Monday, December 31, 2012

Hot sun, hot sand and a hot, hot man. Who says an older woman can't have adventure?
Kitty Benson left her home in the UK to find the warmth of the sun 'Down Under'. She never expected the journey to include a life-threatening experience. A toned, tanned Adonis—Zakk—rescues Kitty from a dangerous rip current her first day at the beach. Alive and sunkissed by the Downunder Heat, when Kitty meets her rescuer again, the spark that piqued her interest turns to flames…

Kitty wasn’t a bad swimmer—at home she’d done laps in the pool to keep fit—but, no matter how strongly she stroked, she made no progress. Her arms felt heavy and her breath came in choppy gasps, salt water rasping into her throat as she breathed in. Panic sent her heart pounding and stiffened her muscles, and she sank below the waves. She struggled to reach the surface. From somewhere in her memory came the idea that she should raise her arms above her head to signal distress, but she couldn’t do that without sinking, and in any case she was too far out for anyone to see her.
She lifted her head, took a deep breath—trying to avoid inhaling water—and began to swim for shore again. She refused to drown on her first full day in Australia, on her first visit to the beach.
“I…am…not…drowning. I…am…not…drowning,” she said, her words keeping time with the lift, swing, dive and drag of her arms.
“Pleased to hear that,” a deep Australian male voice said. “But I’d like you to climb on board the surf ski anyway.”
She swung her head and there, right alongside her, was a man—a ridiculous red and yellow cap on his head, his legs astride a long narrow water craft.
He held out a hand to her. “Come on, get on here and we’ll get you out of this rip.”
He reached over and hauled her up out of the water and settled her in front of him on the bright yellow board. She flopped on her stomach, and he leaned across her, his chest against her bottom, his strong arms churning the water, propelling the board, not in towards the beach as she expected, but parallel to it.
“Why aren’t we going in?” she gasped when she got her breath back.
“You haven’t been to the beach much, have you?” he asked, the effort of paddling both of them through the water seeming to have no effect on his ability to hold a conversation.
“No,” she replied, “this is my first day in Australia.”
“Tourists.” Kitty could clearly hear the disdain in his voice. “They just want to hit the water. They never take the time to find out what the dangers are.”
“You mean like sharks and stuff? I thought there were alarms if there were sharks.”
“There would be,” he said. “But since you didn’t hear the whistles and the loud speaker telling you to stay between the flags, what makes you think you’d have heard the shark alarms?”
“There wasn’t any whist—” Kitty stopped what she had been about to say, remembering she had heard something, she just hadn’t thought it was relevant to her. Maybe he had a point.
“In any case,” he went on, “sharks are the least likely problem you’d encounter. Dangerous surf conditions are far more common. The flags are there for a reason. You stay between them so you don’t end up in a rip, like this one.”
As he spoke he turned the board and headed it towards the shore. The surf ski slid forward in a rapid glide that covered the distance in very little time. “Rips are areas where the water moves outwards quickly. People who don’t know what they’re doing get taken out with them. You can tell a rip because the waves are flattened so they look smoother. When you get caught in one, you don’t swim or paddle inwards. You go across it until you get out of it, then you head in, like we just did.”
They reached the sand, and he helped her to stand then grasped the handle of his board and held it to keep it from being washed away.
“Learn to recognise a rip when you see one, and stay between the flags,” he said sternly. “First rule. Don’t ignore it.” Then he smiled at her. “You probably should go to first aid and get checked out. Make sure you’re okay.” He turned and pushed his board back into the water.
Realisation crashed like a wave over Kitty’s head. The man had just saved her life and she hadn’t even thanked him.
“Wait,” she called. He turned around and Kitty gulped. He was gorgeous—long and lean, with powerful muscled thighs, a six pack, broad shoulders and those powerful arms that had lifted her from danger and paddled them both to shore. She swallowed, trying to get some moisture into her dry mouth. “I…” Her voice sounded croaky and she tried again, “I could never have made it back on my own. I would have died. I can never, ever thank you enough. I don’t have any money with me now, but if you tell me how to contact you—”
“I don’t want your money,” he said, taking a step backwards, his hand held up in front of him. “I’m a volunteer lifesaver. No one, not one of us, will take a reward for doing something like this.” He stood there like some tall, earth-bound god, his golden brown eyes warm in the sunlight. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Oldest Dance  Badlibs (A subversion)
Thanks to Lea Barrymire

