Before I get to the good stuff, let me first say I hope everybody who celebrates it had an epically awesome Thanksgiving. Mine was great. Full of Guitar Hero (or was it Rock Band? =/ ) and great food. Oh, and I guess the company wasn't so bad, either. :P
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"Don't you have anything . . . less stuffy?"
Tepin looked up, his gaze meeting Taz's honey-whiskey eyes. Heat suffused his body. God, he wanted Taz bad.
"Hm...?" he murmured.
"Your vest. Don't you having anything less stuffy to change into? Like maybe a tee shirt?"
Tepin looked down at the vest he'd pulled out of the closet; it matched the one he had on now, minus the chocolate milk stain. "What's wrong with this?" he asked defensively.
"It's stuffy," Taz said bluntly. "Personally, I never really liked the vest look."
"There is nothing wrong with this."
Rolling his eyes, Taz moved from his perch on the bed and came to stand next to him. "Take off your soiled shirt and vest," he said as he surveyed the contents of Tepin's closet.
Tepin reluctantly pulled off his vest, then the white button-up shirt. The chocolate milk had seeped through the vest to stain the shirt beneath. I'll have to soak these, he thought as he dropped them unceremoniously to the floor at his feet.
"Aha!" Taz exclaimed, pulling a white tee shirt from a hanger. Turning to face Tepin again, Taz said, "This'll... do..." His voice trailed off as his eyes roamed Tepin's now very bare chest. Tepin cleared his throat, and Taz's eyes snapped up to his.
As Tepin gazed into Taz's eyes, they darkened with the flames of desire. His heart beat faster, liquid heat engulfed him, and he felt slightly dizzy as all the blood seemed to drain down into his cock. He couldn't, for the life of him, remember ever wanting another man so much. He wanted to feel him, taste him, as they—
Tepin very slowly leaned forward, his eyes searching Taz's for any sign that he was going too far, moving too fast. But then Taz began leaning forward as well, meeting him halfway.
Just before their lips met, they both paused, as if it had been choreographed. Their breaths mingled as Tepin gazed into Taz's hooded eyes, losing himself in that honey-whiskey abyss. Then he leaned in that last half-inch, touching his lips to Taz's in a gentle kiss.
A hot rush of desire punched him low in the gut and he had to fight the need to kiss him harder, deeper. Instead, he forced himself to go slow, to gently lick Taz's lips. Slowly, he coaxed his mouth open, sweeping his tongue inside to taste him. His taste was a heady mix of hot chocolate and banana cream donuts. But under that? Was all Taz, all man.
Taz groaned into the kiss, then deepened it, kissing him hungrily. Tepin pulled him close, kissing him back fiercely, their teeth gnashing together as their tongues dueled for dominance. He shuddered at the feel of Taz's nails gently raking down his spine. His hips jerked forward when those sinful nails dipped down the back of his slacks, and his cock rubbed against Taz's own erection.
Taz broke the kiss, resting his forehead on Tepin's shoulder as he gasped for breath.
"Wow," Taz whispered hoarsely.
"Yeah, wow." Tepin's own breathing was ragged from that incredible kiss.
Taz raised his head, and Tepin kissed him again. Deeper. Harder. Somehow, Taz's shirt came off, and Tepin's hands roamed over his heated flesh, trying to touch as much of him as he could. He felt himself falling, helpless to do anything to stop it. But then his back hit the bed, and he realized that somehow, they'd moved back.
Taz was straddling him, his hips rocking as he strained to get closer, even as his cock rubbed against Tepin's own throbbing erection. Tepin moaned, kissing him deeper, his hands moving to his hips. Taz immediately grabbed his wrists and shoved them above his head, pinning him there as he rocked against him faster. Taz broke the kiss in favor of skimming gentle, nibbling kisses along Tepin's neck.
“Taz...” he moaned, his back arching off the bed. If Taz didn't stop now, he'd explode right in his slacks.
“Well, this is interesting.”
Taz jumped off him and scrambled off the bed, leaving Tepin feeling bereft. He sat up, and, trying to hide the fact that he was trembling from pent-up need, he began unwinding his long hair from its French braid.
“What are you doing here, Dekk,” he asked, when he felt his voice would be cool and calm.
“Sadiki left his carry-on bag by the door. I figured, since I swiped one of your key cards earlier, that we could come and get it. Imagine my surprise at finding my brother being ravished by a stunning man?”
“Oh, shut up,” Tepin growled, even as he felt his face flush.
