The ecstasy of his release was much needed. Koston felt his breath escape him as he pulled himself out of his younger lover and took to the pillows beside him, drenched in his own musky sweat.
Damien rolled onto his back beside him and smiled from ear to ear. “Good gods that was hot!”
Koston felt Damien’s eyes on him, but he found himself glancing nervously at the windows of Damien’s home. Black curtains were draped over the already closed blinds. The younger man’s bedroom door was locked and his front door was bolted shut upon Koston’s arrival. He told Damien that it was the only way he would to come by, to which Damien had rolled his eyes during their telechat and reminded the captain that he knew the drill.
The young man leaned over and draped a hand across Koston’s chest, swirling a finger around the patch of fur between his pectorals. He cuddled up beside the captain’s shoulder in an attempt to be enveloped in his nook. “Tell me,” He said, “you’ll still be able to visit even after you become the queen’s advisor, won’t you?”
Koston remained flat on his back and stared at the white ceiling and the skylight had been covered to conceal their activities. He let his thoughts run adrift, forgetting that Damien had even asked him a question.
Damien’s hazel eyes glossed over Koston’s muscular frame, taking mental pictures of his physique for those times when Koston couldn’t be around. “I know it will be more difficult for you to, but I promise I’ll make it worth it.”
Koston watched Damien lick his lips seductively, coyly trying to get an answer out of him, but as soon as Koston had finished inside of him, his thoughts returned to his immediate future. The following morning he and his son would travel to Kalia to visit his cousin, Queen Justine. The day after his return home to Cardeau, his inauguration party was to begin. He would no longer be the Captain of Cardeau: the job he had dreamt of having until the day of his retirement. His life would no longer be about maintaining peace within the palace walls. That fantasy came to an end the moment those cursed words left his lips on the day he saw his queen come close to a break down.
His lover rolled away from him and sat up in his bed. It was only then that Koston bid him attention, but it was too late. Their night of sexual prowess and distractions had come to an end, done so by the man who desperately needed his mind to be elsewhere.
“Damien, I’m sorry.”
Damien’s head slid back toward Koston’s direction just enough for the captain to see his sly smile. “You have no reason to be sorry. I know why you come here, and in all of the years that you have, have I ever once misconstrued our relationship with one another?”
No, but talking about it doesn’t help.
Koston sat up, resting his back against the rickety headboard. He eyed the edges of the bed, as if the mattress was a raft and the water beyond was corroded. As much as he had looked forward to their evening between the sheets, he could do nothing but think of the next few days and how his life would be forever changed.
Damien must have noticed his reluctance and placed a consoling hand on his knee. “You are going to be an amazing advisor.”
Damien’s words fell deaf to Koston’s ears. His knights had been telling him the same thing ever since the announcement of his inauguration was made. People in the streets were already bowing to him and sometimes asked if they could get an autograph or even hold his hand. The palace servants were no different. A few of them sometimes waited outside of his apartment in the palace to tell him how blessed they felt to wash his sheets and fold his clothes.
His young lover laughed. “I fear that I might not have done enough to satisfy you. You seem deeper in thought now than when you came in.”
“Stop apologizing—especially after that!” Damien placed a hand on his chest again. “My heart is still racing.”
Koston was able to break a smile. “I know what you like.”
“You do,” he replied. “I, uh, I got a little something to show you my sign of support.”
Koston hid his grimace from Damien as his younger lover got out of bed, wearing nothing but a sheet he’d draped around his loins. He knelt down toward his nightstand and grabbed a frame that had been leaning against it. Damien first held it against his chest, concealing it from him as if he was about to give him the greatest birthday gift ever. When he revealed it, it took every ounce of Koston’s strength not to wince.
The frame revealed not one picture, but two. The image on the left was of Abraham Donnick, Koston’s grandfather, who started out as the youngest child from a family in poverty and went on to become the Monarch Superior. He wasn’t just any Monarch Superior, but the one that was said to have prevented seven wars and helped the world become more prosperous than any other Superior in the last three centuries. The image on the right was of Koston in his Captain’s uniform. People always told him that he looked just like his grandfather, and in this pair of images the resemblance was uncanny. They shared the same shoulder-length dirty blonde hair, the same noble brown eyes, and bore the tracings of the same smile that made the world confident in their actions and feel safe in their care.
“The people of Cardeau—Gods, the people of Noreis all believe that you are the second coming of your grandfather. I’ve been hearing wishes and whispers of those longing for you to trace his footsteps for years. People talk about it in the streets, pray for it in the churches… they even speak of it in the brothels. You are going to be a great advisor, Koston,” Damien said, resting the dual picture on his nightstand. “I just hope you’ll still find time for me while you’re out there making the world a better place.”
Koston could only nod, genuinely at a loss for words. He expected his knights, his servants, and Cardeau civilians to present him with tokens of their admiration. He just wasn’t expecting it from his whore as well.
