"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."
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.