“Now, is that any way to speak to your brother?”
“Brother?” Tepin scoffed. “Right now, you are nothing more than a royal pain in my ass.”
“Well, at least—”
“Guys,” Taz said. “Knock it off. You're not five.”
“He sure acts—”
“Tepin,” Taz said, the warning clear in his voice.
“Fine. Sadiki, grab your bag, then please escort Dekk out.”
“Yes, Your Highness,” he said, bowing low.
Tepin watched as Sadiki bent down beside the door and grabbed his bag. Then they were gone, leaving Tepin alone with Taz once again. Maybe he should have had two of the guards stay in the room, with them, rather than send them all off with his brother again.
Taz cleared his throat, and shifted his weight slightly, clearly uncomfortable. “So...”
“I apologize for my brash behavior just now. I know you are not ready for such intimacies with me. I can only hope that this will not result in a setback,” Tepin said, as he looked up at Taz. He noticed that Taz had put his shirt back on, albeit inside out and backwards. The sight made him want to smile, but he suppressed it; this situation called for seriousness, not humor.
“Tepin, I'm twenty-three, not a little kid. I know how to take responsibility for my actions.”
“But I star—”
“You may have started it,” Taz said, “but I was a willing participant. Hell, I was the one to step it up a notch or five.”
Tepin felt his face flush as he remembered just how far they had gone. He'd come so close to coming, and they hadn't done anything more stimulating than make out. Well okay. They had also humped each other like two sex-crazed teenagers.
Closing his eyes, he could still feel Taz's lips on his own, then on his neck, his hot breath tickling his sensitive flesh. He recalled, quite clearly, the heady rush of being dominated as Taz ground down into him feverishly, as if he couldn't get enough of him. The feel of his imminent orgasm—
Tepin opened his eyes, mentally shaking the new memory away. He shifted, attempting to alleviate the pressure of his cock pressing against his slacks.
“Do all princes blush as much as you?” Taz asked, his voice laced with amusement.
Looking up, Tepin saw the teasing glint in Taz's gorgeous eyes. “Uh... no,” he mumbled.
Grinning, Taz flounced down onto the bed next to him, making it bounce. He pulled his legs up under him Indian style, and, with his elbows on his knees, he cradled his chin in his hands.
“So, tell me about yourself.”
The question startled him. He'd have thought that Taz would start by asking about his parents and his own island country, not about him. Not yet, anyway.
“Um... You want to know about... me?” Tepin asked, dumbly.
Taz rolled his eyes and nodded. “Yeah, I want to know about... you.”
“What do you want to know about me?”
“How old are you? How many siblings do you have?”
“I am twenty-five, and I have two siblings; Dekklahn and Delila.”
“You're the oldest?” Taz asked.
“Yes, I am the oldest. Then Dekk, then Delila.”
“What was it like, growing up in a castle?”
Tepin shrugged. “Being a prince can be stifling. You cannot go anywhere without at least two guards, and although you are never alone, sometimes you feel as though you are. It is hard to make friends, because you have to be cautious. When you have money and power, it is sometimes hard to tell a true friend from those who only want a piece of your wealth.
“When you are outside the castle walls, you are not a person; you are merely an ambassador for the king and queen. You are expected to dress and act a certain way. You are required to always be on your best behavior, and never besmirch the crown name, lest you feel the wrath of the king and queen.”
“It sounds... lonely,” Taz said.
“Yes, it is,” Tepin replied, feeling suddenly melancholy.
“So, what is your family like?”
“My mother and father are a bit stiff and prudish, but they love us fiercely. Father inherited the crown from his mother, being the eldest child. In Nefer—and Hotep—the eldest child, regardless of gender, inherits the crown, and full power over the country.
“They treat Dekklahn, Delila, and myself equally, even though Dekk is the crown prince. He receives no spe—”
“Wait a minute,” Taz said. “Aren't you the crown prince?”
“No,” Tepin replied, unable to keep the bite from his tone.
“Why not? I thought you said the oldest—”
“I am not the crown prince, Taz,” he interrupted, “because I am promised to you. Since you are the crown prince of Hotep, I cannot rule Nefer.”
Tepin winced inwardly, immediately regretting his harsh words. The flash of hurt he saw in Taz's honey-whiskey eyes just made him feel even worse. The hurt shifted quickly to anger as he glared at him.
“Well, excuse me for putting a crimp in your plans! It's not like I want to marry you!” Taz shouted.
The silence was deafening. His angry words seemed to permeate the room.
