Chapter One

A Patreon exclusive story by Meraki P. Lyhne

 

Aaron breathed heavily, feeling the sweat on his back make the smooth lacquered floor feel slippery. Around him, others breathed even more labored than he, but he did have phenomenal stamina when dancing.

“This is going to be so awesome,” Daniel said.

Aaron turned his head to look at his oldest friend, lying on the floor next to him, grinning goofily at the ceiling.

“Yeah.” Reluctantly, Aaron moved around to sit on the floor with his legs splayed while he looked around at the nine humans in a state of more or less heaving messes. “What do you guys think?”

“I think Daniel’s right.” Miguel managed to get up onto his hands and knees, then slumped back on his haunches. “I love that you can incorporate so much into one dance.”

Aaron grinned. Taking Miguel’s culture into the dance had been a spur of the moment upon finding the human trying to teach a hard thrusting Sire to dance salsa before he got to pound Miguel into a sweaty and out-fucked mess of grin and spunk.

The feeder could move, no doubt about it, and the idea had been born right then and there. Aaron had already known that they had a young woman who’d grown up in China, and she’d brought intimate knowledge of her culture’s music with her before she got snatched by the Cubi because of her beauty.

She was present, too, and she smiled at Aaron as if she knew that he was thinking about her and the contribution she gave to the recital.

What Aaron loved the most was that the Cubi King himself was participating and being…young with them. That the Cubi King was Aaron’s best friend since childhood was still weird. But not at that moment. Not in Aaron’s studio, which he only had because his friend was a king and had asked for it to be built.

Daniel had promised Aaron a chance at something better than stripping to make ends meet, and he’d delivered. Even if he had more or less kidnapped Aaron before Aaron had had a chance to contemplate the offer.

At that moment, Daniel didn’t look the regal Nol-Beaudon of the Cubi people. Even his eyes were normal human green. Not Cubi red or Royal golden. He was just…Daniel. Who really needed to up his cardio. How could someone who spent that much time doing bedsheet gymnastics have that little dance stamina?

Well, Aaron knew why. Different and more muscle groups were needing oxygen at the same time than when fucking.

Daniel pried himself off the floor and scooted back to sit next to his nephew, Freydon. They were finally having time to bond as family, which Freydon really wanted, yet he kept thinking it weird that his uncle was his age and their King.

Aaron totally agreed but for slightly different reasons.

The door flew open, and Grand Lady Geodin stalked in.

Aaron looked at Daniel in time to see his human green eyes turn golden and the happy-go-easy dance grin was instantly replaced by what one would expect of a King with responsibilities.

“My King,” the Grand Lady said. “You have an urgent phone call from a Royal in need of your assistance.”

“Excuse me.” Daniel stood and left, not looking back as he stormed out the door.

“I’m sorry for interrupting class, Aaron.” Lady Geodin managed a smile, then closed followed Daniel out the door and closed it, leaving a gust of wind to reveal Guard Lady Artidin standing camouflaged by the door, but she was soon hidden again.

All their fun that day disappeared in worry.

“Is that bad?” Freydon crawled to Aaron.

“I don’t know. He never tells me stuff like that, either, but…considering the Royals left not long ago then…we know what happened here.”

Freydon nodded, looking worried.

Aaron had to remind himself that Freydon had lived a far more sheltered life than Aaron had since his parents lost it all and moved him halfway across the country. He’d ended up stripping, even…doing favors a few times to be able to feed himself.

Freydon had grown up in the Great House of Dahlidin, and he wasn’t even old enough to have been in the human world. He’d merely been schooled extensively in it to one day be able to go hunt there with Minglers and to be able to understand the culture the many humans collected came in with. It was a huge thing for a young Cubi born to get to experience the human world. It kinda reminded Aaron of the Amish Rumspringa tradition. Not that there were that many similarities other than to experiences the world outside the one they’d grown up knowing.

