I wanted to hear him tell me he still regretted nothing. . . .
|“So . . . what’s the plan of attack for today?”
I was lying in bed, still wrapped up in the most satisfying afterglow, wishing I could spend the rest of the day exactly that way. But Bleddyn had already levered himself off me and was sitting up. I took the opportunity to ogle the way his muscles moved easily under his pale skin. He stretched and stood, giving me a drool-worthy view of his ass which was still, in a word, perfect.
I watched as he first went to the small table near the guarderobe and splashed his face with the water in the basin. Then he picked up a wide piece of flannel lying next to it, one of three, and gave himself a quick spot-clean, quickly wiping away come and salve.
Lastly, he retrieved his trousers, boots, and shirt and pulled them on efficiently. Not once did he look at me, nor did he speak, till my afterglow had begun to recede, and turn to something less pleasant.
“The plan,” he said grimly, his head finally inclined toward me slightly. “Is we search the Forest for your companions, in case they, too, were sent back, and know not that they were. If we find traces of them we shall track them and reunite you with them. If we do not . . . then we shall continue the search for them anyway, to cover our true quest: the way to . . . to send you back to your own time. God willing.”
“Yes. God willing,” I said, remembering fully where I was and what was happening. That the last thing I wanted to be doing was tying myself to a time that wasn’t my own. Something Bleddyn had clearly figured out before I did.
Though, perhaps unfortunately—even as I thought it, I, like Bleddyn had professed, could not regret what had transpired between us—not before we’d created one hell of a complication.
But it doesn’t have to be complicated, does it? I asked myself, and received no useful answer. No answer that I liked. We’re just two guys who got together and got off. It doesn’t have to mean more than that. Maybe chivalrous Sir Knight, here, doesn’t understand that, but I do. And I can make him understand, too. I have to, or else the next however long I’m here is going to be really awkward. . . .
I sighed and sat up, watching the stiff, tense line of Bleddyn’s broad shoulders, and found myself at a loss for words. But I tried, nonetheless. “Bleddyn, I—”
“I’ll leave you to prepare for the day,” he said before I could find out what I would have said. “You’ll have to break your fast on the fly, as we ride.”
“If you say so,” I mumbled just as my stomach growled ferociously. I’d only picked at my dinner the night before, too nervous and keyed up to have much of an appetite. But after this morning . . . I suppose I could’ve eaten a horse.
Bleddyn turned to face me fully, and I blushed, not meeting his eyes, even though I could feel his gaze on me, considering and intent.
I wanted to hear him tell me he still regretted nothing. That he’d enjoyed being with me—that being with me was a game-changer. I wanted to hear him say that he would stop trying to bury who he was under his father’s expectations or his people’s, and go after what he truly wanted, wherever that lead him.
I wanted to tell him to be proud and unashamed.
I risked looking up at him, meaning to say these things and more, but the words died on my lips at the grim, closed off look on his face. He looked, in that moment, just like his father.
So in the end, I said nothing, and Bleddyn simply turned and left.
“Master Karthik? I—I have a b-boon I would beg of you.”
Wincing and twinging at the discomfort of riding just an hour after getting the fucking of my life from Bleddyn, I looked up morosely from the back of my pony’s head and over at Owen Wynn. “I’m at your disposal, my lord,” I said listlessly. My ass hurt, and my stomach was churning as it tried to process the breakfast of two hard, dried apples and a chunk of bread I’d recently fed it, all while horsed on the slowest, most wobbly-gaited pony known to man.
When I’d first seen the damn thing—sway-backed and not on the young side—I’d eyed it with some trepidation, glancing at Bleddyn as if to ask are you serious? Bleddyn, who’d been at best lukewarm to me since right after our assignation, had frowned.
“I suppose this was father’s doing,” he’d muttered to himself with a sigh, and I’d raised one eyebrow.
“Oh, you mean the man whose favorite person I am? Well. That’s just awesome.” I rolled my eyes, but didn’t protest when Bleddyn helped me onto the pony, which was named, of all things, Queen.
Around us in the courtyard, armed men mounted up on sturdy horses, including Owen, the baronet’s second oldest son, and Bleddyn’s father, Rhys, who hadn’t looked at me or acknowledged my presence once since he’d greeted me so warmly yesterday.
When Bleddyn mounted and joined his father at the head of the small company of men—about ten of us, altogether—Rhys gave the signal to ride out. And out we rode. Through the muddy, stinky courtyard, and down to the road. From my vantage point of last ride, I got a lovely opportunity to eat everyone else’s dust, along with my cold, tough breakfast.
