When last we left our intrepid heroes, they had eluded the knights of Zaharoth by negotiating passage into Garuth with the bridge troll. The toll? A truth, spoken with the power that all oaths have on those of the Real. Now our heroes are in the city. Will Thommas go through with it and elope with Nem as he has sworn to do? Find out now!
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Nem held tightly to me from the moment we entered Garuth, never without contact against my skin for more than a moment. I knew why, but it still unsettled me. I had been long alone, and I hadn’t felt the familiar clutch of a hand on my forearm, against my waist, brushing my back—all those little touches—in what seemed an age. Now they were there, desperate, and I felt them to my bones.
I gave Nem what I hoped was a reassuring glance as we made our way through the streets. I had clothes again, a shirt meant to be worn loose that clung to my frame on account of being several sizes too small. Nem had bargained for it with a merchant on the road as we approached the inner districts, and my pleas that I didn’t care did nothing to dissuade him. He’d proudly stripped me of his cloak and pulled the shirt onto me with promises that if I’d just wear it he’d be all too happy to rip it off me when the time was right. I didn’t ask what he meant me to do for a shirt after that. I don’t think he’d th0ught much beyond the moment.
In the city, I felt eyes watching us. Nem’s features alone marked him as nobility, and most of these creatures, from goblin to pixie, could sense the Real that oozed from me, even if the light of that place was tightly held in by glamour. Nem was clearly used to the attention, but it had been long since I’d walked the streets of a city in the Realm.
He brushed a hand against my cheek. “Are you well?” he asked, his voice husky and sexy beside me. It still managed to be musical, and I wondered idly whether it was his glamour or my feelings that made it so.
Nem leaned against my shoulder as we walked. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” I said. “The Real is worse than this, but in the Real people do not feel this way, as you do. It is so open, it crackles in the air. We are more guarded in the Real, our feelings locked behind gates. Fenced in, all of us.”
Nem leaned even closer for a moment and then took my hand, leading me through the crowded bazaar. When we had finally made it through the throng, he stopped at a door and knocked. A stooped old goblin answered and cowered in fear at the sight as Nem allowed himself for a moment to be truly seen.
I gulped. Such a sight was not easily dismissed even for me. He was glorious, revealed in his power, a prince of the Realm. I shuddered at the sight and squeezed his hand softly, but he did not let himself smile as I’d grown accustomed. Instead he glowered at the goblin and barked something in their tongue that I couldn’t rightly hear, and we were let in and led deep into the building and down.
Finally, we were led into a small elegant suite. Nem conversed hurriedly in the guttural sounds common to the goblin tongue, and after a few moments the creature withdrew, nodding quickly, practically scampering to get away.
Nem smiled at me as he closed the door. “We should be safe here, for a while.”
“What about finding Jordan?”
Nem casually tossed his cloak over a chair by a small desk in the corner. “I haven’t forgotten,” he said, stepping up to me. “I haven’t.” He smiled as he caressed the soft crinkled hair of my beard. “Don’t worry.”
I trembled beneath his touch, and I could tell from the smile on his face that he felt it. He stepped closer and set a hand against my chest, leaning his face against my shoulder. “Why are we in a safe house,” I said softly, as it was clear that’s what this was. “Won’t your father—”
“They’re my spies, not my father’s,” he said, half-mumbling the words into my shoulder. “Besides, you know there’s something we have to…. we made a vow, Thommas.”
My heart stuttered.
“It’s what you want, right?”
That I could feel. Terror and worry and need.
My hands went to his face to lift it, cupping his cheek gently as my lips met his. “I wasn’t kidding. It’s what I want,” I said softly as I broke away.
His fingers rubbed my shoulders, making little grasping movements as though he wanted to pull me tighter but was… afraid? I kissed him again, pulling him against me as our lips moved against each other and I sunk my tongue into his mouth, searching for his. We stayed like that, breathing in each other’s air, both of us trembling against the other, until the need for breath overcame us and we broke the kiss, gasping for air. Nem grasped my waist with one hand, holding our bodies together.
“You really mean to do this today?” I asked, whispered into the threads of his silver hair so no spy, however clever, could read or overhear.
He leaned into my chest and murmured, “Yes.”
I kissed his silky, silver hair. “I need a few things,” I said. “Will the goblins fetch them for me if I ask?”
“Yes. And they’re getting a seer to…. You’re… you really are going to—”
“—to marry you. Yes, I am.” I said, kissing his hair again.
He leaned back and looked at me and the expression on his face was such that I was sure that I’d risk a hundred times worse than failing Brian to see it again. And that, I knew, was the problem. It was exactly what Brian saw whenever he looked at Jordan. This. This was what kept him from me. My voice got very quiet then. “Would you let me go, if I asked?”
His “yes” was choked and desperate with fear.
“Look at me,” I said. “Let me see you.”
He looked up and his soul was bare and frightened. But I could see the need in it. The want. The desire. And even the love.
“You said that you… that you would….” he said desperately.
I lightly caressed his cheek. “You chose me as a mate, didn’t you?”
