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Saturday, March 31, 2012


Everybody says they're sorry
When faced with somebody's pain.
They're just words to fill the empty space,
Because they don't know what else to say.

They're just empty words
Meant to make us feel better.
What they don't understand
Is that it just makes us uncomfortable.

I'm sorry” tells us they don't understand.
They haven't lost someone the loved;
Haven't been betrayed by someone they trusted.
They haven't just been told that they're dying.

No, they don't understand anything.
How could they possibly know how we feel
Unless they've gone through it, lived it.
Unless they've breathed it, tasted it.

Two little words never meant less to me
Than those two little words of sympathy.
I don't want empty words filling the void.
I just want everything to be normal, happy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Asshole Father

Love. Such an innocent, small word, and yet it has such a big meaning, with very intense feelings. For Gabriel Harmon, that one word, that one, intense emotion, had led him to the most horrible feeling he could imagine: Heartbreak. All because of one person: Gage Immerson.

Gabriel came out of the bathroom in only a pair of jeans that rode low on his hips, his blond hair slicked back from his shower. Grabbing his cell phone, he collapsed onto his bed, staring up at the white ceiling, bare feet on the floor. Taking a deep breath to slow his racing heart, he speed-dialed Gage, both hoping he'd pick up and praying he wouldn't. One ring. Two rings. As he listened to the rings, memories of last night came to his mind unbidden.

Gabriel stood by the train tracks, watching as it disappeared into the night. The rain picked up momentum, switching from it's lazy drizzle to a downpour, soaking him almost immediately. His broad shoulders heaved as he sighed, his heart cracking a little more. He brushed his blond hair back, out of his face, then took a step back. He took another step back, then turned on his heal, and walked. Without so much as a backward glance, he left the train station, head bowed in defeat, the rain hiding his tears.

"Hello? Look, I know you're there, Gabe. I can hear you breathing."

Jolted from his reverie, Gabriel sat up.

"I need to see you."

A pause; then, "I can't right now."

"When can you?"

"Later tonight. Meet me at our spot at eight." Gage clicked off.

Gabriel's heart skipped a beat. Gage had actually agreed to meet him! He felt like running a marathon. Glancing at his watch, he saw that he had a little over three hours to kill. Maybe he could get some work done. And some laundry. But that wouldn't take long enough... Maybe he could go grocery shopping. Yeah. He'd toss a load of clothes into the wash, run the grocery store, and get some work done. That oughta keep him plenty busy until eight.


Gabriel arrived at the secluded park five minutes early. He was dressed in his best body-hugging jeans, a Caribbean blue tee shirt that was tight enough to be a second skin, and black Nike's. The shirt made his blue eyes stand out, and his blond hair was combed back, out of his face. In short, he was dressed to impress. Now here's to hoping Gage would actually notice. He glanced at his watch. Eight o'clock.

Gage appeared from behind a stand of trees, his gait slow as he walked forward. Gabriel's heart sank a little; Gage didn't look too happy. When Gage reached Gabriel, he was silent, his head down, gaze studying the grass. When Gage still refused to look at Gabriel a minute later, his heart sank the rest of the way to the pit of his stomach.

He began speaking quietly:

"I waited for you yesterday.
I waited and missed the last train.
I waited to say
That I'd fallen in love with your way."

"I'm sorry," Gage said, finally looking up at Gabriel. But Gabriel didn't care. It was like something had finally snapped within him, and he needed to say this. So, staring directing into Gage's sad green eyes, he continued:

"I waited for you yesterday.
Eventually walking home in the rain.
I waited to see
If you felt the same for me."

Gage's eyes widened, and for a moment, Gabriel felt his hope rising. The hope died a moment later when Gage looked away, his expression sad.

"Gabe, I love you. You know I do, but my da-"

Gabriel cut him off:

"But you don't
And you won't
Go against you asshole father."

He paused only long enough to take a deep breath.

"Going broke,
Quitting dope
For your folks.
Why did I even bother.
Why did I..."