Everyone had gotten just far enough ahead of me that all I could see were horses’ asses and the glint of metal. Having resigned myself to getting lost in the Forest twice in two days, I had half-heartedly clucked at the pony to get her to move faster, but she wouldn’t. And I hadn’t been about to call for the macho dicks on their mustangs to slow down. I wouldn’t have given Rhys or Bleddyn the satisfaction.
So I’d rode along, my ass and stomach complaining, gazing at the bay pony’s mane and trusting the animal to be able to follow her nose to wherever the others fetched up. But I’d been so enmeshed in my own world of misery and confusion—of course my thoughts were centered around Bleddyn and the cold shoulder I’d received from him all morning, after his sweet words of flattery (before he fucked me, of course) and the way his dark eyes had gentled when they looked at me, instead of turning opaque—I hadn’t noticed one of the riders slowing his horse and waiting for my slow-ass pony to catch up.
Now, I waited for Owen to make his request, whatever it was. I looked him over frankly when his brow furrowed as he sought to phrase whatever it was he would say. He was a handsome man, like his older brother and father, only with darker hair and a paler complexion. Yet he had the same Wynn-canniness about his square, fine-featured face.
“I would hear a t-tale of where you come from,” Owen finally said in his husky, cautiously-excited tenor, his blue eyes round and almost childlike in their anticipation. “A tale directly from the shores of, erm, from where, again, do you hail?”
“Um. America,” I said hesitantly, then mentally shrugging. It’s not as if they’d guess from the name that I was a time traveler.
“Yes, America!” Owen said, as if he said the name every day. “It must be a truly grand kingdom, indeed, to nurture so many kinds of people from so many places.”
“Oh, yeah. The good ol’ United States of America is one big melting-pot.” I laughed, only half ironically, and glanced over at the baronet’s son again. “But I’m no story-teller. I get details mixed up and leave things out. I have to backtrack just so people know what I’m talking about. I mangle the stories I tell.”
Owen frowned, and it bordered on a pout. “Any tale you could tell me—one I haven’t heard before—would be most appreciated, Master Karthik. I would be your captive audience,” he added, blinking those big blue eyes at me and I blushed, glancing ahead of us at the asses of all the other horses. I couldn’t spot Bleddyn or Rhys leading the party, such as it was.
“Well,” I said hesitantly. “There’s one story I’m especially fond of . . . it’s a, er, tale of a ring of great power. Uh . . . magic powers,” I muttered, anxiously, wondering if Owen would freak out at the word ‘magic.’
But he looked, if possible, even more excited than he had before, leaning slightly closer to me—as much as he could on the back of his horse—like a kid anticipating a really good bedtime story.
“It, uh . . . it began with the forging of the great rings of power: Three were given to the Elves, immortal, wisest, and fairest of all beings. . . . “
Half an hour or so later—as best as I could tell with no watch or cellphone—Rhys called a halt.
“’I ain’t been droppin’ no eaves, sir, honest!’ Samwise Gamgee exclaimed, frightened as the wizard held him down on the table and glared at him fiercely,” I told Owen, who was still listening raptly, when the call went up to stop. Owen and I both blinked at each other, looked up and ahead, then back at each other and laughed.
“It appears,” he began, grinning, “that we have reached the place where Bleddyn found you,” he said, looking around. I took a page from his book and did the same. This spot looked like every other bit of Gwydir Forest we’d passed through. Perhaps if there’d been fog, it might have looked more familiar.
Owen and I nudged our horses to catch up to the others, and for a wonder, Queen obeyed, picking up her unhurried pace to a slightly hurried one, but still not managing to keep pace with Owen’s horse, Maddoc.
When I drew even with the others, they were already dismounting. I groaned under my breath and told myself that it’d be a cinch. That I’d just swing my way off Queen and hop to the ground. Neither ass, nor ankle would be jarred badly. It’d be simple and painless.
Yeah, right, I thought cynically, and took a steadying breath before standing slightly in the saddle and lifting my leg to swing it over Queen’s back. I’d just barely managed to make my aching leg cooperate despite my aching ass, when firm hands settled on my waist and lifted me down, placing me gently on the ground.
Blushing and swallowing my pride, I turned to thank Bleddyn—and found myself facing Owen, instead.
“You, erm, seemed to be having a spot of trouble dismounting,” he said softly, his blue eyes steady on my own. I found myself smiling, and still blushing.
