My toes were completely frozen; I couldn’t feel them at all inside my steel-toed boots. Stupid choice, but the Doc Martens looked tuff with the rest of the outfit, and like a true fag, I sacrificed comfort for fashion. I drew the line at the fingerless gloves, though. Those were just too homeless, too grunge-ago for me to even bother trying to pull them off. Besides, it was really fucking cold out here, and my fingers were numb inside the black leather Thinsulate driving gloves I wore.
I stood in a field. That’s what it was, all pretenses aside, a big field out in the middle of Nowhere Pennsylvania, where a decent crowd of about three dozen gathered as the witching hour drew ever nearer. A bonfire burned off to one side giving us both heat and light, though there wasn’t nearly enough of either to suit me. The booze flowed freely, and a blue haze of cigarette smoke bolstered by other, thicker smoky textures hung around the crowd of post-adolescent men and women milling about, waiting to be dazzled. We all waited for the appearance of Paolo Strakos.
“He’ll be pissed about the fire.” Denny whined at us, the emo mop of his black hair falling into his eyes as he dashed a frantic glance at the bonfire.
“Too fucking bad,” one of the rugby boys growled, hands shoved in his letterman’s jacket. “It’s fucking cold out here.”
“Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Denny’s nasally whine was so goddamned annoying even I wanted to smack him.
The black Escalade rolled up, chrome spinning, windows dark, old Nine Inch Nails blasting that Trent wanted to fuck us all like animals. I shivered. That song always gave me a semi. The driver’s side window hummed down and Denny went scurrying over like the little bootlicker he was, that stupid haircut of his all but blinding him as it flopped into his eyes again.
“I told them,” Denny whined loudly. He stumbled back as whoever drove shoved him hard. He dashed a hand across his lip as though checking for blood, of which there was none, but he was a total drama queen. He slunk back up to the window. After another quiet exchange he returned to us, shoulders hunched, looking like a thoroughly beaten dog, though that’s not what I saw.
But on to that in a moment.
“He says you have to put the fire out or he’s leaving,” Denny said, authority in his voice. “And then everybody has to get into rows of six people, just like I said the first time.”
The grumbling was pronounced, but the jocks moved to douse the bonfire with the water from the coolers and the snow that was still deep in the shady areas. The rest of us dutifully lined up, and I jostled my way to a spot in the first row. This was far from the first time I’d come to one of these little midnight soirees. As a matter of fact, I was a regular repeat attendee, which disturbed me on a visceral level. I only knew that I was tired of the club scene, tired of the bar scene, tired of one night stands and anonymous fucks, and I wanted to see something exciting, wanted to see something that really proved there was more to life than fast food and reality TV.
Paolo Strakos was all the proof I needed, and I kept coming back for more.
Denny was in his element, now. He loved this, his time to shine. His eyes were fever-bright, and his lips were swollen, though whether that was from him chewing on them or from the driver of the car smacking him no one could tell. He actually had the balls to put his hands on several of the jocks as he moved them from one line to another, snarking at them about their inability to count to six. God he was getting bold. Then he slipped on a patch of snow and stumbled into the girl next to me. Righting himself, his warm hazel eyes met my light green eyes, and for a moment, Denny looked at me like he knew. His gaze sharpened, then softened, then grew as frosty as the temperature around us, his hazel eyes narrowing suspiciously. His brown nose snapped up and he twitched his tight little ass back over to where the bonfire was being summarily dispensed. I did my best not to laugh at the little twink.
The great hissing rush as the water and cold snow hit the bonfire was immense, billowing clouds of steam blasted up towards the night sky and obliterated everything. The stench of wet wood, stale water, and old, damp earth was amazing, and I held my breath for a minute to let it pass. The doors on the Escalade opened, though the interior lights did not come on. Two sets of feet thudded against the frozen ground, clearly audible over the popping of the dying bonfire. As far as dramatic entrances went, the extinguishing of the bonfire couldn’t have served as a better audio-visual aid for Paolo.
A tall, dark figure, very lithe and graceful, next to one even taller who hulked over him moved through the steamy darkness to come and stand by Denny’s side. The hulk looped one arm around Denny’s waist, and I swear I heard the rush of Denny’s breath as he inhaled sharply, then the moan as Denny disappeared from my strained vision only to reappear a moment later, his lips bright and puffy, obviously kiss-swollen. Unexplained, unreasoned jealousy swarmed over me and I tried to tamp it down.
