by S.J. Frost
Released at MLR Press on August 28, 2015
Available at Amazon and more!
Daniel Valente and Ryunosuke Kimura knew each other for centuries, and when Daniel saw the love Ryu had for him and how it had endured for lifetimes, their lives became forever entwined. In recognizing that love, the two vampires became eternal partners, those with a bond deep and unbreakable.
They’re living in peace and happiness, until a call comes inviting Ryunosuke to interview for the Tribunal, the ruling body of vampire society. Both Daniel and Ryu know everything is about to change. Danger will come with the position and the greatest threat may be from one of the Tribunal members. Daniel and Ryunosuke’s protective instincts are strong, their love even stronger, but when old grudges demand retribution, will those instincts be enough to keep each other safe?
Incessant chiming roused Daniel. He growled low in his throat. “Who the bloody hell is calling?”
Ryunosuke slapped his hand down on the nightstand. His voice, tinted with a Japanese accent, left him rough and deep with sleep. “Someone who’s not going to be happy when I answer.” The chiming stopped before Ryu managed to smack a hand down on the phone. He picked it up, holding it above his face as he rubbed one eye and looked up at the name on his screen…Titus. “It was Cal.”
“Figures. Just because he’s up at an unholy hour, he feels everyone else should be, too.”
Ryunosuke chuckled softly. “It’s three o’clock in the afternoon.”
“Either way, he should be more considerate that we may still be in bed.”
“But to be fair to him, that could be at any time with us and we have been in bed all day.”
Lying on his stomach, Daniel propped himself up on his elbows. He lowered his head, placing a kiss on Ryunosuke’s smooth chest. “And what a glorious day it’s been.”
Daniel curled his fingers over the top of the burgundy silk sheet and plush comforter, sliding both lower to reveal more of Ryu’s muscular torso. He willed his nails to shift to claws and dragged the pointed tip of his index down the center of Ryu’s chest ever so lightly, going toward the hard abs. His touch earned him a pleasure-filled moan from Ryunosuke.
Daniel flicked his gaze up to Ryu’s face. Ryunosuke had his eyes closed, his head tipped back slightly on the pillow making the veins in his neck press closer to the surface of his skin. On the left side, over one thick vein, were two puncture marks from when he’d fed from Ryunosuke a few hours earlier. The marks were already fading, the healing quality of his saliva making it so the marks would soon be gone completely, but it wouldn’t be long before he’d mark Ryu again.
His samurai. His protector. His partner and love.
Even when he didn’t realize it, Ryu had always been there for him. And when he did realize it, when he opened his heart to the enduring love that had always been there, he found himself consumed by it. He’d lived for centuries and only now with his eternal partner, could he say he’d found true happiness.
Daniel caressed Ryunosuke’s cheek. He moved his hand down to Ryu’s ebony hair, fanned across the pillow. He curled a strand around his finger, then let it slowly slide off to lay on Ryunosuke’s chest. Ryu usually wore it bound in a long ponytail, but he loved when Ryu wore it down, especially when Ryu was on top of him and that silken hair would fall forward to brush along his cheek and neck.
Ryunosuke slowly opened his eyes, their color so dark they were nearly black, and met Daniel’s gaze. He laid his hand over Daniel’s. “I love it when you look at me like that.”
Daniel folded his arms on Ryunosuke’s chest and rested his chin on them. “I’m not sure how I’m looking at you, but I know what I’m feeling when I do.”
“What you’re feeling comes through in your eyes.” Ryunosuke ran a hand over Daniel’s hair. “That’s why I love it.”
Daniel took a breath to respond, pausing when the chiming of Ryunosuke’s phone interrupted. “Let me guess. Cal again.”
Ryunosuke held up his phone for Daniel to see the screen. “You may be the first vampire who really does have telepathic abilities.”
“No, his impatience is predictable.” Daniel snatched the phone from Ryu’s hand. “I’ll handle this.”
“I’m not sure—”
Daniel accepted the call and put the phone to his ear. “Cal, darling, to what do I owe the pleasure of you calling?”
Titus’s deep baritone voice, colored with annoyance, came through the phone. “You owe it to nothing. I was calling Ryu’s phone. Not yours.”