“I was,” I admitted quietly. “But lucky me, I found out rumors of chivalry’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.”
Owen smiled at me, his own cheeks turning slightly red, and we stood there, staring at each other and grinning, not saying anything, when a throat was cleared to our left. I looked over to find Bleddyn standing there, looking grim and unhappy.
“Lord Owen. Master Karthik, this is where I found you, last evening,” he said formally, his eyes ticking between Owen and me before finally settling on me. “If you’ll join me at the front of the party, we may be able to retrace your steps and locate your companions.”
“Right. My companions,” I replied, with a final small smile for Owen. “Excuse me, my lord.”
“Of course,” Owen said warmly, and as Bleddyn took my arm by the elbow, and we made our way to the head of the group of men and horses, I could feel that warm gaze lingering on me.
Well . . . when it rains, it pours, I thought bemusedly, glancing at Bleddyn’s grim profile. I willed him to look at me, but after a few seconds I realized that wasn’t going to happen. So I sighed, looking dead ahead at the tangle of forest that looked like every other tangle of forest I’d ever seen. . . .
“Is it that you hate me, now?” I clapped a hand over my mouth, mortified. I had no idea where that question had come from. I certainly hadn’t meant to even think it, let alone say it.
Bleddyn’s hand tightened on my elbow for a moment . . . before relaxing and dropping away.
“Never could I hate you, Karthik of Nayar,” Bleddyn murmured simply, still not looking at me, though I was very much watching him from the corner of my eye. When we drew even with Rhys, the man was frowning, as ever, at me, as if finding me utterly distasteful. The feeling was mutual, and I let it show on my own face, which seemed to take him aback, before he merely looked affronted.
Then Bleddyn was leading me past his father with a light touch to the small of my back. That touch steadied me, and we began to look, in earnest, for any signs that my friends had traveled back to 1626, too.
“This is it,” I said about two, chilly hours later, looking around the empty clearing where my friends and I had made camp, yesterday. Or four hundred years from now.
There was no one there, and no sign that there ever had been. Not even a single gum wrapper or wadded-up tissue.
But I was certain this was the spot. We’d passed the like-new boulder and the stupid pond, which was practically a small lake in 1626. We didn’t pass the fallen tree, which, in this time, may well have been still standing.
“Are you quite certain?” Bleddyn asked me, scrutinizing the empty site with narrowed eyes. I nodded.
“I remember Dierdre chose this clearing because it looked the cleanest. Huh. If only she could see it, now,” I muttered sarcastically.
Behind us, the rest of the men lead their horses forward and began fanning out in the clearing. Rhys began to bark orders, sending his men off in pairs in three of the four cardinal directions, instructing them to search a few miles hence for any signs of the wayward travelers, and took himself and the last of the men—Rickert, I think—off in the fourth direction.
Leaving Bleddyn and I alone in the clearing.
Bleddyn immediately knelt and began studying the grass for goodness only knows what, leaving me to stand there twiddling my thumbs.
For lack of anything better to do—it was clear Bleddyn wasn’t going to talk to me, and I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to come crawling for companionship—I limped over to Queen and patted her side. She stood there stolidly, neither stamping her feet nor champing the grass. She just stared ahead of her, basically ignoring my sudden bout of affection.
Sighing, I leaned against her and turned to watch Bleddyn investigate the empty clearing. Because of his armor, I couldn’t even ogle his ass or his muscles.
This promised to be a long day and it wasn’t even noon yet.
“Your friends did not travel back with you.”
I’d finally given in—after about twenty minutes of watching Bleddyn kneel and examine grass-patch after rock after grass-patch—and sat cross-legged in the grass, my back against a tall, solid old tree. Wary, at first, of spiders or bugs, I’d tried not lean against it, but eventually my eyes grew heavy and I closed them.
Only to have them fly open when Bleddyn spoke. He was standing over and staring down at me, an unreadable look on his face. I yawned and sat up. “Well, I coulda told ya that. This clearing is way cleaner than it is in 2014. It’s pristine, in fact.”
Bleddyn grunted and held out his hand to me. After a few seconds of reluctance, I took it and let myself be pulled to my feet. Bleddyn not only hauled me up, but hauled me close, one hand still holding mine, the other settling on my waist.