Nem’s eyes closed, but he nodded.
“I see how you love him. Your anchor. I saw it, and I thought if anyone ever loved me near that much I’d be the most cherished…. I’m sorry,” he said, turning away.
I stepped forward, closing the gap between us and putting a hand forcefully on his waist to pull him closer. “You offer me everything. You know what that means? Being your mate, you would be mine.” I leaned in and nipped at his ear. “I would have to mark you,” I said as Nem whimpered, “and it wouldn’t be soft or gentle or—”
“My father’s claims would be gone,” said Nem, “I would be safe. I would be yours.”
“I can’t just be an escape.”
“I know.” He shook his head. “Please, I chose this when I asked to come with you. I didn’t know you’d save me. It just made it stronger. Made me want it. I am offering all that I am! Please, please don’t leave me.”
I pulled his waist hard into mine and licked the edge of his ear.
“Oh please… please… just that…” he moaned into my chest.
“You’ll belong to me,” I said quietly into the flesh of his neck. “Is that really what you want?”
“Yes, oh yes.”
Slowly I moved toward the bed in a shuffle, pulling him with me until the bed hit the backs of my legs. “I want you now,” I whispered, pressing my hips into him. He groaned with me as I licked and sucked at his neck, never long or hard enough to leave a mark, and he began to whimper again, begging for me not to stop.
I was pulling at his shirt when we were interrupted by someone rapping lightly on the door. Nem leaned his head into my shoulder breathless as I turned and shifted him gently to sit on the bed. I straightened my still-too-tight shirt and took a deep breath. “Enter,” I said, just loud enough to be heard. Any louder and the catch in my breath would be too obvious.
The goblin entered, bent and gnarled as was the nature of such creatures, and looked terrified to Nem, nodding and speaking quickly in the harsh consonants of the goblin language. Nem gestured at me, caught my eye and inclined his head once.
I squatted and looked the goblin in the eye. “I need you to get some things for me,” I said. “Do you understand?”
The goblin nodded frantically, a tortured glance looking at Nem and then back at me.
I set a hand on its shoulder and gazed into directly into the goblin’s eyes. “I need these things,” I said, sending several images into his head, making sure they were clear and distinct. The goblin shuddered as the pictures entered his thoughts and looked at me with something I thought must be panic. “Do you understand?”
The goblin nodded and glanced furtively over to Nem who simply glared. “Anything he needs, Iptak,” said Nem.
“Can you get them?” I said.
“Yesss,” hissed the goblin, struggling to form the words. “I can finds these things.” He looked Nem up and down and tried to reconcile the picture I had sent into his mind. “Real must be strange place if is needings such things.”
I smirked at the goblin. “You can bring them before the seer arrives?”
Iptak nodded. “Must be needing to be moving if is bringing things such as thisss,” he said, “with much scurrying to be doings.”
The goblin slipped out the door and I turned back to Nem. “Your spies?”
“I saw the child of Om,” Nem said. “I know what he looks like and they will search.” He reached out and caught my hand in his. “Can’t this night be for us? We are here, in Garuth. We vowed that we were eloping to escape my father and it was even mostly true. I would”—Nem gulped and rubbed his thumb over my hand, giving me all the while that look that made him very nearly the whole of my universe—“try to make you happy, at least for tonight.”
I stepped back up to the bed. “You understand what I’m going to—”
Nem nodded. “I feel you, but I know I will”—he blushed—“I’ll feel it more when you….”
I pushed him back by his shoulders and he fell, smiling, as I crawled onto the bed on top of him, and brought my lips against his. He surrendered his mouth eagerly, allowing me to kiss him and plunder it with my tongue as he made sweet moaning whimpers and thrust his hips upward in search of whatever friction he could find. I found his wrists and pulled his arms up over his head and pressed them down against the mattress. Nem’s breath was coming in gasps as my lips moved across his face to his ear and then down along his neck following the line of his jaw.
“Oh, p-p-please… oh Thommas, oh T-t-t-thoooommaaas!”
I smiled against his skin as I teased his neck with my tongue and my lips. Nem writhed beneath me, his groin finding my leg and thrusting desperately against me. “W-want,” he moaned.
I pulled away and looked at him. “This is what you wanted?”
He smiled at me and leaned up to kiss me briefly on the lips. “It’s wh-what w-we’ll have. W-we’ll have it, Thommas.”
I let my body down softly to lay on top of Nem. He trembled against me, but his face was beautiful as he looked at me, letting me see the love in his eyes. Perhaps he couldn’t help it, and that could only be better. I kissed him gently and pressed myself close to feel the heat of him through our clothes. I was losing my battle to stop kissing him. I couldn’t bear it, his lips so close, I just kept leaning down to press our lips together.
“What are you doing to me?” I asked, whispering the words into his ear.
Nem’s lips met mine again. “You know,” he said. “I chose you. You are my mate.” His lips worked against mine, his tongue entering my mouth and I surrendered to it, and we lay there kissing desperately until the goblin returned.