It was clear that Gabriel's words were made Gage uncomfortable; he fidgeted the whole time Gabriel talked.

"I'm sorry, Gabe, really. I love you, but I can't- My dad-" Gage must have seen the hurt in Gage's Caribbean blue eyes, because he stopped what he was saying. When Gage reached a hand up to caress Gabriel's cheek, Gabriel flinched away.

"I waited for minds to change.
Pointing their fingers of blame.
It's not my fault you're ashamed
Of how you feel.."

"I'm not ashamed of how I feel!" Gage exclaimed indignantly. "I just-"

"But you don't
And you won't
Go against your asshole father.

Going broke,
Quitting dope
For your folks.
Why did I even bother...
Why did I...."

Gabriel turned around and started walking away. He'd had enough. Enough of Gage's indecision, of his excuses and his lies. Just... enough. His heart was broken and bleeding. He felt like the biggest idiot on the planet. All because he had the gall to love Gage Immerson, a real daddy's boy. Gage's father was straight-laced and extremely homophobic. God forbid his precious son love another man. That was totally unacceptable. Disgusting, even. And Gage...

"Gabe, wait." Gage grabbed Gabriel's arm, halting his escape. "Why can't you see that I really do love you? I just can't be with you. Not right now, at least."

...Gage did absolutely nothing, except let his father run his life. If Benny Immerson said jump, Gage says How High? If Benny says "Dump that piece of trash," Gage would say, "Yes, Father. Right away, father." So how the HELL can Gage just stand there and tell Gabriel that he loves him, yet do not a fucking thing to prove it?

Wrenching his arm free, Gabriel said:

"Cause you don't.
Just admit it.
Cause you won't.
Just admit it,
Just admit it,
Just admit it,
Just admit it,
Just admit it!"

Gabriel turned around, and Gage took a stumbling step back when he saw the rage in Gabriel's eyes.

"I called you a whore
And broke down your door,
But you don't even hate me."

Gage couldn't think of a single thing to say as he stared, mesmerized, into Gabriel's cold, hard eyes. He wished he hadn't been the cause of the desolation he'd glimpsed in them a few times during the last few months.

"And how could I heal
When you won't even feel.
Why won't you hate me."

Gabriel closed his eyes, unable to look at Gage any longer without feeling such total desolation, such emptiness, and he didn't want to feel like that. So he closed his eyes, closed out everything except his words. Well, he tried to, anyway. Gage intruded into his thoughts, though.

"I could never hate you, Gabe," Gage said softly.

A surge of anger hit Gabriel then, and he couldn't hold himself back anymore. He shoved Gage back, knocking the other man off balance. Too bad Gage quickly straightened.

"But you don't
And you won't
Go against your asshole father.

Going broke,
Quitting dope
For your folks.
Why did I even bother...
Why did..
But you don't
Cause you're nothing
Broken down Daddy's Little Daughter.

Gage flinched at the anger in Gabriel's voice, his expression, his whole being.

"Going broke,
Quitting dope
For your folks.
Why did I even bother...
Why did I...."

Finally, Gabriel was done. Tears had started running down his cheeks a few minutes ago, and he didn't bother to wipe them away. Let Gage see just how much he'd hurt Gabriel. Let Gage see how much his choice hurt. Gage had picked his father over his love.

Gage stepped up to him, but Gabriel stepped back. He couldn't bear to be so close to the one he loved, yet be so far away. But now he was trapped between Gage and a tree, and Gage stepped close again. He reached his hands up, cupping Gabriel's cheeks, his thumbs drying his tears. Gabriel's eyes drifted closed at the touch, savoring the feel of his love.

After a moment, he started to pull away, saying, "I have to-"

His words were cut off when Gage's soft lips pressed against his own. Gage pulled away just long enough to whisper, "I chose you. I finally chose you. I love you, Gabriel." Then he was kissing Gabriel again, and Gabriel was letting him. His heart soared at Gage's words, even as he struggled briefly to get away. Very briefly. When his lover's tongue ran along the seam where his lips met, seeking entrance, Gabriel's self-restraint snapped and he groaned, opening his mouth to receive the best kiss of his entire life.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Wings, black as night,
Beat the air as they climb.
Higher and higher, they rise,
Lifting you up, above the darkness.

