Out today at JMS Books.
Lucas Fides has inherited his Victorian family’s auction house, good looks and a keen, passionate mind. But he has far less control over his body’s desires than his business, hiding an illicit and unspoken love for his boyhood friend and dependent, Valentine. As a result, Lucas suffers recurring, deeply erotic dreams, where a mystery lover demands and guides his sexual responses.
When the auction house runs into financial difficulty, Valentine introduces a new client to Lucas. Gideon Arnaud is a mysterious and charismatic man who seems to scorn society’s restrictions. He offers Lucas a spectacular collection of jewels for auction and also his intense, seductive attention. He appears to know more about Lucas than any stranger should. Affronted by Gideon’s bold pursuit, Lucas puts up a spirited defence, despite being increasingly exhausted by his dreams. His heart is already committed to Valentine, even if he thinks it’s his secret alone. When Valentine announces his engagement to Lucas’s sister, Lucas’s pain and frustration are almost intolerable.
Torn between his need for Valentine’s comfort and the determination to avoid Gideon Arnaud’s disturbing presence, Lucas becomes more vulnerable by the day, until his loneliness forces his desire out of his dreams and into the light of day. The consequences will change his life forever.
NOTE: This story was originally published in the anthology Masquerade.
Gideon Arnaud slipped off his other glove and moved towards one of the armchairs. It was impossibly rude not to offer him a seat, and so I gestured to the chairs and sat alongside him. Valentine was still in the room, but he seemed content to stay by the picture window, his back turned to us. Arnaud settled himself easily, his movements confident, his limbs graceful despite his size. “I have caught you a little unawares, Fides, but you might guess that I enjoy that approach. I also guess that you like to know a little more about the men you do business with, and so I bring myself here tonight along with a sample of my goods for your ... entertainment.” He paused, and I thought I heard Valentine shift gently, as if he listened more carefully than he appeared to. “Unless, of course, you are willing to accept my patronage and companionship without condition, and in the spirit in which it is offered?”
I wondered how many times Arnaud had asked that question and received his preferred answer. I suspected that other business associates had been both happy and grateful to answer ‘yes, indeed.’ I knew instinctively he was a man who expected attention and would usually receive it in full, but no, I was not ready to accept him on those terms. Instead, I stared back into eyes that expected obeisance, and I pursed my lips. Arnaud’s gaze was marked by dark-flecked irises, a kaleidoscope of passion channelling out through his eyes. I felt the full force of him -- of a bold irrationality; of fervour and self-obsession; of an inherent danger. And all of it over laden with that vibrant, cynical charm.
“No,” I said. “I will not accept anything from you, Arnaud, without condition. I think that you might guess that of me.”
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