Farewell from the Bookshelf!

Please note that GLBT Bookshelf -- the community wiki which was the parent to this fiction blog -- went offline on May 31, 2016, after seven years' service to members.

All Gay Romance will remain online till the end of 2016 in order to give contributors every opportunity to recover materials uploaded here.

Many thanks to all who contributed over the years, and good luck to everyone in your future works!


A Man Lay Dead in Winter (historical mystery) Part 2

This features a sort of 'test version' Jonty and Orlando from the Cambridge Fellows books, before they got relocated from the time of Stephen to Edward VII. More parts to come. (Part 1 is here.)

“What ails you?” Horace ran his hands over Johannes’s hair, smoothing and calming. He’d hardly begun his own slumbers when he’d been roused by the sound of muffled cries and sorrowful noises. He had rushed from his bed in the adjoining room (not his own, but one of the guest chambers that he’d appropriated for the night) and was now at the side of Johnannes’s bed. “Is it some memory of the time in Damascus?”

“No,” Johannes sounded like a drowning man searching for air, “No, it goes back much further.” He looked into the clear brown eyes that held his, the light of the small lamp dancing in their depths. “Do you really want me to enlighten you? I would find it a relief, I tell you true.”

“Then say all. Shall I send for a goblet of wine?”

“A cup of water would serve well, if it please you.”

Horace poured the water from the ewer into the little horn cup with his own hands; no servant, no matter how discreet, would be allowed to intrude upon this scene. He offered it and Johannes drank, with thanks.

“I was sent to the local priory when I was young, to learn my letters and other things as seemed to befit the Lord of the manor’s bastard. My stepmother felt it would be advantageous, although whether to her or to me I do not know. There was one of the monks, a brother Rhys, who took rather a fancy to me.” He shut his eyes, shivered at the memories. “Perhaps he took too literal a view of the instruction suffer little children.”

Horace gently laid his hand on the other man’s arm. “Such an abuse of trust,” he said simply. There was no point in offering anything more than the briefest of words and a friendly touch.

“It was indeed. But then I have seen many worse things these last few years; I had thought I was beyond feeling abhorrence. I was wrong.”

“What happened? Was there anyone you could tell?”

“I told my father, who raised hell. The monk left the priory in disgrace and was later found hanged by his own hand in the nearby woods. It was only years afterwards that I found out he might have had help in the process.”

Horace did not ask the obvious—whose hand had helped with the deed—the question wasn’t needed. He gently laid his hand over the other man’s. “I believe that the corruption of children is the most heinous sin. It grieves me beyond measure to know that you suffered this.”

“Thank you,” Johannes’s simple reply spoke chapter and verse, accompanied as it was by the merest pressure on the hand that grasped his.

Horace’s dark eyes looked down at the fingers which pressed his hand, considered for a moment and then entwined his fingers among them. “I would have you know that you are welcome to stay here as long as you wish. And when you decide to depart, then to return whenever the fancy takes you.”

“I would welcome a place to call home where I was truly wanted by all,” Johnannes’s eyes stayed fixed on their intertwined hands.

“There is only myself to please here, no a chatelaine to fuss about, and I believe that the ladies from the Gloucester will not be choosing to follow the example of the Earl’s mother. The present Countess has finer tastes than I can accommodate here.” Horace risked a glance at Johannes’s face. The man’s eyes were welling, although whether as an after effect of his seizure or in response to the emotion of the moment he couldn’t be sure. He squeezed the hand within his a little more tightly.

Suddenly Johnannes looked up, his blue eyes meeting Horace’s. “I feel completely confident that my tastes would be entirely satisfied here; I could wish for nothing more than I find in this house.” He leaned closer, gently kissed the tip of Horace’s nose.

Horace smiled. “Roger, our priest, says that many go on pilgrimage needlessly, when they should search for what is good and true in their own hearts at their own fireside. I have always struggled to understand his meaning.” He took his friend’s hand to his lips. “Maybe you would help me learn his lesson.”

“Perhaps. I have found very little peace either at my hearth or on my travels. Pray God I have crossed what feels like half the world only to discover my heart’s content was no more than fourscore miles from my door.”

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