Wings, bright as day,
Threaten to pull you under.
Under the waves of despair,
Stripping you of all hope.

Wings, gray as love,
Beats the white away.
Soothes the darkness
And shares the Dark's burden.

Him Again

He's drunk again tonight.
The house is quiet and dark.
He comes into my room,
Because he knows I'll be awake.

He says he just wants to play a game,
But he's not looking at the X-Box.
The look he's giving me chills me,
And I can't move; my feet are frozen.

He is bigger than me, much bigger,
And I'm afraid of what I know is coming.
He pushes me down onto my bed,
And I shrink away from his touch.

He leans over me, his face so close to mine.
I can smell the alcohol on his breath.
I try to fight him, really I do,
But he's stronger than me, much stronger.

He uses my fear to make me submit.
His hand holds my mouth shut,
Robbing me of more than my voice.
Robbing me of my dignity.

He leaves when he's done,
And I curl in on myself.
I'm a little numb and scared.
Did I make him do this to me?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Forgotten Prince Ch. 2


Back in his hotel room, Tepin collapsed onto the single bed, his arm over his face. He was angry and exhausted. He'd gotten off the plane only two hours ago. The cab ride to this modest hotel had taken an agonizingly slow half hour. Traffic had been horrendous due to an accident out on the freeway.

Another drunk driver had plowed into a minivan with a toddler and newborn. He only knew that much because his phone had internet service. He'd gone online and watched the live newscast. The news anchor had said that the newborn was miraculously unscathed, the mother had only minor injuries, but the toddler was in critical condition. He remembered feeling grateful that most people on his island country used bicycles and motor scooters. There were very few cars in Nefer.

Once he'd arrived at the hotel, he'd taken a shower, shaved, and changed his day-old clothes. Then, just as he was about to leave for his consort's, his mother had called.

"Have you arrived safely?" His mother had asked in lieu of a greeting.

"Yes, Mother."

"Have you made contact with Theodore yet?"

"No, Mother."

"Why not?"

"I just got here. I've only had time to get myself presentable," he'd said, some exasperation leaking into his voice.

His mother had clucked at him, but he knew she wasn't upset with him.

"Call me when you've talked with him. I love you, habib albi."

"Love you, too, Momma. I will call and let you know how it goes," he'd said, smiling.

Now, as he lay on the lumpy hotel bed, staring up at the ceiling, he wanted to kick himself. With a flick of a wrist he lifted the other pillow and pulled it to him, hugging it close, like a favorite teddy bear. That was the very first time he and his consort had met since he was five and Taz was three, and he'd ruined it by telling him things he should have already been aware of. He sighed heavily, wishing things had gone a lot better. But Gods! The Langleys were supposed to have raised Theodore knowing who and what he was. That was the plan.

Well, at least the kid hadn't thrown him out on his ass, or worse. Maybe things would still turn out all right. Maybe Theodore would talk to Stephen and Bethany Langley, and they'd talk him into accepting his fate. Gods, but this had to work. It just had to.

Because Taz was his soul mate.

When a Neferian or Hotepian first meets their soul mate as an adult, they experience a zing upon touching for the first time. He had felt that zing today, when he shook his consort's hand. That zing changed everything for him. He wasn't going along with this arranged marriage because he had to, but because he wanted to. Soul mates were greatly cherished by their people, partly because only thirty percent of their people have found their soul mate.

He pushed the thought aside for the time being.

With another, softer sigh Tepin dug his phone out of his pocket and dialed his mother. He'd promised to call when he got back, and he always kept his promises.

"Tepin, habib albi. I trust everything went according to plan? When shall I expect you here?"


"What went wrong?" His mother asked warily.