“All right, Paolo is here and he’s going to do one demonstration. Just one. If he stays afterwards, no questions. Anyone who bugs him gets banned from coming back, got it?” Denny was almost forceful now. Amazing what a little tongue can do for a shy boy. I fought the need to reach down and readjust my cock in my tight jeans. Five minutes ago I’d been freezing. Now my skin was on fire, my heart raced, and my breath came in little pants.
Denny walked a short distance away with the driver from the Escalade, and I could see enough to know that he was being thoroughly groped and well kissed. Good for Denny, I thought. He needed it. Insatiable little power bottom would end up a real pig if someone didn’t take him in hand and treat him like the bitch he was begging to be for somebody.
My attention wasn’t on Denny and his stupid antics anymore, though. Now that the fire was gone and the headlights of the Escalade winked into nothingness, the only light we had to see by was the half moon and the stars, which were unusually bright out here in Nowhere. A tall wisp of darkness within the night, his black hair gleaming under the moon and his dark eyes catching the starlight like ebon gems, Paolo stood before us, his hands clasped in front of him as though he prayed. The group of us stood in our lines the way Denny arranged us, utterly silent.
Paolo dressed all in black: bondage pants, heeled boots that buckled to the knee, a black shirt the clung to his torso, and a long, heavy, Australian Outback-style leather trench coat. He had black hair that curled riotously around his ears and face, faunlike, thick and luscious. What he didn’t wear in the icy weather was a pair of gloves; his hands were bare. He took a long, slow deep breath, his shoulders rising and falling with it. My pulse sped. I’d watched this so many times. I was addicted to this man and I didn’t know why.
At that instant, his head snapped up and his dark eyes locked with mine. His hands came up in that prayerful pose and his odd, raspy voice whispered the same word he always said.
He pulled his hands apart and once again, Paolo Strakos cupped pure blue flames in his hands. Only this time he did it while staring straight into my eyes. My heart raced, my blood pounding frantically through my vessels. I wasn’t sure how that was possible. I thought all the blood in my body was in my dick; it felt like it was going to bust right out of the front of my leather pants.
The people around me applauded and did the oohing and aahing thing. I didn’t. I stood there and stared at Paolo. Usually after he created fire he held it in his hands and then made it disappear. Once, and only once, the very first time I came to see him, he made the flames get taller, bigger, and brighter until I didn’t think he’d be able to hold them anymore. Then like it was nothing he smothered them in his hands and they vanished.
Tonight as he gazed into my eyes, he held the dancing blue flames and as I watched, he balanced them on one open palm. Reaching into the flames with his free hand, he twirled his fingers and drew up a completely separate second flame that he pulled free and held in his other hand. He brought his cupped palm up to his mouth. Aiming his open fingers in my direction, he gently blew on the smaller flame as if blowing a kiss and murmured, “Pro vás.”
The fire billowed out toward me and the audience like the tongue of flame from a fire-breathing dragon. The heat of it was wonderful in the frigid night. The girl next to me shrieked and stumbled back, breaking the lines. Several others around us did the same thing and their frightened voices filled the empty night. For some ridiculous reason, I walked forward into the flames, completely unafraid. Tremendous heat bathed my face, a caress of light and warmth that left me harder than I’d ever been in my life.
The world went cold and dark once more as the flames died away. I opened my eyes. Paolo stood before me, his hands closed in prayer once more, his dark eyes dancing. We were all of two feet apart. The left corner of his mouth quirked up in the most adorable half-smile. Naughty, mischievous, and utterly wicked, that little smirk on his face almost made me cream my jeans. He extended one of his hands to me and lifted his chin in invitation toward the Escalade. Behind him I saw the driver and Denny canoodling together. I nodded and took his hand.
The driver, whose name I still didn’t know, opened the back door of the big SUV and Paolo motioned for me to climb in. It smelled like leather and incense inside. I slid across the seat as Paolo crawled in behind me and the door closed. He never let go of my hand. I turned and looked at him, my heart thumping furiously.
“What’s your name, milovaný?” His accent was odd and one I’d never heard before. God, hearing his voice did me in. I wanted him before; now I was desperate.
“Ian.” I rubbed my thumb back and forth over his hand. His skin was incredibly soft. The Escalade rumbled to life and I sat bolt upright. “Where are we going?”
“We’re going to my home.” Paolo tugged me toward him. That devilish half-smile appeared on his face again. “You do want to go home with me, don’t you?”