Maybe they’d be Empowered around the same time? Depending on Daniel’s plans for Aaron, maybe he and Freydon could be Minglers in the human world together? Aaron would love to show him around. The Guard Lady by the door, though, meant that Aaron probably wouldn’t have that chance. Daniel had plans for him that involved staying close to him. Like Marcadon.

Aaron lost the mood to stay at his dance studio. They’d finished up, anyway, so he moved it along by getting up off the floor and reaching out to pull Freydon up.

Miguel clearly saw that their after-dance-chats would be cut short that day and bowed out quickly, stating he had a hard thruster to go see and hopefully work on his conditioning. “Maybe I can keep up next time, then,” Miguel said on his way out the door.

Aaron appreciated the attempt at humor.

The others left, too. All but Freydon.

Aaron appreciated that, but it didn’t surprise him. They’d become very close friends since Daniel had whisked Aaron away from the human world and revealed that Aaron’s dad was a Lord somewhere. He’d seen pictures of the man, and plans were being made for him to rotate to the Great House of Daniel, but there was so much to be done out in the human world, and Aaron felt kinda proud that his dad was a responsible Lord who’d earned a high position.

He’d sent letters to Aaron, saying he wanted to come and be there for him as soon as he could, but he was not in the habit of neglecting responsibility for what he wanted. He knew Aaron was safe and well taken care of with the King by his side, so there was no reason other than fatherly need to see his son or Aaron’s need to know his roots. Both were a distant second when the Cubi people were scattered to all corners of the Kingdom and in need of leaders.

Aaron understood that. He also recognized the childish need to be put first after knowing he was planned. He even understood why Daniel had resented his Cubi father for having hunted his mother with the one goal of impregnating her. Aaron kinda felt the same.

Freydon interrupted his thoughts by putting an arm around his shoulder.

Aaron smiled at him, studying the beautiful young man. They were both around twenty, meaning their sex life was…pretty human. Aaron was guarded, yet he was allowed to fool around with other unempowered Cubi. Not humans, though, and everyone needed a thorough shower before being allowed in the studio or near unempowered Cubi.

But many daily showers were a norm in that place, so it kinda blended into normal life.

“Wanna go to my place?”

Aaron nodded slowly, thinking. “Yeah. When his eyes turn golden like that, he’s usually lost to the world for a while.”

The Lady stepped out of camouflage. “I will take you to the front door and leave you alone. A Guard will at some point take over and wait outside. I don’t know whom.”

“Thank you, Guard Lady.”

She smiled and nodded her head.

Aaron went to find his cardigan and the gold necklace with Daniel’s crest, labeling him an Untouchable, which explained the Guard following him around.

That had been weird in the beginning, but they were pretty cool, and he’d come to know five of them. They were the ones usually on his detail.

They left the studio, and Aaron flipped the sign to indicate it needed cleaning. He had two signs. One for regular cleaning and one for Cubi dance class cleaning, meaning they’d disinfect the place if a dose had been spilled.  

The Guard Lady stayed visible and walked behind Aaron and Freydon as they made it to Daniel’s sister’s home.

“Hi, Dad. Where’s Mom?” Freydon continued through to the kitchen.

“Sire Grydon,” Aaron said, nodding at Freydon’s dad as they passed.

“Hi, Aaron. Your mom’s feeding!” Grydon called.

Freydon returned to the living room. “Want a sandwich?”

Aaron shook his head, noticing that loss of appetite was due to Daniel’s sudden kingly expression.

“Everything okay?” Grydon came over and put a hand on Aaron’s shoulder.

“Yeah, just…our King ran off for a meeting, and he didn’t look happy.”

“And you’re worried about your friend.” Grydon nodded, slowly. “Unfortunately, there’s nothing a friend like any of us can help him with. Maybe distract yourself?”

Aaron nodded, figuring that a good plan. “Any ideas?”