“What a rude little bugger you are. First calling and disrupting us in bed, then saying such a thing. It’s amazing my manners are as impeccable as they are with having you for a master.”
Titus snorted. “Yes, you’re a real charm school graduate. And all you two do is lie in bed. It’s time for Ryu to get his ass up and do something useful. Give him the phone.”
“As much as I would love to do that, we’re about to become otherwise engaged. If you could call back this evening, that’d be lovely.”
Titus’s voice shifted to a growling tone. “Daniel. Put Ryu on the phone.”
“Now that’s not a very pleasant tone of voice. I think I’m going to let you go until you decide to change it.” Daniel pulled the phone away from his ear, Titus’s voice bellowing, “Daniel!” and promptly getting cut off when Daniel ended the call. He turned a bright smile on Ryunosuke. “There. All taken care of.”
Ryunosuke shook his head. “No, I really don’t think it is.”
The phone chimed again with an incoming call.
Daniel glanced at it. “He’s always terrible when he doesn’t get his way.” He answered, putting the phone to his ear again. “My, my. Aren’t we living up to our cognomen today and being the stubborn little hot head?”
“That’s not what it means!” Titus paused. “Not completely what it means.” His voice sharpened again. “I didn’t call to debate with you. I need to talk to Ryu.”
“Who said we’re debating? I’m having a perfectly lovely conversation.”
“Put Ryu on the phone! Now!”
Daniel shifted his voice to a singsong pitch. “Wrong tone of voice again. Good-bye.” This time, he disconnected faster than Titus could yell.
Speaking through his laughter, Ryunosuke reached for the phone. “You better let me answer it if he calls back, before you make his head explode.”
Daniel relinquished the phone to Ryu. “There are no ifs about it. He will call back.”
As if in reply to his words, the phone chimed.
“I’ll take it from here,” Ryunosuke said and answered the phone. “Hey, it’s me.”
“It’s about damn time!” Titus roared.
“You know, Daniel was right. Your tone could do with an adjustment.”
“I have this tone because of him. He always was a brat, but he’s becoming an insufferable one now. You need to stop spoiling him and letting him get away with whatever he wants.”
Ryunosuke’s attention and gaze drifted from the conversation as Daniel climbed out of bed. He drank in the flawlessness of Daniel’s ivory skin, his lean and toned body. Daniel’s cock jutted from a small patch of finely trimmed hair and was half up, the foreskin slipped back just enough to give a glimpse of the head; and Daniel’s shaven sac made Ryu want to move his tongue over the soft skin of it.
Walking toward the bathroom, Daniel glanced back at him, a knowing and sensual smile on his lips.
Ryunosuke kept his gaze on the round, firm curves of Daniel’s ass until he disappeared into the bathroom. He cleared his throat. “I’m pretty sure he’d enjoy any kind of discipline I’d give him.”
A single laugh came through the phone and Titus’s voice followed, calmer than before. “You’re probably right. I take it everything’s been well? Quiet?”
“Yes, very. Whenever we’ve ventured into London, any vampires we’ve come across have been nothing but polite and respectful. We haven’t had any excitement since Renart’s trial.”
“That’s good. It seems things are finally settling down and our society’s stabilizing again from the waves Isaac’s little rebellion caused. Bellerose and Troy are back in Chicago now. I’ve heard Bellerose’s followers have even welcomed Troy back, but then, that was anticipated.”
“Still got spies on them?”
“Have to. I don’t like it, but the majority in the Tribunal wanted it and honestly, I couldn’t argue their point. Especially if there’s even still the smallest chance of Bellerose becoming a district judge.”
“Amazing he has any chance with having a…I’ll call him, reformed traitor in his bed.”
Titus gave an amused snort. “That reformation was the only thing that kept his head on his neck, but yes, Bellerose does have that very heavily against him. What he has in his favor is that his influence in Chicago is undeniable.”
The bathroom door opened. Daniel stepped out with a black robe tied so loosely it barely had a point for being on him. His attention on Daniel again, Ryunosuke managed an, “uh huh”, into the phone.
Daniel stepped up to the foot of the bed. “I’m running down to the kitchen. Do you want anything?”
Ryunosuke shook his head, more focused on waiting for the folds of the robe to open and give him another glimpse of Daniel’s cock than forming a full answer.
