by Cooper Davis
Sometimes you have to risk everything, to follow your heart…
Noble Pleasures, Book 1
In a world where gentlemen openly court and marry fellow noblemen, the threat of scandal still lurks behind every velvet drape for kings and princes. Such has been the fate for King Arend Tollemach, forced to sacrifice his heart on the altar of regal duty.
Now that his wife is dead and his royal obligations are at an end, he’s ready to take an unthinkable risk. King Arend seeks a concubine from Temple Sapphor, a secretive, gated world where he will finally shed his virginity—as least as it pertains to making love to a man.
Julian never thought he’d spend ten years on the temple shelf, passed over again and again. Just when he despairs of ever finding placement in a nobleman’s bed, Arend walks into the temple. A lonely eyed, beautiful king who could easily steal his heart.
Arend discovers he has no problem opening his bed to the exquisite concubine. The problem lies in finding the key to his long-shuttered heart.
Warning: Contains a beautiful, virgin king desperate to bed another man, a concubine who fantasizes about being claimed and revered by a strong monarch, and a sea of scandal set against a sensual, palatial backdrop.
The servant glanced up into Arend’s eyes, and they shared a strange look that caused a fluttering deep within Arend’s belly—a tingling awareness of his own sexuality, of desire and longing, and of what another male could profoundly stir in him. The servant’s full, sensual lips parted on a sharp inhale, and still the pair of them stared, wordless, unmoving as if caught in a butterfly net together, drowning in heat and summer-warm awakening.
At last, the servant broke that dazed spell. With a beseeching smile, he lifted his heavy ring, laden with some dozen keys of various sizes. Arend swiped the damnable thing, turning it over in appreciative study.
“Good blazes above! How many locks are required, precisely, to protect all the fine manhood dwelling behind these walls?” With a quick glance at the gate, he counted padlocks then spun to face the other man anew. “Three. Three corroded locks? ’Tis that all they think of your merit and beauty?”
Cat Eyes tucked one errant wave behind his ear, a gesture so sexual it might as well have been a pleasuring stroke between Arend’s parted thighs. “At least, sire,” the man told him demurely, “I should never ride past thieves, taverns and highwaymen unprotected—were I a king.”
“Were you a king, I daresay you’d do whatever the devil you wanted, as you strike me as a most independent, free-spirited fellow. But to our point at hand”—Arend slid his gaze down the man’s lean, muscular form—“I wonder if even three locks would keep the lusty lads away should they ever learn of you. Frankly, I rather doubt it.” And then, with a gleam in his eye, Arend slowly raked his gaze back upward in unabashed appreciation. “No, I am quite certain now. Even ten iron locks would prove utterly useless in barring the fellows from the lovely likes of you.”
A brandy-rich laugh escaped the male’s full lips, but he gave no further reply.
Arend studied him for a moment. “Ah, so this time you’ve no clever rejoinder for your king?”
“Seems as I do not. Except”—the male smiled at him, a wavering beam of beauty that Arend was barely prepared to handle—“should I not fasten these gates directly, my king might witness something quite ugly.”
“Oh?” Arend lifted one eyebrow.
“Yes, a gang of randy toughs might, in fact, make off with me in the manner of lusty highway bandits.” The male shook his head with exaggerated concern. “Not for royal eyes, my king.”
“I’m not so sure. I’m having a moment where I imagine you kicking some wicked male’s broad backside.”
“No, sire.” The beautiful man smiled most charmingly, then cracked his knuckles in a display of raw manhood. “I’d knee every last one of them in the balls. See, I’ve dealt with unwanted suitors before.”
Arend gave him an openly admiring look. “And won, no doubt.”
“Whyever else do you imagine they finally locked me behind these temple walls? Wasn’t for my own protection, I assure you, although I prefer not to tangle with any overeager temple marauders. Even with my strong knee.”
Arend barked a laugh and returned the key ring with a valiant flourish of his hand. “By all means, secure your safety.”
The servant cast a glance at Arend’s present, unmoving position, then looked squarely at the gate. “The king yet bars me from my task.”
Arend gazed down at the male, desperate to reach out and drag him into a possessing, ravenous kiss. “The king,” he said, moving much, much closer, “pledges to use his signet ring to dash the teeth of any randy male who moves upon your astonishingly lovely person.” Arend stepped back abruptly. “But please, proceed, good sir, and I shall impede you no further. For now.”