I cocked my head and gazed at him, giving him a look of my own. “Maybe. What are you going to do with me once you get me there?” I raised one ginger eyebrow. Paolo needed to understand that I wasn’t Denny. I wasn’t a bottom or anybody’s bitch.
“You seek me where ever I appear.”
Swifter than seemed possible he pinned me between the seat and door. His thinness was a façade. He was built like an Olympic wrestler and his chest bulged with muscle as he pressed against me. Heat radiated off of him in waves and I basked in it, pulled it in, and sucked it up like some creature starved for warmth.
One scorching finger traced my eyebrow, my cheekbone, the bridge of my nose, the line of my jaw, and finally my lower lip. In that moment I felt so needy I trembled. My eyes had been closed while he gently touched me, but when he stopped, I opened them to find him gazing at me, those dark eyes alive with wicked intentions.
“You are Rom, as I am, and you possess srdce z ledu, as it was written. I’m going to take you home so that you may meet my family.”
Whoa! The mention of meeting anybody’s family was like being dunked head first into ice water. I struggled upright though I didn’t let go of his very warm hand. “Paolo… Look… You’re super fucking hot and there’s nothing I’d like more than to get to know you better… except maybe tear your clothes off, lick you till you beg, and fuck you till you come all over both of us. Twice.” I grinned at him. But then my face turned serious. “But I don’t do families. Not even my own.”
Paolo stared into my eyes and sighed. “All right, milovaný. As you say.”
He eased back and allowed me my space on the seat. The next thing I knew he slipped under my arm and pressed up against my side. His muscular body snuggled against mine. His heat enveloped me in a searing erotic bath of fiery warmth that sent my eyes rolling back into my head. He smelled so damn good I drooled like an infant and had to convulsively swallow. I placed our joined hands directly on my erection. I was so hard I hurt.
“I say you did this, and you should take care of it.”
His scorching fingers fluttered over my fly and I squirmed. He looked up and me and grinned. “Ano, Ian, ano.”
“What language are you speaking?”
“Czech. You’ll learn it in time.” His free hand slid up and cupped the nape of my neck, his fingers playing in my long red hair. He spent several minutes gazing at my face, as if he wasn’t sure of what he was doing. Then he seemed to make up his mind. “Kiss me, milovaný.”
My arms slid around him as his mouth met mine and I was gone. The Escalade disappeared; the whole damn world vanished when Paolo kissed me. He sucked the air from my lungs and devoured my lips, then fed my breath back to me in the kiss. I didn’t need air; I breathed Paolo Strakos. The fire of his kiss scorched my lungs and his hands branded my flesh.
“Milovaný …” Paolo whispered the word against my ear, his tongue dripping liquid heat along the sensitive ridge. I writhed against him. “Ian… we must stop.”
“No… Please!” I had one hand down the front of his pants fisting his perfect cock as I licked and sucked at his supple neck. He chuckled.
I hadn’t noticed when the Escalade started to move, so its surcease of movement was an even greater surprise. Damn it, I told him I didn’t want to do this. I took ten seconds to button and zip my pants and hastily yanked my shirt and jacket closed against the cold. Then the back door opened and we climbed out. The house was an old sprawling mansion and not at all what I expected. Tons of people milled around and they all knew Paolo. He took my hand, threading our fingers together. As we entered the house and walked through the foyer side by side I realized I was slightly taller than he was, though not by much, maybe an inch or so. Paolo’s presence was so commanding he seemed taller.
Strangers warmly greeted us with smiles, calling out in the Czech language. I didn’t understand any of it, but Paolo answered them and several times lifted our joined hands to his heart, a radiant smile on his beautiful face. As we passed through a parlor done in cream and mauve with a tea rose pattern along the woodwork, Paolo slowed and then stopped. He turned to the corner and tugged until I turned with him.
“My grandmother,” he said. “She prophesized I would find you.”
I frowned. “How could she know such a thing?”
Paolo shrugged. “It’s her way.”
I glanced at the venerable old lady seated in a rocking chair. She had white hair and a face like a raisin, but her eyes were a clear glacial blue. She focused on our joined hands. Paolo raised them to his chest and pressed our joined fingers over his heart. Then he said something, a jumble of words in the Czech language that she answered with a rapid string of words and a laugh. Paolo blushed and nodded. He led me over to her and she grasped my free hand, turning it over and examining my palm. She smiled up at us and patted my hip, then said something to him that made him blush even darker. She laughed uproariously.