Titus’s voice sounded in Ryunosuke’s ear. “Tell Daniel to put on some clothes so you can pay attention to what I’m saying.”
“He has clothes on. Sort of.”
Daniel walked along the bedside, drifting his fingers under the comforter to Ryunosuke’s thigh, then to Ryu’s hard cock pushing up against the sheet. He gave it a pump and rubbed his thumb over the slit. He winked at Ryu, then turned for the bedroom door.
Ryunosuke took a deep breath, trying to clear his mind. “Sorry. He just left to go downstairs.”
“You’re far too easy.”
“As if you’re any different with Andreas.”
“I can’t deny it. But now that Daniel’s gone and I’ve got your attention, we can talk. We were on track with talking about Bellerose. The Tribunal has the districts drawn up for local courts around the world and we feel we’re ready to begin establishing the courts and nominating judges, except for one small thing. We’re not even complete. Lady Geneviève has already stayed on much longer than she had promised after her daughter’s birth and we need to find a replacement for her. You know where I’m going with this, right?”
Ryunosuke did know. It was something he and Titus had talked about in recent months, but it still wasn’t something he was entirely sure about. “Yes, I do. But I’m undecided on if I want to pursue it or not.”
“I know, but I think it’d be good for you. Even more, it’d be good for all vampires, us as a society.”
Ryunosuke snorted. “Spoken like a true bureaucrat. They’re starting to rub off on you.”
“If you weren’t such a dear friend, I’d kick your ass for saying that. But, since you are a dear friend, I’m going to listen to you and agree. That was pretty bad, wasn’t it?”
Ryunosuke laughed. “It was.”
“Now do you see why I need you even more on the Tribunal? To help prevent me from turning into a bureaucrat.”
“It might be one of the main motivating factors for me to even consider it.”
“At least something’s motivating you to think about it. The other Tribunals have brought forth some nominations between them all, while I haven’t given any…yet. They all know I’m going to suggest you.” A smile came through with Titus’s words. “But I thought it would be good if you knew.”
“I appreciate the consideration, but you might be setting yourself up for failure. I’ll need a majority vote to get on, and other than you and Egill, I don’t think anyone else will vote for me.”
“Not true. I’m fairly certainly you’ll have Rajnish’s vote. That only means you’ll have one more to win over.”
“Well, I can tell you for sure who won’t give me his vote and he’s one of the main reasons I have my reservations about pursuing this. The more time he and I spend within any kind of reasonable proximity, the greater the chances of old grudges rearing their heads and one of us tearing out the other’s throat.”
“Or, you may find he’s not the old enemy you once knew. I’ll admit, he’s surprised me in the time since I’ve worked with him.”
Instant annoyance washed through Ryunosuke. His voice sounded tight as he spoke. “I’m glad you guys have gotten to be such good friends.”
“I didn’t mean it that way and we’re certainly not friends. All I mean is that I’m able to work beside him without wanting to open his throat with each passing minute.”
“That’s nice you have that control. I’m not so sure I do.”
Titus sighed. “If you really don’t think you can work beside him, then I won’t nominate you. I’ve known from the beginning you’ve been uncertain about it, both because of Li and the position in general. All I’m going to say is, you’re the only one I want in this position, beside me. You’re a great warrior and a strong leader.”
“I’ve never led anyone.”
“That’s what you think. What you don’t know is, others would follow you. You’re strong and intelligent and—”
“Scorned. I’ve always been an outcast for saying I was turned by a demon.”
“And through that, how many fucks did you give for attitudes others showed toward you? None. That’s the kind of strength the Tribunal needs. Someone who knows the truth and will stand by it even if everyone else doubts it.”
Ryunosuke replied with an indiscernible grumble. Damn Titus. He always knew how to get what he wanted. “I’ll bet back in your Centurion days, you could’ve convinced your legion to walk naked through fire.”
“If I said naked, they were pretty much game for anything. So, does that mean you’ll come to Vienna and go for this?”
“I guess it does. It’s not as though I have any pressing plans at the moment.”