"He was not aware of who he was. The Langleys raised him ignorant of his royal blood. He didn't know he was a prince, let alone engaged to be married."

His mother drew in a sharp, indrawn breath. "He knew nothing?"

"Nothing," Tepin confirmed.

"I shall have words with King Bakhoun. This arrangement has been made since before you were born, habib albi."

"Before I was born? Don't you mean before he was born?"

"No, habib albi. Before you were born. We made this arrangement while I was pregnant with you. King and Queen Bakhoun were trying for a child of their own at the time, it just took them a few years to conceive."

"Oy, Mother. I still do not see

"It is not your job to see or understand this arrangement," she said, much too sharply. He felt her ire like a punch to the gut. But then, in a much gentler voice, she said, "I love you, habib albi, but I cannot tell you just yet."

"Do you know how frustrating that is, Mother?" he asked, the resignation clear in his voice.

Chuckling softly, she said, "Yes, I do."

"Mother, is this arranged marriage really that important to you?"

"Yes, habib albi," she said, not unkindly. "This is very important for your father, myself, you, and our country. I've got to go now. I love you, habib albi."

"I love you, too, Momma."

Tepin closed his cell phone, and just stared at it for a moment. Then, with a sigh, he reached over and set it on the bedside table. Flopping back down onto his back, he stared at the ceiling, resignation and frustration battling within him. He knew something wasn't right, but he couldn't quite figure it out.

Ten minutes later, he snorted his disgust, no closer to the truth than he had been before. Figuring he'd have more luck and a clearer mind after a nap, he rolled over onto his side, flipped the light switch on the wall by the door off, and shut his eyes. He hadn't thought he was that sleepy, but he felt himself drifting off almost immediately. And surprisingly, the image of Taz floated through his mind...


"Mom, Dad, what is going on?" Taz asked as soon as he entered his parents' house. It was a nice
house. Two stories tall, three decent-sized bedrooms, big living room, and an open kitchen/dining room. The living room walls were painted a light blue. Framed photos of Dane and himself growing up hung on the walls. A few family portraits were up there, as well as framed certificates they'd gotten in school, such as the Honor Roll.

There was a stone fireplace at one end with an overstuffed light green couch facing it. A dark wood end table with a glass center and a Tiffany lamp sat at each end of the couch. More pictures of Dane and himself adorned the mantle. In the center was his parents' wedding photo. They looked so young and happy in that picture. And totally in love. The picture made Taz want to smile every time he saw it, and this time was no exception.

At the other end of the big living room was another light green, overstuffed couch and two matching recliners. The recliners were on either side of the couch, a little closer to the flat screen HDTV, and at a slight angle, so the furniture made a semi-circle around the TV. There was an end table that matched the ones by the fireplace next to the recliners, on the side closest to the wall. Two more end tables sat at either side of the couch. The tables closer to the wall held a clear glass vase of fake flowers, while the ones by the couch held Tiffany lamps.

A coffee table—a match to the end tables—sat in front of the couch. Another clear vase of fake flowers were neatly arranged atop the coffee table.

Taz looked at his parents now, waiting for one of them to answer him. His father had short, dark hair. It wasn't quite black, with silver at the temples. He had crow's feet at the corners of light brown eyes that lit up when he was excited about something. He had a slightly cleft chin and a strong jaw, and straight white teeth. He was tall, six foot four and well-toned.

His mother, on the other hand, was only five foot seven. She was a little on the plump side, had long black hair, and a quick smile. She also had laugh lines, but they weren't as prominent as his father's. Her eyes were a deep brown, framed by long lashes.

"What do you mean, son?" His father finally asked.

"You know damn well what I mean, Dad. This guy showed up at my house this morning, spouting nonsense about me being a prince of some island country next to his."

His father's face conveyed his chagrin as he gazed back at him.

"Oh dear," his mother murmured in dismay. "I thought we'd have more time."

"More time for what, Mom?" Taz asked, his stomach churning with dread.

"Well, we had hoped to talk to you before he got here," his father said. "We were going to sit you down this weekend and explain everything to you."