Paolo tugged me through the next room to a staircase. I assumed we would go up to his bedroom, so when he opened the door that obviously led down to the basement, I frowned. We descended, passing several more people who spoke to him. I couldn’t believe so many people were inside the house and said so.
“This is our clan home.” Paolo led me down into what appeared to be a large workroom. Groups of men and women sat at tables working with wood and other materials. They crafted beautiful instruments. I was amazed to see all the things they produced in this one tiny workshop. Paolo led me across to the room to a huge, heavy swinging door. He heaved it open and motioned me inside.
The room was little more than a box with concrete walls, ceiling, and floor. A concrete altar of sorts occupied the center of the room. I gazed around, confused. Paolo shrugged his heavy leather coat off and patiently waited for me to remove mine. Then he took our coats and set them outside the door before closing it. The room was completely dark until Paolo lit a small lamp.
“What kind of room is this?” I asked.
“It’s a kiln. The original owner of this house was a gifted sculptor, and this is where he fired his pottery.”
I stared at Paolo. “You mean we’re inside an oven?”
Paolo gazed at me. “Will you truly not allow me to make love to you?”
My eyebrows shot up. I folded my arms across my chest. “OK, that was an abrupt subject change. I’m up for almost anything here. I’m really into you, Paolo. But I’m a top. I don’t bottom. Ever. And this?” I motioned around the tiny concrete room. “This is kind of weird.”
“It’s necessary to protect my family.”
“I don’t get it.”
“I possess srdce ohné. You’ve seen my gift, felt it.”
“But that’s just a trick…” My voice trailed off at the look in his eyes. My heart pounded.
“You know it is not. You did not seek me, week after week, in one location after another, to witness a trick.” He slowly took the four steps separating us and his hands parted the fabric of my shirt, baring my chest. I looked down to see his shirt hung open, his chest covered with a gorgeous dusting of silky black hair that curled as enticingly as the hair on his head.
“I don’t know why I came to see you.” I ran my fingers through that bounty and loved it when he shivered.
“We are meant for each other. Oheň a led. Fire and ice.” He pushed our chests together and his hands dropped to my ass. God, the man drove me crazy! Burying his face in my neck he chewed and bit as his hands kneaded my ass. I had to get out of my jeans or I was going to end up with zipper marks permanently etched into my dick.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. You’re crazy hot, though, and if you want me to rock your world I’m here to do it.” I gasped as he left a deep bruise in my flesh.
“You must yield to me, milovaný.” His tongue licked a trail of fire along my collarbone. My damn knees were weak.
“Paolo, I’m a top; that’s just how I get down.” In less than two seconds I had his pants open and his dick in my hand. “You won’t regret it, baby. I promise.”
“You’re devilish.” His eyelashes fluttered as I stroked a pretty impressive piece. “And I will let you do whatever you wish to me. After I make love to you the first time.”
“Yeah, that isn’t gonna happen. But like I said, totally willing to do it my way.”
“I would deny you nothing. Can you not bend and meet me halfway?”
“No.” I let go of him and pulled my hand out of his pants. This wasn’t how I wanted things to go at all, damn it. “I can’t.”
His dark eyes searched my face. He looked lost and not a little bit confused. “You must. It’s the only way.”
“Why?” I jerked back from him, a little angry that he kept pushing this.
“Because I will die otherwise.”
“OK, that’s ridiculous!” I stormed over to the heavy door and hauled it open. I furiously fixed my shirt, knowing I buttoned it crooked and not caring. I reached down and swiped up my coat. I didn’t get hot in my anger, but cold, icy cold, as if all my feelings dropped down under a thick layer of frozen fury. I glared back at Paolo, who looked ready to be sick.
“I don’t even know you. And you’re pulling this shit on me? You’re gonna die if I don’t let you fuck me? News flash, boyo: nobody fucks me. I’m a top. End of. Lame ass, bullshit lines like, ‘I’ll die if I don’t have your ass,’ might work with guys like Denny, but they don’t work with me. Christ. I thought you were different.”
I stalked out without looking back.
Several of Paolo’s relatives called to me as I walked through the big house but I ignored them. It wasn’t until I got up to the first floor that the driver of the Escalade appeared in an archway, saw me, and intercepted me.
“Ian, what are you doing up here?”
He had no accent at all, and when I looked at him, I realized he didn’t look much like the rest of the family members. He was taller than me by six inches and huge. I didn’t see Denny anywhere.
“I need you to take me back to my car.”
“Not my concern.” I shrugged, indifferent. “Where’s Denny?”
“He’s upstairs. What happened?”