It's not like I want to marry you!
He saw the hurt in Tepin's eyes, even though he tried to hide it.
It's not like I want to marry you!
Taz felt his gut clench. Why had he said that? Hadn't his parents taught him better than that? He could see his mother in his mind's eye, glaring daggers at him, hands on her plump hips. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. One day, you're going to say something hurtful you don't mean, and won't be able to take it back.
“I think you should go,” Tepin interrupted him, his voice quiet.
He wouldn't look at him, and Taz's heart sank. He'd royally screwed up.
“I'm sorry. I didn't mean—”
The chorus of Linkin Park's “Leave Out All the Rest” suddenly blared through the room, startling them both. It took a moment for Taz to realize that it was his cell phone, letting him know he had a text message. He frowned. His friends and family knew that he hated text messages; they were so unreal, for lack of a better term. He much preferred actually talking. The only time anybody ever texted him was if there was an emergency.
With that thought in mind, he dug his phone out of his pocket, and flipped it open. The text was short, but heart-stopping.
Took Dane to ER. Not breathing. Come quick.
“Oh, shit,” he said, jumping up from the bed. “I gotta go.”
“What's wrong?” Tepin asked.
“Dane. My brother. He's in the hospital.”
“I'll come with you,” he said, and got to his feet.
* * * * * *
The twenty-minute cab ride was uncomfortably quiet. Tepin had tried to talk to him a few times, but Taz had just ignored him and stared out the window. His right foot tapped the door rhythmically as he watched the lights lining the streets whiz past them.
Taz could imagine the sound of a ticking clock in the back of the cab with them, counting down the time. It ratcheted up his fear for his brother. It was overwhelming. Some part of him knew he shouldn't be quite this scared, but his mind liked to make up worst-case scenarios. What if Dane had had heart failure? What if he needed surgery? What if he died?
He shuddered at that last thought.
“Taz, your brother will be fine,” Tepin said, for what seemed like the thousandth time.
Taz was too caught up in his mind to really listen to Tepin.
The cab finally pulled up to the entrance to OSU Medical Center's ER, and Taz jumped out. He led the way into the ER. He looked around frantically, searching for either of his parents, his heart pounding. God, he hoped Dane was going to be okay.
He will, he told himself sternly. Dane is going to be fine.
He shifted, looking toward the voice. His father was a few feet ahead, standing near a set of double doors. Stephen Langley looked haggard and disheveled; his face was gaunt, and his hair looked as if he'd been running his fingers through it. Some of his shirt had come untucked on one side. The look in his light brown eyes, though, was the worst. If you mixed worry, fear, pain, suffering, and torture together, you might come close.
Taz hurried over to him.
“Dane said he wasn't feeling good. He passed out, and almost immediately started turning blue. So we rushed him to the ER.”
“He wasn't breathing.”
“Is he going to be okay?”
Before his father could answer, the double doors opened, and his mother stepped through, her face red and blotchy from crying. Taz's heart sank, and he rushed to her side. He wrapped his arms around her in a tight embrace.
“He needs open-heart surgery. Immediately,” she said, her voice shaky.
“Are you sure?” His dad asked.
He gave his mother one last comforting hug, then released her, and stepped back. She went straight into her husband's arms.
“Yes. Oh, Stephen, we can't afford surgery. We'll have to sell the house, the car... everything.” The dejection in his mother's voice was palpable. His father stroked her back, and, as if the dam had burst, she began sobbing into his shoulder. Her body shook with the force of her sobs.
Time to give his parents a little privacy.
Taz moved away from his parents, motioning for Tepin to follow him. When they reached the vending machines, he turned to look at him.
He gathered his thoughts, trying to find a nicer way to ask what he needed to. He didn't want to hurt or offend Tepin again.
“Tepin, this is going to sound really bad, but... If I go to Hotep and marry you, will I have access to any of the king's money?”
Tepin hesitated, but then said, “I believe so, yes.”
“And I'll be able to use it to pay my brother's hospital bill?”
“I do not see why not.”
Closing his eyes, he took in a deep breath to steady his nerves. He could do this. He had to do this. For Dane and his parents. A sense of calm enveloped him with the resolution.
Opening his eyes, he looked at Tepin. “Alright. I'll marry you. But it probably won't be in two weeks, as planned. I don't have a passport, and I've heard that they can take a while to get.”
“If you want to go back home—”
“I will stay until you can accompany me. This will give us time to get to know each other before the wedding.”