation to carnal delights. Perfect. He pulled the transparent crimson wrap dress around him and tied the belt so that it could be opened with a single tug. Padding to the door, barefoot save the two gold rings on his toes, he paused. Taren, please take your seat. Kael, the warlord growled. Trust me, love. A sigh, audible even through the door. Very well. A long pause, then Miss Devons voice called out, Hes in place, and the king and queen have a firm hold on each of his arms.

140

Jill Knowles

Good. Kael opened the door, smiling at the man whod become a good friend. Is everything ready? Oh, yes. Everyones in place, and the audience is primed. He looked lovely in a turquoise blue dress, his blond hair falling in loose waves past his shoulders. Miss Devon led the way to the back of the stage and settled Kael at the rear of a group that held an unprecedented mixture of whores and concubines. The new brothel was beautifully decorated. Caterers and minstrels had been engaged for the grand opening. Miss Devon clapped his hands. Ladies, gentlemen, and undecided yet fabulous, lets give our audience a show theyll never forget. He stepped through the curtains and strode out onto the stage. Time to get the party started. First, let me welcome our distinguished guests, His Royal Majesty King Grayson and Her Royal Majesty Queen Mother Raquel. The gathered nobles cheered. Oh dear, you all look so lonely with those empty pillows on the floor beside you. Lets remedy that, shall we? He snapped his fingers, and the minstrels began playing a fast-paced dance song. Each of the gathered whores and concubines strutted out onto the stage, showing off the clothing Mother Mae had created, then left the stage to join their patrons. Kael grinned at the good-natured catcalls and cheers as each professional was greeted. Finally it was his turn. He stepped up and paused behind the curtain. Miss Devon sashayed back to the center of the stage. You may have noticed that our esteemed warlord is still all alone, poor man. He waited as the audience made commiserating noises. Never fear, his delight is right here behind the curtain. Royals, ladies, and gentlemen, it is my very great pleasure to introduce the man who inspired the name of this lovely house: Kael, the catamite prince. Kael took a deep breath as the minstrels began to play The Warlords Chilly Lover. Hands on his hips, he strutted across the stage, swaying his body to the music. The laughter that had begun when the audience recognized the song stopped abruptly when Kael glided into view. He made one pass around the stage, then stopped directly in front of Tarens seat and tugged off the belt holding his dress in place. Letting it fall open and serve as a frame for his body, Kael ran his hand over his cock, then up his abdomen to toy with the ruby hanging between his nipples. Turning away from the audience, he shrugged the fabric from his shoulders and caught it at the small of his back. He widened his stance and leaned forward just a bit, dropping the dress and letting the audience see a hint of sparkle from the jeweled plug. A low moan of appreciation from the watching nobles made him grin. Turning around, he blew Miss Devon a kiss, strutted down the stairs leading from the stage, and finally stopped in front of Taren. His owner looked up at him with a mixture of love and lust in his beautiful violet eyes, a golden leash draped across his lap.

Concubine

141

As gracefully as he could, Kael sank to his knees and leaned back, offering his throat. Master, I await your pleasure.

Loose Id Titles by Jill Knowles


Concubine Fiendish Pleasures The CHRONICLES OF THE GREY LADY Series A Pirates Prime A Pirates Dream The KEILY KISSES Series Kissing Chaos Burning Kisses

Jill Knowles
Jill Knowles is a former archaeologist who lives in Arizona. She enjoys writing, photography, making fine silver jewelry, and glass-blowing. She is owned by far too many cats. This is her sixth book with Loose Id.

Interesses relacionados