“Do you have a name?”
“Michael. Great. Michael, I need a lift back to my car. And it’s really none of your fucking business what happened.”
“Yes, it is. I’m Paolo’s personal security, which is why Denny is upstairs, ‘cause I can’t trounce all over his tight ass till I’m off shift and that ain’t for another four hours.” He backed me up against the wall and stared into my eyes. “Now, let’s try this again. What are you doing up here, when you’re supposed to be celebrating your engagement to Paolo?”
Incredulity twisted my face. “What the fuck are you talking about? We’re not engaged!”
He sighed and shook his head. Stepping back from me, he clapped a heavy hand on my shoulder. “Come on, Ian. We need to talk.”
Michael propelled me through the house to a large kitchen. In short order he produced food and drink, cleared the room of people, and sat us down at the table. I squirmed in my seat at the intensity of Michael’s gaze. “Did Paolo explain anything to you?”
“No. He said something about his grandmother saying I would come and that we were fire and ice. I thought it was romantic bullshit.”
“It’s not bullshit, kid. The Strakos Clan is one of the last authentic gypsy families. Paolo’s gift is genuine. When he creates fire, it’s real.”
I frowned. “But tonight -”
“Yeah. You walked right through his flames. That’s what his grandmother saw. That his mate would seek him out, that his mate would be headstrong and handsome, that his mate would be his match, and would have a heart of ice to match Paolo’s heart of fire. The whole damn Clan gathered in America for this, Ian. For Paolo to find you.”
I sat at the table, stunned. As much as I wanted to be done with one-night stands, now that the prospect of settling down presented itself, I was terrified. I wasn’t good at relationships. Both times I attempted to make something last it had ended in disaster. I shuddered.
“Paolo’s been traveling the country for the last three years looking for you. His babicka finally narrowed down where you were, and we’ve spent the last six months here.” Michael looked away, an uncomfortable look on his face.
“What? What aren’t you telling me?”
“Some of the Clan are pissed you’re a guy and not a girl. Paolo is the last Strakos prince. The line will die with him.”
I rolled my eyes and bit into a piece of dark, crusty bread. “It’s the 21st century. They’ve got other options.”
“They would never do anything like that.”
“So why would they accept two guys together?”
“Ian… homosexuality exists in every culture and species on the planet. They’re old fashioned, not stupid.”
“Sorry.” I took another bite and chewed, trying to process things. So far, nothing that Michael told me fixed our essential problem. Then the light bulb over my brain flicked on and my head snapped up. I stared into Michael’s eyes. “Paolo is straight, isn’t he? That’s why some of the Clan are upset. He’s been searching for a girl this whole time.”
Michael didn’t seem at all fazed by me figuring it out. He simply belched, excused himself, wiped his mouth with a napkin, and nodded. “Yeah, he’s straight and yeah, we thought we were looking for a girl. But that’s the thing with the clans, Ian. Sometimes things turn out way different and they ain’t like the rest of the world. They just shrug and roll with it.”
The sick feeling in my chest tightened and my stomach twisted so badly I dropped my sandwich. Now I understood. “He doesn’t want me.”
Michael brayed, shaking with laughter. I tensed, my whole body going ice cold. Michael’s laughter abruptly cut off and he frowned at me. “Ian, I’m gay. Paolo’s got no issue with guys being with guys. I’ve seen the way he looks at you. I also caught the action in the backseat of the Escalade on the way over here.” I blushed and looked away. “Paolo wants you just as bad as you want him.”
“I don’t think so, and the Clan doesn’t like it.” I picked at the sandwich on my plate and frowned; ice crystals coated the lettuce leaves. “I’ll just go, and Paolo can find some chick to bang.” Even as I said it, pain lanced through my chest like I’d been stabbed through the heart with an ice pick. Michael sat across the table and smirked at me.
“Didn’t like that much, did you?”
I shrugged. He raised his eyebrows. “Ian, you two are fated. You can’t be with anybody else now that you’ve touched, kissed. And being with Paolo for the first time will bring you into your abilities.”
I pushed the plate away. “I don’t have any abilities. This is nuts.”
“Just now, when you mentioned Paolo fucking a girl? You let loose a blast of cold that nearly froze my balls off. Look at my fucking beer mug.”
I glanced down at the table to see a rime of frost on the side of his glass that faced me. The same icy crystals I’d seen on my lettuce had formed on my plate, my cup, and the edge of the table in front of me. I stared at it, my eyes wide and my nostrils flaring.