His eyes were locked on my mouth as if he wanted to kiss me, but didn’t dare. So I took the matter out of his hands and kissed him. A quick, teasing kiss that Bleddyn didn’t respond to at first. It was only as I was pulling away, my face gone up in embarrassed flames, that Bleddyn made a low, growling sound in his throat and kissed me back passionately, possessively, his arms sliding around me—effectively pinning one arm behind my back—and holding me close. His mail armor was chilly and hard through the thin material of my shirt, but I could feel that the armor wasn’t the only thing that was hard on Bleddyn.
He pushed me back until I was pressed between him and the tree I’d fallen asleep against. He freed my hand, his own seeking out the hem of my shirt. I lifted my arms and in seconds I was bared to the chilly spring air. Bleddyn’s large, hot hands traveled the skin of my chest, callouses leaving gooseflesh in their wake, then doing the same on my back before sliding under the waistband of my trousers. He gripped and kneaded my ass slow and hard.
“Bleddyn,” I exhaled when his hot kisses wended their way to my ear. “Please . . . please. . . .”
“How is it you’ve ensnared me so?” Bleddyn mumbled like a man drunk. “What spell am I under that I desire you with such intensity? That even having you is not enough to sate me for more than mere minutes?”
And so saying, Bleddyn thrust himself against me hard, briefly pinning me to the tree, and I groaned, sliding my arms around his neck.
“If it’s a spell, it’s a good one,” I purred in his ear, and Bleddyn tensed in my arms, leaning back to look at me, that grim, Rhys-look back.
“Is it the same spell you would cast over my lord’s son?”
Confused, I blinked. “What?”
Bleddyn’s frown turned into a scowl. “Think you that I noticed not how closely you rode with him? That I noticed not how you . . . enchanted him with your talk and your eyes? That I noticed not how his eyes linger on you in a way most covetous?”
It took a few seconds to parse all that, but when I did, I was nonplussed. “You think I’m . . . trying to seduce Owen?”
“Lord Owen is falling under your spell as surely as I—” and here Bleddyn fell silent and simply scowled harder. “Is that your aim? To steal the hearts and minds of every one of Lord John’s men? Are you a witch, sent among us to sow havoc and licentiousness?”
Laughing incredulously, I shook my head, both irate and stung. “You didn’t have any problem sowing havoc and licentiousness, yourself, this morning! You didn’t seem to have any qualms about being ensnared when you were fucking me raw! Tell me, is this how you treated William after you had him?”
Bleddyn looked shocked, and all the color drained from his face. I immediately wanted to take back the last part of what I said. In retrospect, it felt like a low-blow. Way lower than anything Bleddyn had said so far.
“Bleddyn, I—I’m sorry,” I said quietly, trying to hold his gaze to show him how sincerely sorry I was. “I—that was below the belt and I shouldn’t have said it. I was just—angry and hurt. I didn’t mean to—wait, Bleddyn—”
But Bleddyn had already let me go and was walking away. I felt instantly colder for his absence.
“We . . . we should ride for Llanrwst or Trefriw. Mayhap, if your companions were swept back in time as you were, there would be some sign of them there.”
I swallowed, and kicked myself, wiping at my dry eyes to quell the stinging behind them. “But I thought you said my friends hadn’t come back with me.”
“They likely have not, Master Karthik. But if they did, and they arrived at some other point besides the Forest, then Llanrwst and Trefriw will be the places to start.” Bleddyn paused at his horse’s side, but did not mount.
I slowly approached him, making noise so as not to startle him. And when I was within touching distance, I put my hand on his shoulder, which tensed under my touch.
“I’m not—I’m not trying to ensnare Owen Wynn, Bleddyn,” I said softly. “He . . . is someone who could be a good friend, I suppose, if I’m here for long enough. But I’m not trying to . . . seduce him. I wouldn’t. Flirt with him? Perhaps. It’s my nature to be flirty. But seduce? Not if it causes you such . . . pain and consternation.”
Bleddyn hung his head. “Always has it been my great besetting sin: to desire that which I cannot or should not have, Karthik. And I desire you greatly.”
I found myself smiling and blushing. “I desire you greatly, too, Bleddyn. In case that wasn’t made clear this morning, when you fucked the common sense out of me.”
Bleddyn’s mailed shoulders relaxed a bit. “When I saw the way his lordship was gazing upon you, I could not see past that, nor past my own jealousy and covetousness. The merest thought that he should desire you the way I do—might want to lay with you, as I have lain . . . undid me, and overthrew my reason as surely and easily as a child topples a house made of playing cards.” Turning to look at me, Bleddyn took my hands and held them up to his face, kissing them. His eyes were solemn and sorrowful. “If you wish me to stand aside, so that you may follow whither your affections lead, you have only to say so, Karthik of Nayar. For never have I seen Lord Owen look at either person or thing the way he looked at you today.”