"Explain it now," he said, suddenly angry with his parents for keeping something this big from him. He felt angry at this whole situation.

"Perhaps we should all sit down, my lovelies," his mother interjected.

When they were all seated—him on one of the recliners, and his parents on the couch—his father took a deep, fortifying breath.

"Twenty-five years ago," his father began, "King Blankht's brother, Charlie, attempted to assassinate King Bakhoun. Charlie was caught, and the king recognized him. Since Charlie was a royal, the two kings argued over where Charlie should be held prisoner. After months of discussion and arguing, King Bakhoun told the king of Nefer that he'd allow them to punish Charlie, but in return, he wanted the heir to Nefer's throne to wed his own heir."

"What does that have to do with me?" Taz asked, incredulous. Although, he had a bad feeling he already knew.

"You are King Bakhoun's heir," his mother said, simply; confirming what he already knew., and supporting Mr. Tepin Blankht's story.


"But... I'm only twenty-three," he protested.

"You are their heir, their only heir. It took the queen a while to conceive."

"But, then, why am I here? Why did they send me away?"

"They sent you away because Charlie escaped his prison cell when you were three," his father said. "He went after you, because he knew it would hurt King Bakhoun to lose you. They sent you to your mother and I, and told us to come here, to America. He gave us temporary custody until they caught Charlie again, but Charlie vanished."

Taz was silent for a moment, his brows furrowed in consternation. "If I was already three, why don't I remember any of this?"

"Because, lovely," his mother said, "you were only three. You were so young still."

"So why did you keep this from me?" Taz asked, suddenly angry all over again.

"We were supposed to raise you knowing who you were, but..."

"But what?"

"But your mother and I thought it would be better for you to not grow up always looking over your shoulder, waiting for Charlie to show up."

"Maybe I should have grown up always looking over my shoulder!" he yelled, jumping up from the recliner. "Then at least I'd know who I am!"

"Son, you're still

"Don't call me that!" he said vehemently. Then he cringed at the hurt he could see in his father's eyes. He knew they'd been doing what they thought was right at the time. They hadn't sought to hurt him with their deception and lies. They never meant to make him question his very life.

Taz sighed, then said softly, "Look, I'm sorry. I just” He paused, then; "I just need some time to process this. I'll talk to you guys la


Turning around, Taz saw his little brother coming toward him from the hall. Dane had shaggy black hair, his father's light brown eyes, and his mother's full lashes. He had the sweetest smile, despite being a teenage boy. He was five foot nine inches of skin and bones. And like their parents, Taz, and Mr. Tepin Blankht, he had light brown skin, almost like a permanent tan.

He smiled at Dane, because he could never not smile at the kid. Although, okay, Dane had turned fifteen the month before, so technically he wasn't a kid anymore, even if he sometimes acted like one.

Dane threw his too-thin arms around Taz's waist and buried his face in his chest. "Please don't be mad at them," he said, his voice muffled.

Taz hugged him back, his chest tight. "Dane, just because I'm mad at them, doesn't mean I love them any less. Besides, aren't you a bit too old to be eavesdropping?"

Dane looked up at him, smiling sheepishly. "How else will I know what's going on? Nobody ever tells me the important stuff."

Grinning, Taz chucked him lightly under the chin. "If it's really important, then somebody will tell you." He paused dramatically, then said, "Eventually."

Dane smiled. "Tell me about this island country you mentioned."

He drew in a breath to answer, but then he frowned. "I don't know much about it. I only had enough time to do a quick Google search to make sure it even existed. I know it's called Hotep, and that it's part of a group of eleven islands that form a star. But other than that, I know nothing about it."

He purposely left out the memory that had come to him earlier. He wasn't ready to deal with the fact that he had identified a woman who wasn't Bethany Langley as his mother. It brought home the fact that Bethany wasn't his mother. She had never been his mother. He had just been some kid that had been thrust upon her.

Duty. That's the word. It had been her duty—and Stephen Langley's—to take care of him. He doubted their love for him now, and he hated it.