            Damian stalked across the floor.  His formal tuxedo, clinging lovingly to hard muscle,  made Libby weak. His biceps bulged. His long, toned thighs made her tongue swell. He was so starkly elegant that he made her feel over-frilly in comparison. His dark eyes sparkled with energy.

            “Get over here, Libby. I want your body and can’t stop myself from going after you.” He swiveled his hips sexily, making her heart beat.

            “Oh, Damian. Be careful with me. I haven’t practiced these moves in so long.” Libby muttered.  Her eyes slid closed and her head fell back.

            His linen clad sleeve touched her mouth and drew a sigh from her lips. A calloused hand stroked her shoulder making her tight skin shiver. With three fingers, he entered the hollow at the base of her spine. She couldn’t stop the sigh from escaping her. 

            “Lie back, Libby. Let me take control.  I want you running like a well-oiled machine before I drive you up,” he whispered softly. 

            She smiled, nodding. She pushed her hips forward and growled deep in her throat. “Anything you want, Damian. I want to feel your moves so badly I can barely stand it.”

            A shiver skated underneath the silk of her clothing at the feel of his thigh  crushed against hers. Sensations like an earthquake moved up and down her spine. She could feel the building tremors start with the first rhythmic thrust.  She looked up into his face. His intense eyes glowed with passion.  His leg pressed deeply against her mons. She could feel his hard cock. His increased speed caused her to spin and whirl. A sound, like a purr vibrated in her chest. She knew she was going to come. All she needed was his abdomen rubbing  against her groin.

            With a final flourish she waltzed off into bliss. Her knees tensed, her calves  tightened and her eyes closed on the feeling of his final thrust sinking her into a quaking orgasm. God she loved dancing!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Put a lock on your computer and turn off your wi-fi! The internet is awash with porn and we are all doomed.
Heard any number of variations on this theme? Of course you have. Previously innocent men and women will turn into slavering monsters because they have been exposed to sexual imagery, although what is or is not offensive is open to debate. No one has managed to come up with a definitive classification system for pornography as opposed to eroticism. What is pornographic seems to be very much in the eye of the beholder. One thing most critics seem to agree on is that the spread of porn is due to the internet and it is the plague of the twenty first century!

 That’s wrong, of course.  Sexually explicit material, aimed at titillation and excitement has been around since...well as long as people have. Some cultures, like the Romans, made a virtue of their erotic art, using it to decorate the walls of their houses. In India you will see erotic carvings on temple walls. It wasn’t something to be hidden away or ashamed of. It was there, where men, women and children saw it, and still see it, every day. I haven't heard many people in the West at least protesting about that. Maybe because it is old enough to be excused as culture or history.

The past is more complex and more surprising than you might be aware.  Most of us only come into contact with History at school. By necessity a lot of the more controversial  material has been white-washed and only acceptable information is passed on. As a result we tend to think of the people of this time as bastions of morality and mannered behaviour, whose passions were restricted to war and occasionally trade.

That isn't strictly accurate. Let me give you an example. When I was at school I learned about Samuel Pepys. He was an observant and witty commentator on life in seventeenth century British society. I was never told that he devoted sections of his famous diary to the subject of his sexual activities, including random sexual encounters with wives of acquaintances and chance met women. He wonders whether it is right to continue his habit of masturbating in church if the daily sermon is not interesting. That’s right. Samuel Pepys whacked off IN CHURCH!

One of the things that got Samuel’s motor going was erotic literature...seventeenth century porn. The novel may eventually have become respectable, but the earliest and most popular forms were erotic novels—with illustrations. No wonder the clergy and members of the establishment despised the novel, and continued to do so long after it had become a respectable and popular medium.