“We can go talk to the Natural Beauties and see what the still to be empowered ones are doing. We might be allowed. Maybe we can help Uncle Beau by making these young people’s transition smoother?”

Aaron nodded. “Yeah, we know him best. What he wants.” Aaron smiled. “We can be useful for him doing that while he takes care of the tough stuff.” But Aaron was putting up a façade. On the inside, he didn’t feel as confident as he let on.

“Who do we ask?”

“The Guards, of course.”

Freydon went back into the kitchen with the few items he’d found for sandwiches, then returned and followed Aaron to the front door. “See you, Dad!”

“Be good, boys!”

Aaron hurried out and looked around. “Guard?”

Guard Lord Afdon stepped out of camouflage. “Yes, Aaron?”

“Can Freydon and I go hang out with the Natural Beauties? To maybe help Daniel?”

“Let’s go ask Guard Lady Bennidin.”

“Where’s Lady Heldin?” Aaron asked.

“Kriil-Nol Lady Heldin is by our King’s side.”

Oh, yeah. A King had called. Shit, with the Kriil-Nol needed there, Aaron’s nervousness rose while Guard Lord Afdon took them back to the palace apartment and through to the Guard quarters, making them wait outside a dosing area.

Guard Lady Bennidin came out, smiling. “Yes, Aaron, you can come help with the new Natural Beauties. But we need to talk first.” She held out her arm, and the four of them made it to the kitchen, where Alex was packing away food, and two others were cleaning up.

“Guard Lady.” Alex nodded at her.

“Hello, Alex. You may stay, but we need the room.”

“Yes, Guard Lady.” The two humans left, while Alex came over and perched on a chair, wiping his hands. He was hot as hell, and Aaron always appreciated the view of him, considering he preferred being naked.

That hip snap he kept hearing about was one he hoped he got to experience sometime.

Lady Bennidin leaned over the table, folding her hands and looking at Aaron and Freydon. “Alex is a Natural Beauty, meaning he was born human and chosen by a Royal to be forcefully changed to become an Incubus, even if his genes didn’t hold the natural expressions to change under a dose.”

Freydon gaped at Aaron, but Aaron already knew. He knew a lot he wasn’t allowed to tell anyone, yet his closeness to Daniel, and that he already knew he’d been claimed to be a Fountain, meant he’d know everything. One day, he’d probably have a seat at the Grand Council’s table, yet he kept reminding himself that that was hundreds of years into the future, so he wouldn’t even stress about that level of responsibility now. He certainly wasn’t ready now, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t try to show that he cared. And work on the responsibility part.

“I knew that secret, so I think I can help. It’s why we want to help,” Aaron said. “We know Daniel’s vision. Maybe we can make them excited about something. Settle easier.”

“You and your dance studio?”

Aaron couldn’t help the grin from spreading. And an idea from forming.

“So, what’s the official story told to them?” Freydon asked.

“That they’ve been collected because they are Cubi but that their genes are washed. It will take the dose of a Royal to awaken them to full power. That is the official announcement given.”

“But my uncle can make any human a Cubus?”

“Most, yes,” Lady Bennidin said. “The Royal doses are different from ours. It’s what makes them special.”

Freydon nodded. They’d already read some of it in the new newspaper that called for Cubi of a certain level with free time and willingness to sign up to aid one of these new Natural Beauties as their hunger settled. Cubi were asked to be their mentors to show them the new world of the Cubi.

Aaron couldn’t do that, but he could go be a friend and hopefully find those who liked dancing.

“So…I’ll go with you,” Afdon said.

Aaron smiled. “I should totally flaunt my fabulous side, shouldn’t I?”

Freydon grinned. “We totally should.”

The two dashed from the table, and Aaron heard the Guards chuckling. They ran to Aaron’s room and tore open the closet doors, looking over the very awesome stuff Aaron was collecting with the help of Daniel. He’d gotten new boots, which he held out and looked at.