"Dad, can you tell us about Hotep?" Taz asked, pushing those destructive thoughts aside for now.

"If you sit back down and have one of your mother's brownies, I will tell you about Hotep and At—the surrounding islands."

"I'll get the brownies!" Dane volunteered excitedly.

When everybody was seated again with a brownie and a drink, Stephen began.

“Our islands were officially discovered in 1507 by the Portuguese. We have resisted the colonization of the Portuguese—and several other empires—until the eighteenth century, when we were finally recognized as our own people.”

Taz felt conflicted. He wanted to know more about the place of his birth. He wanted to know what it looked like. He wanted to know about the kingdom, and the king and queen.

The need to know more also scared him. It felt like the worst kind of betrayal—the betrayal of his heart and family. Which didn't make much sense to him, because of this knew doubt of Stephen and Bethany Langley's love for him.

The inside of his head was beginning to look like a kaleidoscope of emotions. Fear. Self-doubt. Confusion. Curiosity. It was starting to make him dizzy.

What—” He stopped to clear his throat.

Taz took a few Werther's Originals caramel candy from his pocket, and popped one into his mouth. “Anybody want one?” he asked.

Yes, please,” Dane said. Taz tossed one to him.

When he looked at his parents, they shook their heads. He put the rest into one pocket, and the wrapper in the other pocket. He had been taught from an early age to never leave trash lying about.

Dad... what do the islands look like?” It was a safe, neutral topic. He didn't want to get into the more volatile subjects yet.

His father looked around the room, collecting his thoughts, but then he turned his gaze to Taz.

All eleven islands were formed by volcanoes, though none of the islands have had recorded volcanic activity since 1510. Sheer black cliffs fall into an ocean that is usually a good temperature to swim. There are mountains great for climbing. Rolling emerald valleys surrounds huge craters of sapphire water. We have geysers, waterfalls, hot mineral springs, and, of course, there are volcanoes.

There are no busy cities on our islands, no cars or buses; we have villages, feet, and . . . horses.”

Horses?” That hesitation before the word 'horses' told him that wasn't what his father had been about to say.

Yes, horses.”

Taz opened his mouth to ask what his father had really been about to say, but his mother cut him off.

Stephen, we need to go, or we'll be late.”

His father looked up, startled. “Is it that time already?”

It is. The Johnsons are expecting us in a half hour.”

Then we should be getting ready,” his father said.

His parents got up and left the room, presumably to get ready.

"So, you're some prince, huh?" Dane said, smiling.

Taz ruffled Dane's shaggy black hair. "Hey! I just got my hair how I wanted it! You big jerk!"

"You wanted it to look like a bird's nest?" Taz easily danced away from his brother's shove. Then he got serious. "You know I love you, right? That, even if I'm some prince, even if I go live there, you'll always be my baby brother?"

"Shokran," Dane said, quietly.

Taz hugged Dane again, said goodbye to his parents, and left. He had a lot to think about.

Forgotten Prince Ch. 1


"Yo, Taz."


"Taz, wake your ass up."

Taz blinked, yawned. Scratched his nuts and groaned. "Wha' the fuck, man? I was having the best dream," he complained, his voice thick and husky from sleep.

"Was he hot?"

"Wouldn't be the 'best' dream if he wasn't."

"For you, maybe."

"What, you want an ugly dude?" Taz asked, knowing full well that his best friend was unswervingly straight. A shame, really. Taz would love to show him the joys of gay sex. At a solid six feet three inches tall, Connor was every gay man's wet dream. He should know, having had plenty of them himself.

Connor shot him a mocking glare. Taz just grinned, showing perfect white teeth. Connor's lips twitched and he finally smiled, shaking his head. "You're hopeless, Taz. Utterly hopeless."

"True." Taz got up from the bed, his black cotton boxers riding low on his slim hips. "So... was there a reason you interrupted my slumber, Con?"

Connor's sea green eyes widened. "Oh shit!"