Captain Donnick knew that he wouldn’t be able to go straight from Damien’s to his quarters. Queen Kallisto would never allow that—not with so much happening in his absence. He wasn’t yet her advisor, but that didn’t stop her from adding to his responsibilities. She was going to make sure that this transition was as miserable as possible. In return, he was going to stand by her and use his weight to keep her on the throne. Those that dared to speak told him that they didn’t understand why he was helping her. His response was always the same: “you don’t have to.”
The queen wore a bright blue dress that would have made any other woman look like a fairy tale princess. When Kallisto wore it, it looked like the gown of an ice queen. The blue matched her icy eyes while her platinum hair draped around her shoulders. It rarely moved when she spoke, as if it had been frozen in time. A white circlet was placed atop her head and her bangs were interwoven into it like snakes wrapping around it, squeezing life out of the fake white leaves.
“I messaged you nearly an hour ago,” Kallisto said from the head of the conference table with a glass of schnapps in her hand, looking as if she’d sat perfectly still while waiting for his arrival.
Koston blushed and ran his fingers through his hair to make sure that no strands were out of place. He didn’t need Kallisto to know why he wasn’t answering her calls. “My apologies,” he said, taking a seat to the right of her. “What can I do for you, Your Highness?”
“Well, I wanted to go over the seating chart for the inauguration dinner, being that you’re leaving tomorrow on an ill-planned vacation that will occupy your time right up until the party,” she scathed. “But while Terence and I were waiting for you, we did it ourselves. We also met to finalize the courses and the wine selection for the cocktail party afterward—all things that you were supposed to take care of over a week ago.”
I cannot wait to work with you on a daily basis.
“I am sorry, my queen,” he said with an obligatory lowering of his head. “I’ve been busy working with Sir Poltowe. I want to ensure that he’s prepared to lead the Guard during this transition.”
“The knights of Cardeau practically run themselves. There hasn’t been an attack on this palace in sixty years. Helping Sir Poltowe prepare marching patterns and writing tedious schedules is hardly at the top of your list of priorities, and as my advisor you’re going to have to master organizing that list and manage your time more wisely.”
The memories of rolling around naked in the sheets with Damien felt distant in her presence. All of the joy he only just experienced was flushed out of him. “I will learn, Your Highness.”
“You’re going to have to,” she replied. “We have a lot to accomplish the moment that ceremony ends, from the second you say that oath until my throne is no longer challenged. I have no intention of being relieved of my title, and the very thought of losing it to Chiron Roltare—”
“It will not happen.”
Although the kings and queens of Noreis often served lifelong terms, many of the city-states placed limitations to their absolutism in their constitutions. If a monarch was deemed unfit to rule, or if there was enough apprehension about their ability to run a city-state with the people’s best interest in mind, a new leader could be elected in their place. The people of Noreis had discovered long ago that allowing for special votes proved to be a much better solution than physically removing a monarch from office by execution or revolution.
District Representative Chiron Roltare had long been opposed to the queen’s actions and was quite vocal about wanting to take her place. Unfortunately, he was no better than she was. His opinions and policies went to the highest bidder. His stances changed as often as his investors, and he had little respect for the people he represented.
While Kallisto wasn’t the most admirable leader Cardeau had ever seen, she at least kept her platform consistent. Even if she was about to run him ragged, he could at least respect the woman she used to be; the woman that was there for his late wife in her most desperate times of need. Every now and then he caught a glimpse of that Kallisto; a glimmer of the philanthropic social worker that once gave girls a role model and women an aspiration. That person was still there somewhere, at least in his mind.
“It sounds like most of the preparations for the inaugural ceremony are in order,” Koston said. “I met with Terence the other day to discuss the oath and the closing party.”
“You did?” Kallisto said, defrosting a little. “He didn’t mention that.”
“You had asked me to,” he replied. “I managed to find time in my busy schedule. I figured that, since I’m gone for the next few days, it would be one less thing on your very full plate.”
“One less thing, yes.” She sighed. “Oh, Koston, if you only knew just how large that plate is.”
“I will soon. And when I return we will work together to take on the duties that Advisor Tarkinson abandoned upon his resignation.”
Kallisto crossed one leg over the other. “And we will work together to ensure that we can avoid any further… scandals.”
Yes, though “scandal” is a polite word for what you had done, my queen.
“Is there anything else you require of me?” he asked. “I have an early morning tomorrow.”
“No,” she said plainly. “Everything I needed from you was done before you got here. Get some rest. I’ll see you in a few days.”
Koston didn’t waste his time trying to escape the queen’s conference room. The chills she emitted from her bittering presence were beginning to seep under his skin. He withdrew himself from his seat beside her and headed towards the door.
“Koston,” she said.
Her words paralyzed his feet.
“Are you planning on walking around the busier palace halls on your way back to your quarters?”
“I don’t know, why?”
“Because you shouldn’t,” she scolded. “And adjust your collar. I cannot have my future right hand looking like a whore… or smelling like one, for that matter.”
Koston could think of no response. Instead he kept walking, leaving the queen to the iciness she’d emitted in the room.
To read "The Raven of Dusk: Transcendence" -- http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VUGO0SQ
To read "The Raven of Dusk: Transcendence" -- http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VUGO0SQ