“You need Paolo to help you, Ian. Let him bring you into your power and cement the engagement. It’s for the best. You’ll both be miserable otherwise.”
I gripped the table with both hands. I raised my eyes and met Michael’s gaze, trying not to scream. “To do all this, I have to let him fuck me, don’t I?”
“Ian… you don’t have control over your abilities. If you lose control with Paolo, you could completely extinguish him.” Michael’s eyes bored into me. “Do you get it, kid? You could put out his fire. Stop his heart.” He sat back in his chair and pushed his fingers through his hair. “Once you guys are bonded and you have some control, well… then you guys can choose how you want to roll. But the first time…” Michael shook his head. “The first time you need to just lay back and relax.” He picked up a frozen dill pickle, knocked it against his plate and dropped it in disgust. He gave me a very pointed look. “Think of England.”
I shoved away from the table and stumbled back. My hip hit the counter, the pain bright and jarring but still not enough to pull me out of my shocked state. Paolo hadn’t lied to me; he’d been telling the truth. It didn’t matter. All I could think about was the terror of my adolescence, the four years I lived with my mother and step-father, finding reasons not to go home at night. I’d shoved those memories so far down, under so many layers of cold, hard ice I never expected to face them again. Yet here they were, bobbing to the surface of my mind to torture me because of Paolo Strakos.
“I need some air,” I whispered.
Michael stood and led me out a small side door to a tiny garden. Three men of various ages stood out there smoking. He had a quiet word with them and they extinguished their smokes and went inside after nodding respectfully to me.
“You speak Czech.”
I said it for lack of something better to say. I was seriously struggling. As much as I suddenly wanted this whole adventure and as much as I desired Paolo, the idea of letting anyone touch me, of submitting and giving a man my body, terrified me beyond reason. I swore after I left home that no one would ever have me again, willing or not. And now my whole future hinged on my surrender.
“It’s one of the reasons they hired me.”
“I can’t do it.” The words rushed out of me and along with them a blast of cold that froze a patch of the garden five yards wide and ten yards deep. I staggered back and Michael caught me, his hands around my upper arms.
“Breathe, Ian.” He turned and shouted over his shoulder. “Získejte princ! Ted! Přesunout své zadky!” Pounding feet and voices answered his yell. I stared at the vegetation I just froze. My lungs hurt and I had what felt like an ice cream headache. My body throbbed all over. I was so cold.
Paolo’s raspy voice whispered in my ear just before his arms slid around me from behind. Delicious heat and warmth spread through my body and I relaxed back into his strength. His scent filled my nose and I turned. As soon as I saw his face I was lost. Heaven help me, I don’t know if it was fate, the alignment of the planets, food additives, magic, or something else entirely and to be totally honest, I didn’t fucking care. Paolo Strakos melted the part of me that hadn’t really felt anything in longer than I could remember, and I needed that.
I needed him.
My fingers slid into his mop of silky, curly black hair as he took my mouth. His kiss was so powerful my legs shook and my knees buckled. He pulled us together and as soon as the evidence of his arousal pressed into my hip I knew what Michael said was true. Paolo did want me, and I was going to try to do this. I shook so hard I thought my teeth would rattle in my skull, but Paolo held me, murmuring to me in Czech and trailing kisses along my neck and jaw.
Once again we went down to the basement kiln, and this time we didn’t just shed our coats. This time we took off all our clothes and ended up sitting on the concrete altar with the kiln door firmly shut. Paolo stroked his hot hands down my arms and over my back.
“Talk to me. Please.” He leaned in and feathered kisses over my cheeks and nose. “Why are you so reluctant? Is it because I’ve not been with men? It does not matter, Ian. I want you fiercely.”
I shook my head. “I don’t care that you’re straight.” I twined our fingers together. “I’m afraid if I tell you, you won’t want me anymore.”
“You are the one meant for me. Nothing you could say will change that.”
I took a deep breath. I held his hand tightly though I couldn’t meet his eyes. “My step-father...” I couldn’t force the words past the block of ice in my throat. If I said it I’d relive it and I couldn’t. “He… When I was a kid… It was bad, Paolo. I told my mother and she… She didn’t believe me. She stayed with him even after I left.”
When Paolo didn’t say anything, I looked up. Tears trickled from his eyes to evaporate before they could fall. He leaned in and gently kissed me. “I believe you. I would never hurt you, milovaný.”
“What does that word mean?”
His white-hot mouth skimmed up to my ear. “Beloved,” he whispered. “It means beloved, Ian. Let me love you. Please let me love you.”