Pepys himself apparently had a particular fondness for one of the first erotic novels, L’Ecole des Filles. Twentieth century works like The Story of O are part of a long tradition starting with books like  L’Ecole des Filles translated into English as School for Venus. It is “an illustrated sexual dialogue between two women.” Yes folks, even in the seventeenth century, guys liked girl on girl action. Pepys kept the book for a while for inspiration, then burnt it before his wife found it. And he recorded the whole thing in his diary, including the number of times he masturbated while reading it—wisely making the entries in a unique code made up of a combination of Italian and French and symbols he devised himself.   He records his interest in enacting some of the scenes if he could find another woman to participate.

Another French erotic novel available in England was Thérèse Philosophe, a massive best seller, not only in France but elsewhere including Britain, where pornographic works were the most popular publications of the time. Besides fairly graphic depictions of sex between Thérèse and a priest (There’s a long literary history of that --Heloise and Abelard for one and Chaucer mentions it) there is a chapter where Thérèse’s new protector places her in a room with a collection of erotic books, statues and paintings and bets her she cannot go two weeks without masturbating. She loses, of course and the description of her self-pleasuring while her soon to be lover watches is astonishingly hot: so much so that I used the incident for inspiration for a small scene in my story, a Boudoir for Three .

Historical novelists have long hinted at arcane societies that existed to indulge in sexual excesses. These groups certainly existed at this time. Most of the novels I have read cast members of these groups as the villains, in many cases, rightly so.  The class system meant that members of the upper classes, the aristocracy in particular, didn’t bother with the inconvenient issue of consent, especially if their chosen victim was of a substantially lower class.  The Marquis de Sade, who gave his name to sadism, took this to the extreme. His book, 120 Days of Sodom, has scenes of extreme cruelty and de Sade’s pleasure depends very much on the victims being unwilling. De Sade was jailed for his writings, even though there is some suggestion most of the scenes he claims to have participated in were imaginary. I find them so distasteful I cannot read more than the introduction of the work.

I don’t in any way defend any act that does not involve consenting adults, but there were other places where indulgence was entirely of a consenting nature. Many society marriages were based on economic and social considerations, there was a generally held belief that morality was a middle-class concept, and while young, unmarried girls were guarded closely to protect their reputations, once a married woman had provided her husband with an heir and a spare, provided she did it discreetly, she was free to indulge in whatever sexual dalliances she chose. 

Boredom and privilege left these people searching for anything to entertain them and sexual exploration offered a brief respite from ennui. Private balls were held where rooms were provided for quick sex. Masks provided the discretion required. Gatherings happened in private homes and occasionally in places dedicated to what we could only call sex clubs in rooms decorated with erotic paintings and statuary and furnished with couches where patrons could indulge in multiple partners, group sex, oral sex, voyeurism and more. Select members of the upper crust attended. Often the host also provided willing females (and occasionally young men) from lower orders. At these parties attractive young women who lived outside of society hoped to find a protector to make her his mistress. Paris was a popular location for these clubs. Georgette Heyer hints at it in her novel These Old Shades, where his Grace of Avon sends his page Leon away from one such gathering so that he might not be corrupted

Some of the more risqué adventures rumoured to have taken place, sometimes involving well known historical figures would shock anyone, even today. The Russian Empress, Catherine the Great, taking the idea of hung like a stallion way too literally, was reported to have rigged a lifting harness so she could have intercourse with a horse. Some accounts even said she died of a rupture caused by this.
Happily, it wasn’t true. She did have a great sexual appetite and had a string of lovers, but the horse rumour was put about by her enemies. I imagine this comes as a source of relief not only to Catherine’s descendents but also to the horse.