“They might be a bit too much today,” Freydon said.

Aaron grunted because Freydon had a point, so he put them back and rummaged through the boxes at the bottom, finding two pairs of black ankle-height stiletto boots. Luckily, he and Freydon were roughly the same size and wore the same size shoes, so they found something that kinda matched, took a shower together, and got ready. Freydon put on a light makeup, yet Aaron skipped it. Daniel had started a trend, and especially those around his own age wore it.

They finally went back to the kitchen.

Alex grinned at them. “Looking snazzy as hell, cubs.” Aaron and Freydon exchanged pleased glances, then left with Guard Lord Afdon. “Dinner’s at seven!” Alex called out.

“Thank you!” Aaron shouted back. That gave them roughly three hours.

Twenty minutes later, they’d made their way to the levels where the Natural Beauties were waiting in their inclusion areas. Aaron hadn’t been inside one yet because he couldn’t go with Daniel when he went. That was because Daniel mainly visited the one where the ready Natural Beauties were hooking up with dosing Cubi, yet there were never doses around there.

This area looked much like the one Daniel had told him about—an open and cozy café area.

“Look.” Freydon pointed to a table with about seven people around it, two being the young reporter, Geradon, and the photographer, Dawdon. His camera stood on the table. Aaron had talked with them a lot after the dance off and the belly dancing at Halloween in the Grand Entry Hall. That camera had certainly snapped off enough photos to be red hot.

“Let’s say hi.” Aaron and Freydon went by the way of the counter with coffee, tea, cakes, and other deliciousness, getting a cappuccino each.

Lord Afdon was a good sport and found chairs in the meantime, plopping down next to them but a bit drawn back to have his attention on everything around them and leave them to mingle.

“You always look hot,” Dawdon said, grinning at Aaron.

Aaron leaned his elbow on the table and bobbed his brows. “More pictures?”

“Oh, yeah!”

“Get a room,” Geradon said.

“I wish,” Dawdon whispered to Geradon, but Aaron heard it. That was new to Aaron, and he felt his brows rise before he managed to school his expression. Dawdon apparently noticed and cleared his throat, then smiled widely at the others around the table. “So, this is Aaron and Freydon. They’re dancers.”

“That would explain the stilettos, I guess?” a guy asked, leaning over to look under the table.

Aaron found a chance to show off, so he unwrapped a leg from under the table and stretched it, showing off his flexibility as he could stretch it fully and flush against his torso to show off the shoe.

“Oh, wow,” a young woman said.

Out the corner of his eye, Aaron noticed Dawdon’s mouth fall open, while his eyes grew heavy-lidded, and his gaze traveled down the leg to Aaron’s…fun part. “Any dancers at the table?” Aaron lowered his leg again and sat closer to the table to get to his cappuccino. At that moment, he was sorry Freydon sat between him and Dawdon.

He knew Dawdon well because the two had been around a lot to help promote and spread information about the new dance studio, but he had no idea that Dawdon was having fantasies about him.

Considering they were both unempowered, nothing restricted Aaron from fooling around with him—especially since he knew Daniel well, too. Aaron was kinda limited from having been claimed by the King, so he kept a low profile and remained a tease, but Dawdon could be okay. And Dawdon was hot. He had a hot gruffness about him, yet he also had this geeky aura whenever it came to the art of photography, and Aaron found passion for an art sexy as hell.

“What kind of dancing do you do?” the young woman asked. “Ballet?”

“It’s not what I’m most proficient at, but I do love watching it.” Aaron cocked his head. “What about you?”

“I love ballet. I always wanted to be a ballerina, but…then my parents got divorced, and there was no money for it.” She looked sour.

“What’s your name?”

“Tasha. Natasha.”

“You know, I run the dance studio.”

“Are you like us?” a guy asked. “I mean. You came here like us?”