I nodded and lay back on the altar with him. It wasn’t the most comfortable thing to lie on, but as we kissed and touched, I understood why we couldn’t be in a bed. His body grew hotter and hotter, broiling against me. Chills raced over the surface of my skin as my body responded to his fire, but all it did was drive him to burn to even greater temperatures. No matter how hot he roasted, I met and matched his heat, surrounding, soothing and cooling him.
I’d never been so aroused in my life. My skin stung and my erection ached and dripped against his toasty warmth. He was long and hard, heavy with unspent passion, and when I closed my hand around our dicks and stroked, he writhed.
“Ian… don’t; I won’t last.”
“I want to feel you come.” I licked an icy trail up Paolo’s neck and sank my teeth into his earlobe as I shuffled my hand along our shafts. His hands clutched my ass, his mouth sealed against my lips, and as he sucked the breath from my lungs, he came in great sizzling spurts onto the concrete altar. Steam rose up around us. I followed him seconds later, though I caught my release in the palm of my hand.
“Milovaný … a souvenir?” Paolo wore his dirty half-smirk as he stared at my fluid-filled palm.
“I don’t see any lube sitting out, and you’re not small.”
“Do you trust me?”
“I’m letting you do this, aren’t I?”
“Then don’t worry about that. Roll over.”
I took a huge breath, wiped my hand on the concrete, and rolled over. Paolo blanketed my body with his and covered my back with kisses. He kissed and caressed, scalding his way down my body with his hands and mouth. I worked not to grind my dick against the altar under me. Nothing had ever felt so incredibly good.
His piping-hot hands held me steady as his mouth laved a path down my lower back to my tailbone. He spread me open and without any hesitation dove into me. I wasn’t expecting a straight boy to go there, not with such gusto and lust anyway; I hadn’t been rimmed in ages. Paolo was a master, licking and lapping at me with fierce determination until my body thawed and opened for him. I couldn’t stop swearing and moaning his name. When our bodies slid around on the altar, I realized it was covered with a sheet of ice an inch thick everywhere but under Paolo’s knees where he’d melted two puddles.
I was so close to coming again that when he slid a finger inside me I arched up and bucked into him. He kept his mouth on me, his tongue sawing into me along with his fingers.
“Roll over, milovaný.”
I could find no purchase on the ice-covered altar and almost slid onto the floor before he helped me flip onto my back again. But then his lips were on mine, his hand closing around my slippery shaft at the same moment he pushed inside my body. The incandescent heat of his dick overwhelmed me. I screamed, and as he hilted inside me I detonated. Pleasure consumed me body and soul, devouring my world in one bite. Out of nowhere snow blasted the floor of the kiln, thick blustery flakes exploding upward to become instant steam as they met the ferocity of Paolo’s fire.
Flames surrounded us, melting the ice on the altar though it continued to reform under me. Paolo looked like a phoenix rising from the ashes, his body barely visible within a mass of writhing flames as he moved, thrusting into me. I groaned, my erection revived, my body clenching around Paolo. He pounded into me, merciless and relentless in his drive to bring me pleasure. He fit into my body perfectly, and his sharp, short thrusts stabbed my trigger in a divine rhythm that kept me at the edge of orgasm. I reached down to stroke off and end the torment, then saw my arm. My skin was blue, covered in a film of ice. Paolo grabbed my hand and twined our fingers together, breaking the ice on my hand and melting the film all the way up to my elbow.
“You are so beautiful right now. So beautiful…” His voice was ragged.
“So are you.” I scraped my nails down his chest, scoring his flesh with icy burns that smoked. “I’m close, babe, really close.”
“Ian…ah, god… you’re tight, so good…” Scintillating colors fanned through his flames as his tossed his head back, the tendons in his neck straining and cording with his bliss.
Without warning, I froze. My whole body turned to ice. I couldn’t move a single muscle and terror like I’d never known shrieked through me. I couldn’t even scream. I struggled, trying like hell to move or make something happen, unreasoned panic driving me. Something inside me, right behind my heart, cracked open and energy sped through me like I’d taken a hit of meth. Then Paolo plunged deep inside me and heat radiated through my body. A great crackling, rushing sound filled my ears and ecstasy cascaded over me in waves as I shattered the ice, sending hail and ice chips pelting and pinging all around the concrete room. The orgasm was colossal, soul deep, and I covered Paolo with the snowy flakes of my release. My body milked him, squeezing him as I tripped, the orgasm seemingly endless.