The erotic has been with us since humans first began to represent ideas in art and language. As with all human endeavour, some of it is good, some is poor and some pushes the boundaries of what we can tolerate. Tastes change, ideas change, but interest in sex is hard wired into us. Alongside humanity’s continued interest in the sexual, there has always been someone trying to tell us it is wrong. So far, they have failed dismally to convince us. And long may they continue to fail. Consensual sex is good, dirty fun and doesn’t hurt society at all...and we have history to back us up.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Passion’s Wings
Seraphina gave a last reassuring pat to the tower of powdered curls on her head, subtly adjusted the placement of her jewelled mask, smoothed the gathered heaviness of her white satin and velvet gown, wriggled her shoulders to settle the weight of the angel wings on them and stepped forward into the ballroom.
The tall vision in white and silver, breasts round and blushing, trembling on the edge of the low cut neckline, the long line of leg covered by the voluminous swathes of her dress but hinted at by the sensuous swing of her skirts as she moved, piqued even the jaded appetites of eighteenth century France.
Music played, but the gloriously costumed creatures in the Versailles inspired mirrored room were more intent on dalliance than dance. Every person there was a member of the aristocracy and knew perfectly well the behaviours expected of polite society.  They also knew at this ball, masked, private and known to only a select few, those behaviours had been put aside.
Marriages, made for reasons that had nothing to do with love or attraction, were forgotten. Random couplings were part of the entertainment, where costume, if one chose to wear it, and the anonymity of masks, gave license to behave in a way that would shock the bourgeois citizens of Paris.
From out of the crowd, a man, taller even than Seraphina, gorgeously clad in a silver-laced frock coat, and silver breeches, clocked stockings on his shapely calves, his shoes diamond buckled and sporting red heels, stepped in front of her and bowed low. “An angel has graced our festivities.” He looked up from where his lips caressed the hand she offered. Behind the mask, his eyes, as intensely blue as her own twinkled with amusement at a secret Seraphina could not guess. “How delicious an irony.”
Seraphina raised arched brows. “Irony, sir? How so?”
He hesitated for a moment, then spoke. “Why, only that in this den of iniquity it is surprising to see one who represents such purity.” He tucked Seraphina’s arm in his. As logical as his words were, Seraphina had the impression he had not told her what he really meant.
With no more than a glance he brought a footman to his side and procured two glasses of champagne. The first sip exploded in her mouth. “Oh, I am drinking stars!”
His shapely lips curved. “This is a new experience for you, Madam?”
“Yes. Oh Yes.”
“It is refreshing to see someone express enjoyment. Ennui is very much the style here.”
Seraphina glanced around. Her eyes glittered. “There is so much to see, so much I want to experience and I have such a short time.”
“Ah. A jealous husband perhaps? If your time is limited, let us make the best use of it.”
He walked with her through the curtains at one end of the ballroom, into an alcove where lounges lined the walls. The true nature of the evening’s entertainment was revealed. A Dresden shepherdess lay on her back, her flounced and ruffled petticoats frothing around the head and shoulders of the harlequin who knelt between her thighs. His head bobbed as he kissed and licked, an erotic dance choreographed to the musical score of the moans and sighs of the shepherdess.
Seraphina gasped, but she leaned forward, her eyes widening as she took it all in. Her companion looked not at the scene in front of him, but at the angel by his side. He stroked her cheek. “So warm. You blush, my angel. Can it be that you are not so worldly wise after all?”
Through tightened throat, Seraphina gasped out. “No. I haven’t... I wanted to see... but I didn’t know...”
His arm, where her hand rested, tightened against his side, pulling her in close. “Do you wish to leave? Does it offend you?”