Opening a dresser drawer, Taz pulled out his favorite jeans, an old, faded pair of Levi's.

"There's some fancy dude here to see you."

"Fancy dude?" Taz asked, looking up, a question in his eyes.

"Yeah, some very dressed up guy. I left him in the living room. Told him you'd be down in a minute."

"Huh. What do you suppose Mr. Fancy wants?"

"Dunno," Connor said with a shrug of one broad shoulder. "He wouldn't say. Said it was a private family matter."

"Family matters?" Taz, in the process of pulling on his pants, froze. What the hell was going on now?

Balancing on one leg, with the other poised to step into his jeans, Taz's weight shifted. Hopping frantically around the room—with Con laughing hysterically—Taz crammed his other leg in the pants and faced Connor.

Correctly reading the horror on Taz's face, Connor hastily went about reassuring him. "Don't worry; nobody's dead or dying. Nobody is hurt, I asked."

Taz visibly relaxed. "Tell him I'll be out in a sec, will ya? Pretty please, babe?"

"Yeah. I put on a pot of coffee before I came to get your skinny ass up."

"I love you. Let's get married. I've heard Boston is extremely gay friendly. And the marriage will be—oomph!" Taz caught the pillow Connor had thrown at his face before it fell to the floor. "I'll take that as a maybe?"

Laughing, Connor said, "Put a shirt on and get your ass to the living room."

"I've noticed you have a thing for my ass."

"Just hurry."


Five minutes later found Taz in the living room with clean teeth, an empty bladder, and a mug of fresh coffee. He hadn't yet met Mr. Fancy; he'd stepped outside to take a phone call about a minute before Taz found his way to the living room.

Now that Connor had reassured him that everybody was okay, Taz had to admit to an intense curiosity about the man and what he wanted. Maybe Mr. Fancy was here to tell him he'd won the lottery. Wouldn't that be nice? Then maybe Dane, his younger brother, could have that operation he so sorely needed to fix his heart.

Of course, in order to win the lottery, he'd have to actually play.

Just then, the door opened, breaking into his musings. Mr. Fancy himself stepped back into the house, quietly shutting the rich mahogany door behind him. Connor had been right; this guy was definitely dressed up. He was wearing black loafers, tan slacks that might as well have been painted on they were so tight, and a purple vest with a white button-down underneath. The vest had a crest over the left breast, right above the heart. The crest was circular, with a phoenix flying over an ocean at sunset. It was pretty and very well done. The colors really popped. Taz couldn't help thinking he'd seen it somewhere before.

Mr. Fancy looked to be about an inch or two taller than Taz, which would put him at about six foot four or six foot five. Soft, full lips graced a face with a strong, square jaw and a firm mouth. Lips that Taz could well imagine wrapped around his dick. And okay. That was so not something he should be thinking about. Taz shook his head, trying to dispel that image from his mind.

He finally looked up, into Mr. Fancy's eyes... and promptly stopped breathing. The man had gorgeous eyes; dark gray, like a stormy night's sky, ringed by the longest eyelashes he'd ever seen on a person, man or woman. What was that expression all romance books seemed to use? Bedroom eyes. Mr. Fancy had bedroom eyes. He could imagine gazing into those eyes as he—

"Taz!" Connor said, nudging him.

With a jolt, he realized he'd been staring, and probably drooling. Smiling sheepishly, he extended a hand to Mr. Fancy. "Hi, I'm Theodore Langley, but you can call me Taz."

Mr. Fancy smiled, and Taz swore he heard angels sing. He felt a jolt of electricity as their hands touched, and he jerked his hand back in surprise. "Sorry. Static electricity," he muttered when Mr. Fancy frowned. Then, louder, "What can I do for you, Mr....?"

"Blankht. Tepin Blankht," he supplied, and his deep, melodic voice made Taz's knees weak. "May I speak with you privately, please, sir?"

"Call me Taz, and Connor is my best friend. You might as well just say whatever it is you came here for, 'cause I'm just going to tell him everything as soon as you leave. We don't keep secrets."