With a phoenix’s mating cry, Paolo shuddered and came into my quaking, trembling body. The intensity of his flames and my hailstorm mingled into an inferno that shook the kiln. With a huge thunderous boom, the concrete altar cracked under us and smoke billowed up in a cloud.
When the dust and elements settled, I blinked cautiously. Paolo cradled me protectively in his arms on the broken altar, still buried within my body. To my surprise, I found I liked him there. I felt complete, whole for the first time in my life, and safe. I kissed him, and he slipped from my body.
“Are you well, milovaný?” Paolo’s dark eyes searched my face, his voice anxious.
“I think so.”
“Be very careful rising. Pieces of the kiln table lay everywhere.”
He and I climbed down, and it wasn’t until we stood together, surveying the damage of the room, that I saw the streaks of blood on his body.
He shrugged. “Babicka will see to me once we leave the room. I’m fine.”
“No you aren’t, you’re bleeding. Turn around!”
At my imperious tone he grinned and took my hand. “Milovaný, they’re just scratches.”
As I stood there with him holding my hand, I realized how he received them. The razor sharp shards of flying ice sliced into his flesh as he brought me to orgasm, but he’d never stopped, hadn’t even flinched as it happened. His entire focus had been on me. I felt sick as I stared at the bloody streaks covering his back and legs. By the look on his face, Paolo understood what I felt. I tried to tug my hand away from him but not only did he hold tight to it, he yanked me into his arms, wrapping me in an embrace.
“Listen to me, müj králík, this is nothing. Some scratches, a little blood, a kiln table: nothing. Do you understand?”
His tone was odd, fierce to the point of being harsh, and I pulled back to look into his face. His eyes looked haunted. I kissed him gently and nodded.
“I understand.” Very slowly I smoothed a black curl up over his ear. “Paolo… what happened?”
He shook his head. “This is a night for celebration.”
“I told you about my step-father.” My voice was very quiet. I wasn’t trying to guilt him into telling me; I just wanted us to be on common ground.
He sighed and gazed around at the destruction of the kiln room. “When we come into our ability, it’s energetic. It’s best for us to be brought in by another, so that we don’t harm anybody.”
“But… you said I could kill you.”
He nodded. “Your gift is the opposite of mine. You could’ve. But the alternative was for you to be with my cousin Katrinka, and that wasn’t going to happen.”
My face screwed up into a visage so awful that Paolo burst out laughing. I couldn’t hold the terrible face I’d made at that point, and joined him in laughter. “No. Sorry. I don’t touch vagina. No offense, straight boy, but I don’t see the attraction.”
He gave me a smoldering look that had me half-hard instantly. “Not so straight anymore, Ian. After what we just did, and given what I’m going to let you do to me once my cousins clear out this rubble, I would say it’s safe to assume I’m at least bisexual.”
I smiled at him, then sobered. “You were telling me about coming into your power.”
He nodded. “I hid the signs it was manifesting. I’m so ashamed of that now. I didn’t want to be the Strakos prince. I just wanted to be Paolo.” His dark eyes locked onto my face. “You cannot change what is, Ian. I know that now. Because of me, because of my cowardice, a girl died. She was sweet and beautiful and innocent, and wanted nothing more than to lose that innocence with me.” He looked away. “I murdered her.”
I stared at him in shock. That couldn’t be true.
“Don’t shake your head at me, Ian. I killed her. We had sex, my powers manifested, and she died.”
His face was so serious and his eyes so incredibly sad I couldn’t stand it. I wrapped my arms around him.
“Paolo… she didn’t deserve to die, but you didn’t murder her. You didn’t kill anybody, baby.”
His arms slid around my waist and we held each other in the ruins of the kiln. We were still standing there, nude, streaked with grime and covered in dust when Michael opened the door five minutes later.
“You two good?”
Paolo looked at me. “Will you join the Strakos Clan? Marry me?”
My heart fluttered and my stomach turned over. Sure, it was quick, and the few friends I had would flip out, but I knew given what just happened that nobody else in the world would ever make me feel like Paolo Strakos. I nodded.
“Yes. I will.”
He turned to Michael, that mischievous half-smile pulling at the left side of his mouth.
“Gather up my cousins and clear out this rubble. We’re not anywhere close to being done tonight.”
Michael’s laughter followed him from the kiln as I pressed my lips to Paolo’s, breathing my icy breath into the fire of his mouth for the sweetest kiss of my life.