Seraphina slowly shook her head. “No. I want to...” She turned to look at him, put her hand to her breasts. “It makes me feel, fluttery, warm...”
The man slid his finger under her chin, lifted it and lowered his lips to hers. His mouth moved softly, subtly, until her lips opened under his and his tongue moved and mated with hers. Again she tasted stars. Sensation fizzled and popped where his tongue stroked and explored. Hers moved shyly and his arms tightened around her. She was surrounded by his scent and taste, warm, honey sweet. Its depth and intensity weakened her muscles until she clung to him as her only support.
Long, long moments later he pulled back and looked at her, his breathing heavy, his eyes under the mask hooded, the wide black pupils almost obscuring the celestial blue. “You are divine, my angel.”
He bent his head again and this time Seraphina heard the music of the spheres, its clear perfection sweeping her into a new realm. Her lover moved, forcing her backwards. She prepared to sink onto one of the vacant couches. “No.” His deep voice whispered in her ear. “We do not make sport for lesser beings.” He took her hand and led her out, up a staircase and into a private boudoir. He turned the key in the lock. Flames danced in his eyes as he stepped forward and unbuttoned his coat. “Turn around.” His voice commanded, left no room for hesitation. Seraphina did as she was told.
He unlaced her dress, discarding the attached wings. He pushed the gown off her shoulders, running his hands slowly across the smooth skin of her back, lingering on her shoulder blades long enough to make Seraphina stiffen in trepidation. He murmured, “I wonder.” But before Seraphina could ask him what he wondered, he pushed the dress and all its petticoats down past her hips and turned her for another kiss, hotter and more arousing than the last. He lowered her onto the bed, stripped off his own clothing and came down onto one knee beside her. He ran a long finger over her rosy, aroused nipples. “But how delightful, my dear. No underwear at all.”
Seraphina felt her face heat. “I didn’t know about underwear.”
He laughed. “I dare say you didn’t. Some information is hard to come by, isn’t it?”
Her brow wrinkled. His words seemed to hint at knowledge he couldn’t have, but before she could think more, he kissed her again and all thought flew from her head.
His hands slid over her body, leaving a trail of sparks in their wake. Her skin tingled and heated, making her twitch and squirm with a fever of desire for something she couldn’t name or describe but knew she needed more than she had ever needed anything.
His warm, moist mouth dropped to her nipples, sucking and licking. A line of fire flashed its way to the hollow place between her legs. She groaned and let them fall open. His hand cupped her, and he slid one finger along the hot moist crease until in slid into the slick velvet grip of her pussy, his thumb caressing the hard little nub of her clit.
She stiffened, then a delicious languor spread through her, making every muscle melt into a warm, receptive puddle. His thumb rotated, faster and faster, whirling her tighter again until she arched and screamed as wave after wave of sensation pulsed through her. She was still quaking when he slid down the bed until his mouth replaced his thumb. His tongue flickered and he sucked her clit in the hot recesses of his mouth. His teeth scraped it lightly.
His fingers slid backwards and forwards inside her vagina, spreading the moisture, stretching and preparing her.
Her head twisted from side to side as the coil wound up once more, pulling her toward yet another shattering climax.
This time when she opened her eyes, his heavy cock was lodged at the entrance to her vagina. He leaned on his elbows, his hands cupping her head. She focused on his face, his eyes, still covered by the mask, locked on hers. His beautiful mouth moved. “Are you ready?”
She nodded and he took her with one swift thrust. She tensed at the short sharp pain, then gave herself up to the startling, wonderful thickness of his cock filling the void.
His powerful shoulders shuddered and a sigh of ecstasy escaped his lips. “So many firsts for you tonight, my angel.”
