Some day your prince will come (and come again)...
It's changed publication dates a few times, but The Handsome Prince: gay erotic romance is now definitely definitely out in glorious paperback print - and selling fast by the looks of things.
Edited by Neil Plakcy, this anthology has a lineup that includes stories by Heidi Champa and myself, and varies from tradional(ish) fairy tale settings to historical to contemporary encounters with princes both literal and figurative.
My own tale, Reckless, is about a young nobleman who is best friend, protector and bodyguard to the prince and heir of the kingdom - and secretly, desperately, painfully in love with his Prince Charming.
So here's an excerpt...
Our audience applauds, and as I rise to my feet again they cheer me. It isn’t my place to make a speech in return, but I meet Alberic’s eyes and nod, a private flash of acknowledgment passing between us.
But still I can’t smile.
Soon afterward we repair to the lodge to change out of our sweaty hunting clothes and dress for the dinner that will be laid out in the pavilion. Servants bring linen cloths and bowls of hot water to the prince’s chamber and kneel to tug off our high-topped boots, and then retire as we strip off our vambraces and padded jerkins. Alberic flings his crown of may-blossom over a wall-mounted rack of antlers with a laugh, and is soon talking away happily, but I do little more than grunt. This is always a part of the day that I dread as much as anticipate, and today in particular I cannot shake off the black cloud over my shoulders. As the prince’s companion, I usually share his bedchamber – or his tent when on campaign, or his carriage. On one shamefully arousing occasion I even shared his bed and the lady-in-waiting in it; afterwards her story, whispered in confidence to friends, became the envy of the Court. Understand: we do not seek privacy from one another.
This rustic room in the hunting lodge is no different. Its high windows let in shafts of dusty light, and I covertly watch Alberic make the motes roil as he crosses the beams. The prince’s hair is standing up in sweaty tufts and the golden dusty light clings to that too, and to the smooth and glistening skin of his shoulders as he washes his chest. Little dark flecks of forest debris are plastered across his back; I ache to brush them off. Alberic has no upper-body hair except for the sun-blonded streaks on the backs of his forearms; the muscles of his hard stomach are as smooth as ripples in sand, and as golden. It’s one of the many images that haunt me at night.
Water droplets lick the furrows of his ribs under his raised arm, and race to darken the upper edge of his hose. The sight makes my stones grow heavy in their tightening purse of skin. It’s always like this: he’s oblivious and I am in torment.
With an effort, I pull off my torn shirt and glance down at my own torso. Like the prince’s, my body is honed by fencing and hunting and hard riding. The bruises won’t show up properly until tomorrow, but there’s a pink furrow scored across the flat of my stomach, slicing through the dark hair, almost all the way down to where my hose sits low on my hips.
“What’s that?” Alberic asks.
“That’s where the boar’s tusk grazed me.”
Alberic swears a mild oath and crosses over to touch the scraped skin with his wet fingertips. His touch tickles and I have to force myself to hold still. The smell of Alberic’s fresh hot sweat is pushing through his cologne and my cock jerks in response to the touch and the scent, making me nervous. “Another inch closer and...” says the prince, wonderingly.
“And I’d have been disembowelled.” I can feel myself quivering and to mask the tremble I brush Alberic’s fingers away.
“You’re angry at me?”
“Yes.” It’s a relief to admit it.
“Because I risked your life?” The cheeriness dies out of Alberic’s expression. “I’m sorry: you know that. I got carried away in the excitement. It was a bit reckless, I know.”
“Yes it was.” In private, we dispense with formal politenesses. “But I’m not angry because I was at risk – I’m angry because you were.”
“Me?” The smile flashes into Alberic’s eyes again. “You worry too much, Tancred. Cluck cluck cluck, like a hen.”
“Alberic, be serious. You’re the heir to the throne: you have a responsibility to all of us.”
The prince just grins. “Stop being sulky, Tancred.” He clasps my face firmly, framing it in his hands, looking me in the eyes. “I know how much you’ve done for me. I haven’t forgotten. I appreciate every bit.” Then he swoops in and plants a kiss on my lips. It’s a firm, quick, masculine kiss – a prince’s benison. The sort of intimacy only royalty gives one the right to bestow.
Once more I hear the thunder of the boar’s feet.
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