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!
"Sometimes Layle wondered why, in the names of all the minor deities, he had chosen a love-mate who kept him continually off-balance, rather than the helpless, compliant victim he had so often dreamed about."
Death lurks everywhere in the Eternal Dungeon . . . even in a torturer's bedroom.
Trained as a young man to execute prisoners by entering their bodies, Layle Smith remains a danger to others, even after he moves to a more civilized dungeon, with strict rules on the treatment of prisoners.
Unfortunately, he's unable to convince a former prisoner of that fact. Faced with an adoring, oblivious love-mate, Layle Smith must decide whether he can hold back his dark desire, or whether he should give in to that desire . . . for his love-mate's sake.
This novelette can be read on its own or as the fourth story in the "Balance" volume of The Eternal Dungeon, an award-winning historical fantasy series set in a land where the psychologists wield whips.
This is a reissue of an older story.
Elsdon entered the High Seeker's living cell by way of the key that Layle had given him, shedding clothes the moment he closed the door. He had kicked off his boots within three steps of his arrival, had his shirt knots untied within six, and by the time he reached where Layle sat in his armchair, he was busy sweeping off his hood to reveal the golden-brown hair underneath.
Layle felt a swelling at the groin, which he ignored. "What are you doing?" he asked in the calm, cool voice that invariably made dungeon dwellers nervous.
Elsdon merely smiled. "Getting ready for bed."
The Seeker-in-Training had just come from bed, but Layle did not ask the obvious. Instead he said in that same cool voice, "Your presumption is remarkable."
Elsdon's hands paused on his belt-knot; his eyes searched Layle's face. Layle kept his expression unrevealing. He remained motionless in his seat, the position of a High Seeker interviewing a wayward student.
"Is something wrong?" Elsdon asked finally.
"If you must ask, then that is a sign that something is indeed very wrong. When did I give you permission to move into this cell?"
Elsdon's hands dropped from his belt. He opened his mouth, hesitated, and then said, "I thought—"
"You thought. Yes. Who gave you permission to refer to me as your love-mate?"
"But you said—" Elsdon halted himself this time. Layle waited patiently for him to retrace his way to the non-existent moment when the High Seeker had spoken that word. Layle had been very careful not to speak the word; he had been allowing all initiative to come from Elsdon's side.
Now he would turn that initiative into a weapon against the Seeker-in-Training.
"You didn't use the word," Elsdon said carefully, "but every conversation we held yesterday rested on the assumption—"
"So you announced to the entire dungeon that I was your love-mate. Who gave you permission to gossip about us like an old woman?"
That blow was unmistakable. The blood rushed into Elsdon's face. Layle felt another swelling at the groin, accompanied by a faint sickness in his stomach. He ignored both sensations.
"If you had thought the matter through clearly," Layle continued, not holding back the blows now that he was started, "it might have occurred to you that I had my doubts about you. It might have occurred to you that you're too young, too inexperienced – or rather, experienced in the wrong way."
A blow straight between the legs. This time Elsdon turned white. The swelling at Layle's groin could no longer be ignored, and he began to cross his legs to hide it. Then he changed his mind. Let Elsdon see the effects of this conversation on the High Seeker. That would bring the conversation to an end all the quicker.
"I have no need for a gossip," Layle declared. "A presumptuous, arrogant gossip who assumes that, because he has received the privilege of one night with me, he may bond himself to me. Had it occurred to you that I might be testing you?"
He hoped it did not occur to Elsdon that every sentence he had spoken was either a hypothetical statement or a question. The Code of Seeking required that no direct lie be told to a prisoner, but Seekers could indirectly mislead prisoners by asking them questions and making hypothetical statements that the prisoners would read in the wrong way. Layle indeed had no need for a presumptuous, arrogant gossip. With any luck, Elsdon would draw the wrong conclusion and never realize how desperately Layle needed him.
Elsdon's face remained as white as ashes. Layle hoped that the color arose from rage. He had no desire to inflict permanent damage on Elsdon – or rather, he had the desire but would not allow himself to indulge it. All that he wanted here was to raise Elsdon's anger to the point where the young Seeker stormed out of the cell, breaking off their bond of his own will. Better that, than a protracted argument between them.
Elsdon's gaze shifted over Layle's face; Layle kept it impassive, though he was beginning to wish that he had kept the face-cloth of his hood down. That was the purpose of the hood: to hide a Seeker's emotions from the prisoner. This prisoner was far too skilled at reading expressions for Layle's peace of mind.
Suddenly Elsdon knelt at Layle's feet. Layle's hardness jumped against his belly; his mouth went dry.
"You're scared," Elsdon said quietly.
¶ Available as an e-book (HTML, PDF, Kindle, ePub): Death Watch.