And then he didn’t say another word. His hips flexed, driving his cock in and out with frantic need, the smooth, controlled lover buried beneath the wild flow of desire. He took Seraphina with him, higher and higher until they stood at the edge of the precipice and hurtled off together, flying into an unknown sky where light burst in iridescent rainbows around them.
When long moments later consciousness returned, Seraphina turned her dazed eyes upon him. He slumped beside her but under the pressure of her gaze he turned and pressed a gentle kiss upon her lips. “So beautiful, my angel.”
She lay there in a haze of satisfaction and love until far way, in some other room, a clock chimed. She idly counted the bells, ticking them off in her mind. When they got to four, she held her breath, waiting for the next, the chime that must follow if they were to add up to twelve. Silence. Horror hit her. She had been supposed to leave at midnight. If it had been one, even two o’clock, she might have made it back without being caught, but four!
She leapt out of bed, grabbed her dress and fled. As she bolted from the room her lover raised himself up on his elbow, gave a faint smile and whispered, “Au revoir, my angel.”
Her flight occupied all of her thoughts. She raced past startled ball guests, out into the darkened grounds. She dragged her real wings and robe out from under the bushes where she’d hidden them, transformed herself and hurtled skywards, all the time praying, “Don’t let them catch me.”
Her prayers were wasted. When she reached the Pearly Gates, a trio of warrior angels waited, arms folded, faces grim. One stepped forward and grasped her arm. “You have been on earth.”
Seraphina braced herself. She had been caught, she would be punished, but she would not let them break her spirit. The experience she had was worth anything they could do to her. She straightened her spine and stared at them.
“This is not the first time you have left heaven, is it?” The warrior’s voice was accusatory.
“No.” Good, she sounded firm and in control. “I was curious. I needed to know what it was like.” She looked at their disapproving faces. “I could have done worse. I was tempted to go with the others when Lucifer led them away, but I stayed.” Her resolution wavered. “But I’ve always wondered what it would be like, so I’ve made a few short visits. And I bet I’m not the only one. Who does it hurt?”
The warrior angel glared at her. “It is against the rules and it is not up to you to decide what causes harm and what doesn’t.”
“Am I to be punished?” She hated the little girl fear she heard in her own voice. Whatever else, after tonight’s events, she was a woman. She cleared her throat and spoke firmly. “I don’t care what you do to me. Throw me out of heaven if you want.” She thought of her lover and smiled. “I’ll go happily.”
“No. You will remain here, where you will be re-educated under watchful guard to ensure you never escape again.
For the first time, Seraphina felt truly defeated. Watched constantly. Confined here for eternity. To never find her lover and never, ever have those moments of delight with the man she loved. The word made her blink away a tear. As absurd, as impossible as it was, in those few short hours she had fallen in love with a perfect, nameless, beautiful stranger she would never see again. Sorrow overcame her and she bowed her head.
The warrior continued to speak, chastising her and pronouncing her sentence. His words droned on, making little sense, not penetrating her pain. It was only as he reached the end of his speech that she heard what he was saying. “...senior archangel has appointed himself your warden. You will be under his constant care and constraint.”
Through the tears blurring her eyes, she saw the golden glow of an approaching archangel. These were the upper crust of Heaven’s denizens. An angel as low in the ranks as she was seldom, if ever, saw one. The warrior angels beside her fell silent. The archangel came nearer, stood before her, and still she didn’t look up.
The angel who held her, let go and said, “You will leave with your custodian. Do as he bids you at all times.”
The archangel took a step forward.
Seraphina gasped.
Poking out from under the glowing hem of the archangel’s robe was a silver shoe with a diamond buckle and a red heel. She snapped her head upwards and met the amused and loving gaze of a pair of celestial blue eyes.
His hand closed about her elbow. “Come, my angel.”
The End