At last the drawn-out process with the locks and jiggling keys was finished—including one huffing moment when the servant had to throw his hip into the whole business, exposing a lean length of leg—and the man spun to face him. That robe, unfortunately for the servant, did not, having been caught upon the heavy gate. As the man stepped forward, the fabric lifted ever higher until Arend saw that, beneath the flimsy garment, Cat Eyes wore no other adornments whatsoever.
Once the male realized his predicament, he became vexed, pulling at his robe and twisting his torso in reddening agitation until Arend stepped forward gallantly. “There now, allow me.”
The peeved fellow grunted, still trying to pivot so he could free his robe. “I am positively mortified,” he groaned.
“I, by contrast, will admit to being positively delighted by your misfortune.” Arend stilled the male’s fingertips against the padlock, then gently set to loosening the fabric. “And I’m even managing to come off as valiant in the bargain.”
“Yes,” the servant breathed, still straining and fretting, “for it is the very definition of valiance to revel so in my shameful quandary.”
“Perhaps not, but it is most male of me, given that your predicament has exposed a winning view of a handsome—and very bare—muscular backside.” The male gaped at him over his shoulder, but Arend urged him face-forward again, laughing as he worked and chattered. “And I am quite partial to dainty moles, especially when located just so upon the buttock. That you possess two such beauties along that dimpled cleft only doubles my fascination and gratitude that you’ve landed in this bare-arsed mess.”
At those words, Cat Eyes shouted and lunged forward like a powerful, manly gazelle, an action that finally dislodged his robe from its entanglement, much to Arend’s biting disappointment. Once the fellow had placed some distance between them, he spun to face Arend, aghast. He smoothed the front of his robe, reassembling himself quick as he could. “I am not ordinarily such a lummox, my king. Never am I, so please do not assume me clumsy or-or…”
Arend brushed off his hands. “You are most winning when aggravated. Has anyone ever observed that before? All feisty and golden flushed—especially when another man is all but disrobing you in broad daylight.” Arend gave him a guileless smile, unable to help himself, despite how frothed up the poor fellow had become.
The male gaped at him, blowing a curling blond wisp out of his eyes with a soft whoosh of breath. “You are not a gentleman.”
Arend couldn’t help laughing and downright uproariously. “Of course I am! I live in a palace and reign as king of this full and mighty realm.”
“Those two aspects,” the man advised him with downright deadly calm, “are hardly definitive of polite behavior, and I wish to become concubinary to a gentleman. Do you suppose you could manage to behave like one, were I to enter your service?”
Arend whispered back to him, just as softly. “So very, very cheeky.”
The servant’s lips parted, and he gave his head a stunned shake. “Something has…overcome me, sire. Apologies.”
Arend gave him an equally astounded glance. “Accepted. Fully.”
“And see? You are a gentleman, quite so.”
Arend swallowed, trying to find his breath. Trying to still a swamping, leveling dizziness that had enveloped him from the very outset of the interaction. “It would be astoundingly easy to set about pleasing you with some regularity, I should think. Which probably qualifies me as the gentleman you seek, but likewise terrifies me in the main.”
The blond male shook his head as they each stepped toward the other, seemingly drawn that way. “No. Do not be afraid—not that. No, no. You are the king, and I but a temple servant.”
Arend pressed a trembling hand to his brow and dabbed at perspiration. “’Tis a wonder but I forgot that fact for a moment. You seem to do a remarkable job of making me lose my head.”
“Take comfort in the fact that you, at least, managed what I did not. You kept your clothes upon your person, a feat which was apparently quite beyond me.”
About Cooper Davis:
Cooper Davis first discovered the allure of m/m storytelling when she watched My Beautiful Launderette with a college roommate. Later, her passion for stories about men falling in love and finding their HEA together was stoked by online slash fiction. After years as an avid fan of m/m and slash, Cooper finally decided to try her hand at penning her own stories about same-gender romance and love.
A voracious reader across all subgenres of m/m fiction, Cooper is particularly fond of courtships set against the breathless backdrop of scandal and intrigue found in period drawing rooms. She is thrilled that her first historically themed m/m romance series debuts this December with A KING UNDONE (Samhain).
Contact info: http://cooperdavisbooks.com/contact/