Mr. Fancy—er, Mr. Blankht—hesitated, then tentatively asked, "Is... Connor... your—how do you Americans say—boyfriend?"

Taz very nearly spit out his mouthful of coffee, managing instead to swallow it all, and the hot liquid burned his throat. Connor coughed, no doubt to hide a laugh.

"Um, no," Taz said. "He's

"Straight as a nail," Connor finished for him.

"Why?" Taz and Connor asked simultaneously.

Ignoring their question, Mr. Blankht asked another of his own. "Is there another?"

"I'm not romantically involved with anybody at the moment," Taz said, some of his exasperation showing in the tightening of his lips. "These are awfully personal questions to be asking a stranger."

"But I am not a stranger, young Prince Theodore. I am your consort. We are to be wed in a fortnight."

Taz stood there, staring uncomprehendingly at Mr. Blankht, feeling... bewildered. He didn't know how to respond to Mr. Blankht's claims. Maybe he was on something? Taz looked into his eyes, but he saw no signs of intoxication or drugs; his eyes were clear and focused. No redness. So okay, he didn't appear to be high or drunk. Appear being the operative word.

He still had no clue what Mr. Blankht was talking about. He wasn't a prince, and he certainly wasn't getting married. He'd remember proposing to somebody. Although... There was that one time, about a month ago, when he'd gotten so shit-faced, he still couldn't remember anything he'd done that night. But still.

He didn't know what to think.

"What are you talking about?" He finally asked. "I'm not engaged, and I'm no prince."

"No one has told you?" Mr. Blankht asked, his face a mask of consternation. "They were supposed to have told you by now."

"Who was supposed to have told me what?" Taz felt a certain anxious dread. He shook his head, as if by doing so, he could somehow prevent what was coming next.

"You are the son of King and Queen Bakhoun. You are the prince—the only prince—of Hotep. Hotep is one of a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean, off the east coast of North America. I live on an island very close to yours. Nefer."

Taz's eyes narrowed in concentration, a niggling memory trying to burst free. There was a faint ringing in his ears that sounded vaguely like a bell. He closed his eyes, trying to coax the memory closer, and...

Mommy?” Theodore said, tugging at his mother's dress.

Yes, Carmie?” His mother asked in her musical voice.

What's that?” He was pointing at an emblem on a dignitary's chest.

She chuckled. “That, my little sweet tooth, is the crest of Nefer. Do you remember what we learned yesterday?”

Theodore nodded, his eyes wide. He was clutching his mother's hand, because there were so many people there he didn't know. She gently squeezed his little hand, reassuring him that he was safe.

There are two kingdoms. We rule one, and...” he scrunched his face up, trying to remember. “And Teremun rules the other one.”

That's right, Theodore.” She patted his hand. “King Teremun Blankht is here, and he brought his son. Why don't you go and find him?”

Taz frowned, shaking his head to clear away the memory. It disturbed him. The memory was fuzzy; he couldn't make out any details, but he somehow knew he had been looking at the crest Tepin wore over his heart.

But that's not what disturbed him. What disturbed him was the fact that the woman in his memory wasn't Bethany Langley. Sure, it was fuzzy, but the woman's image had been just clear enough to determine she wasn't Bethany. It scared him a little, but he pushed the fear aside. It wouldn't change anything.

"What are you talking about?” He finally asked. “My parents are Stephen and Bethany Langley. I have a brother, Dane."

"They really haven't told you. I see. Perhaps I should take my leave for now. I will come back tomorrow, so you will have a chance to talk to the Langleys." Mr. Blankht bowed elegantly, then left.

Taz stared after him, his head buzzing, trying to block out everything Mr. Blankht had said. He knew with a sickening certainty that his life had just been turned inside out and upside down.

With shaking hands, he took his cell phone from his pocket and pressed speed-dial number one. Connor caught his eye, and he shook his head. Later, he mouthed.

"Mom, we need to talk," Taz said when the other line was picked up.