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Copyright © ALYSHA ELLIS, 2012
All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
Tybor folded his arms across his heavily muscled chest, spread his legs wide and ran his gaze over the slender young man in front of him. He let his lip curl into a sneer and turned to speak over his shoulder to the captain of the guard.
“I work with Dvalinn warriors, not weakling schoolboys.”
The captain stepped forward to stand next to the young man he’d brought down to Tybor’s rooms.
Huon’s an adult, Tybor, and he’s passed every assessment with flying colors.”
Tybor snorted and his voice, already deep, dropped even lower. “You called me away from a training session to discuss this? Look at him,” he scoffed. “He’s as lily-white and green as a snowdrop. A strong breeze would break him.”
The boy—Tybor refused to call him a man—lifted his head and their gazes met.
“I don’t have to be three feet wide across the shoulders to be strong. I can do anything you need me to do.”
Eyes narrowed, hands on hips, Tybor glared at the boy. Generations of hardened soldiers had quailed under that fierce look. The boy stared right back, blue eyes wide, his gaze open, hands clenched lightly by his sides.
“You’re supposed to be the best,” he said.
The captain nodded at Huon. “He is.” Then he turned back to Tybor. “Huon is unique among the Dvalinn. We need him and we need him battle ready.” He lifted one brow and asked, “Are you telling me you can’t do it?”
Dust and sweat stained Tybor’s combat pants. “I can train him. Whether he can handle it is a different matter.” He returned his attention to the boy. “If you work with me you will work harder than you ever have before. You will do whatever I tell you, whenever and however I tell you. No arguments, no questions, no rest. If you so much as falter, you’re done. Do you understand?”
The boy didn’t blink. “Yes.”
“Yes, sir,” Tybor snapped.
The boy hesitated.
“At once.”
”Yes, sir.” Although the words were correct, the edge of defiance the boy used robbed them of any deference or subservience. His shoulders remained square, firm and unmoving.
The captain touched his cap in a silent salute and left the room, pulling the door shut behind him.
Tybor took a step forward. He picked up the boy’s arm, pushed his baggy shirt up, wrapped his fingers around his forearm and squeezed. Silken ivory skin covered a layer of surprisingly firm muscle. The boy’s smooth flesh burned against Tybor’s hand. He released him and stepped back, resisting the urge to clutch his tingling palm to his chest.
“Do you understand what we do? What I do?”
The boy’s gaze sharpened and his eyes glittered. “You train Dvalinn warriors to go into the humans’ world, to destroy those who seek to obliterate our kind.”
Tybor nodded. “We are at war. And humans have weapons the Dvalinn cannot and will not use.”
For the first time uncertainty and confusion clouded the boy’s blue eyes. “Humans and the Dvalinn are from the same stock. How did we come to be at war?”
Tybor’s lips tightened. “Ask a historian. My job is to train warriors.”
The boy’s brows lifted. “Warriors who kill humans?”
Tybor shook his head. “We don’t kill all humans. Only Gatekeepers. Most surface dwellers don’t know we exist. But the Gatekeepers know. Know us and hate us and have sworn to kill as many of our kind as they can. Dvalinn warriors,” Tybor laced the word with the scorn he felt for the boy in front of him, “come here to learn the skills they need to stop them.”
“Have you trained many of them personally…sir?” This time the tacked-on word sounded more respectful, less of a challenge.
“Too many.” Pain he refused to give in to gripped Tybor. “Men—stronger, older, wiser than you will ever be. Each one trains for as long as it takes to perfect his abilities and send him out into the world to do battle.” Tybor poked a finger toward Huon’s narrow chest. “Most of them never return. This is not a job for the weak, when even the strong do not survive.”
“But you survived, sir. Your battles are legendary.” Color rose in Huon’s cheeks, flushing the ivory a delicate rose-pink.
Tybor’s breath stilled and he looked over the boy’s head. “Legendary because they happened so long ago. For almost five hundred years I have trained young men to do what I’m no longer permitted to.” He turned his back on Huon and picked up the envelope the captain had left on the bench seat of a weight-training machine. “I need to know your assignment, to see if it’s possible to get you even halfway ready.” He ran a finger under the flap of the envelope.
Huon stepped forward and stretched to look over Tybor’s shoulder.
Tybor spun around. His hand shot out, slamming the boy to the ground before he knew what was coming. Tybor hit hard, not caring if he hurt him. If he couldn’t cut it, better to know it now before he made a pretty, pale, useless corpse.
“You only move if and when I tell you to,” he growled. “Drag your ass back up and stand at attention.”
He glanced at the kid. Blood ran down his cheek from a cut over his forehead but he didn’t wipe it away or show any sign he’d noticed. This one might be worth the trouble of training.
“From this moment on, you don’t walk, eat, take a piss or breathe unless I give you the fucking order. Is that clear?”
“Yes, sir.”
Tybor pulled out the papers and read. The printed words, clear and unambiguous, felt like lead weights on his shoulders.
The boy remained at attention, showing no sign of submission or fear. Maybe it would be better if he had. A coward wouldn’t last through Tybor’s harsh training regime, and if he couldn’t finish the training, he couldn’t be sent on the mission described in the papers Tybor clutched in his hand. He raised his eyes and studied the young man in front of him. From the moment the chief of staff had signed these orders, Huon—beautiful, reed-slender, confident Huon—had joined the ranks of the dead.