And with that, Bleddyn bowed, and let go of my hands.
Left speechless in the wake of Bleddyn’s assumptions—his obvious feelings for me, which ran deeper than was wise for either of us . . . and maybe he wasn’t alone in that—I could only dig in the voluminous pockets of my borrowed trousers. I came out with a small, hard apple, which I tossed in Queen’s general direction, and the small pot of salve that I’d yet to use on my ankle.
I held it out to Bleddyn, who took it with a hand that shook and looked at me questioningly. “You brought the salve with you?”
In response, I smiled, and hooked my thumbs in the waistband of my trousers and pushed them down. I stepped out of them and my unlaced hiking boots.
“What can I say? I thought it’d come in handy, one way or another.”
Glancing around the clearing, Bleddyn took a step toward me, then another. Then we were in each other’s arms, kissing and pressed tight against each other. One of Bleddyn’s hands cupped my face tenderly while the other settled on my ass, the pot of salve still in it.
Meanwhile I was scrabbling under his mail shirt for the waistband of his woolen trousers, then pushing them down, dropping to my knees with them.
At about eye-level with his cock, I finally looked away from his wide-eyed gaze, held up his armor shirt, and took another good look at him. He was above average in length and girthy, just the way I liked ‘em. He was brick-red, rock-hard—uncut, of course—and leaking at the tip. I stuck my tongue out like a kid trying to catch snowflakes and licked the head of his cock slowly, like it was a lollipop, and he made a noise that I’ve never heard another man make: choked and high-pitched, and half-squawk.
It was flattering.
I continued to lick and nibble at his cock, before finally just sucking him in and doing my best to deep-throat him. Bleddyn, for his part, held dead-still, and said nothing, though he did utter a few more of those weird squawks. I could feel his heated, awed gaze on the top of my head, and managed to angle myself so I could meet his eyes while sucking the pigment off his cock.
“Karthik, I—” he started to say, his voice tight and strained. I took him as deep as I could for a few seconds and he began groaning like a man who was about to come, so I backed off carefully, clamping down on the base of his cock.
“Not till you’re in me,” I said firmly, holding his gaze, and Bleddyn nodded, closing his eyes and breathing deep, measured breaths.
I let go of Bleddyn and picked up the pot of salve—which Bleddyn had dropped early on in the proceedings—opened it, and scooped out some of the slippery stuff. I let it warm a little before slathering the lion’s share of it on Bleddyn’s cock. Economically, without touching him too much, or for too long, because he was obviously near the edge.
With the rest of the salve left on my fingers, I stretched and prepared myself under Bleddyn’s wide-eyed, practically salivating gaze. I bit my lip on moans that made Bleddyn’s dark eyes glaze over and his cock hug his abdomen.
With a bare modicum of time I was—mostly—ready. I turned away from Bleddyn, going on all fours, and spread my legs as wide as I could.
In rapid succession, I felt Bleddyn’s gaze devouring me, then Bleddyn’s fingers holding me open, then Bleddyn’s cock skewering me in one hard, fast thrust. I keened, high and long, and scrambled for purchase in the grass and soil. Behind me, Bleddyn moaned softly, his hands sliding to my hips as he pulled out, then drove forward again, slamming my hips back into his own. I saw stars and gasped out Bleddyn’s name, shuddering all over like an old jalopy.
And so it went, Bleddyn filling me and filling me, hitting my prostate more often than he wasn’t, setting off fireworks behind my eyes. Every once in a while, he’d lean down to whisper in my ear that I was beautiful and lovely and his, and he’d kiss my shoulder or my nape, then carry on fucking me cross-eyed.
After one of those whispered endearments, he took it into his head to give me a reach-around. Not that he had to do much reaching or arounding. I was ready to explode, and just a few passes of his rough, calloused hand on my hot, uber-sensitive dick was enough to send me into the stratosphere.
And Bleddyn came a second behind me, each tangible throb of his cock adding to my own climax, as did the wet, hot pulse of his release. It was pleasure greater than I’d ever had with anyone else—familiar and new, and as right as anything I’d ever done. Righter, even. Something about Bleddyn made everything better, and my last thought before the world whited out, was that maybe being stuck in 1626—for a little while, anyway—wouldn’t be so bad, after all. . . .