Daniel walked into the bedroom carrying a bowl of sugar and a bowl of fresh strawberries, his favorite things to eat when first waking. The robe had spread more open on his chest, slipping slightly off his shoulders, probably from him moving around and not caring to fix it since he’d barely put it on to begin with.
“I take that last part back,” Ryunosuke said.
“Did Daniel just walk in?”
“Then I’ll let you go. I’ve got to get ready to meet with the others since I’m running behind thanks to his games.” Titus paused for a moment, his voice softened. “Thank you, Ryu.”
Ryunosuke grinned to himself. “If I’m getting a thank you, then this really must be important to you.”
“You know, I’m going to do all I can to avoid becoming a bureaucrat Tribunal member. You need to make sure Daniel doesn’t rub off on you and make you a brat.”
“Sorry, but there’s no way I’m ever going to make him stopping rubbing off on me.”
“You took that a little too literally. Either way, I’d never suggest you ask that of him. I might be rude, as Daniel says, but I’m not a complete ass.”
Ryunosuke burst out laughing. “I completely agree with that self-assessment.”
“And now, I’m going to end being rude and let you and him get to doing that literal action. I’ll call you tonight and let you know the reactions from the others when I nominate you, and with flight plans.”
“Perfect. Thanks. And, jokes aside, it really does mean a lot that you have trust in me to do this.”
“You always have my trust. I’ll talk to you soon.”
“All right. Bye.” Ryunosuke hung up the phone, gazing down at it for a moment before placing it on the nightstand.
Daniel slid onto the bed, lying on his side, the two bowls set on the bed before him. He dipped a strawberry into the sugar and took a bite. “And what did he want that couldn’t wait and that has you so flattered with his trust?”
“That it’s time for me to see if the Tribunal will accept me to fill the empty seat from Lady Geneviève.”
Daniel stared at him. He lowered his gaze, fixing it on the sugar bowl as he dipped in another strawberry. “I see.”
“You don’t sound very pleased or excited about the prospect.”
“No, I am.” Daniel exhaled a heavy sigh. “Somewhat.”
Ryunosuke shifted on the bed to be closer to him. “What is it? I thought this was something you wanted me to do.”
“It is…or it was.” Daniel shook his head. “I don’t know what I’m trying to say. When Cal first mentioned about you becoming part of the Tribunal, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity. But more time’s passed and it’s brought some concerns to mind.”
Ryunosuke laid his hand on Daniel’s arm. “Like what?”
Daniel lifted his gaze to Ryunosuke’s. “I’m worried it’ll put you in danger. Being on the Tribunal is a high profile position. Any vamp with a grudge or wanting revenge for a perceived wrong could come after you. Not to mention, someone who you already know doesn’t care much for the fact that you’re still breathing will be sitting only a couple of chairs away from you at every meeting.”
Ryunosuke picked up the bowls and moved them to the nightstand. He slid close to Daniel, caressing his cheek. “I’m not worried about random vamps coming at me. I’ve lived with that all my life and it can happen at any time. As far as Li Kang goes, I beat him once. If it comes down to it, I can do it again. With more permanent results.” He rested his forehead against Daniel’s, hushing his voice. “I’ll never let anything happen to me, because I know I need to live for you. And I will always, always protect you.”
His eyes closed, Daniel whispered. “I know. It’s foolish of me to have these worries.”
“No, it’s not. I think what’ll be best is to go to Vienna, see what the Tribunal has to say, and if it’ll even be offered to me. We’ll make the final decision from there. Together.”
“Perfect.” Daniel drew back, a smirk curving the corners of his lips. “Though, I must confess to one other little issue I have with all of this. I’ve gotten used to having you all to myself these past months. I’m going to be jealous of anyone taking your attention away from me.”
Ryunosuke slid a hand along Daniel’s neck, cupping the back of it under his hair. “But you’re the only one I’ll ever give this kind of attention to.”
He leaned forward and met Daniel in a kiss. Daniel parted his lips for him, and Ryunosuke eased his tongue into Daniel’s mouth. The sweetness of sugar and strawberries lingered on Daniel’s tongue. Lust shot through Ryunosuke. Thoughts of the Tribunal, of an old enemy returned, faded under his need for Daniel. In that moment, they had each other and that was all either of them needed…
© 2015 by S.J. Frost and MLR Press