“No, my dad’s an Incubus.” Aaron would not reveal that the King had kidnapped him, too, just differently. “I did grow up outside this House, though, in the human world. I moved here to help out my best friend.”

“Cool. So, you just dance here?”

“I teach it. The Cubi love my kind of dancing. Plays into good feeding.” Studying their faces, they were clearly still at the early stages and uncomfortable with their future.

“Is it necessary to be able to dance?” the guy asked.

“No!” Geradon said. “I’m no good at it. I have no interest in it, but I like watching it.”

Aaron was more interested in getting to Tasha, so he kept his focus on her.

Geradon chatted with the guy who didn’t like dancing, Freydon chatted up another young woman, and Aaron managed to get to sit next to Tasha and talk.

At some point, Aaron noticed that Dawdon kept glancing his way. And that their legs would very often touch under the table. Whenever Aaron noticed enough to look, Dawdon would act like it was an accident.

Catching his eye, Aaron caught a blush, which made his stomach flutter.

Oh, shit.

Dawdon caught Aaron’s gaze again, and he definitely saw that Aaron was affected by their…connection.

Aaron then noticed that Tasha was still talking, yet he’d managed to ignore half of it. “I’m sorry, Tasha, I got distracted for a moment.”

Freydon snickered loudly, poking Geradon. They both looked at Dawdon, whose cheeks grew crimson before he looked away.

“Why…” The non-dancing guy cleared his throat. “What makes an Incubus blush? With what we’ve heard so far, there should be nothing left to blush about. Seriously.”

But Aaron got it. Seeing the King of North and his ugly husband together, blushing…they were so beautiful together. Catching Seldon and Caledon snuggling alone was beautiful, too, in an entirely different way than when one of them were alone with Daniel. The difference was that Daniel brought the youthfulness to…love.

Dawdon became ten times hotter, and Aaron acknowledged that he was now very smitten with him.

The blushing, however?

“Excuse me.” Aaron stood, then noticed that Dawdon’s mug was empty. “We need to go refill.”

Freydon and Geradon’s expressions said it all. They had their backs and provided a diversion for the humans  as Aaron took his cup, then held out his hand across the table for Dawdon to take.

Dawdon gaped. Then a careful smile spread, and he stood, grabbed his mug, and took Aaron’s hand.

Lord Afdon was grinning like an old incubus, sitting leaned back and looking comfortable. But he got up and sauntered after them, stopping at a distance to give them some space.

“I’m…I know you and Freydon have something, so…”

“Sex and friendship. It’s that superficial. And dancing.”

Hope reached Dawdon’s gaze, but then a barista Dame came over and interrupted.

“Just…anything,” Dawdon said.

“Two cappuccinos,” Aaron said, flashing a smile at the Dame. She apparently noticed what she’d stepped into and withdrew with grace. Aaron stepped closer to Dawdon, wishing he hadn’t worn heels. Then they’d be at eye-level. But the vulnerability in Dawdon’s eyes, shaded by thick dark lashes, got to Aaron, as Dawdon looked up at him.

“Nol!”

Aaron spun to look at the door. Daniel had entered with golden eyes, and he steered directly for him.

Oh, yeah, in public, Aaron had to kneel with the others, so he did next to Dawdon.

“Thank you.” Daniel smiled and nodded at a few here and there, then turned his Royally intense gaze on Aaron, who stood again along with Dawdon. “Hello, Dawdon. Do you mind if I borrow Aaron for a moment?”

“No, My King.” Dawdon bowed his head and stepped away.

Aaron caught the longing glance at him. The way Daniel had stormed out of the studio, though, made Aaron’s nervousness return, so he faced his best friend. “What’s up?”

“I need to travel for a while.”

“Am I coming?”

“No.” Daniel smiled, but he looked worried.

“Is it bad?”

“No,” Daniel said. Aaron squinted at Daniel because he certainly couldn’t bullshit someone who’d known him for that long. And he wasn’t that good of an actor. “It’s…Nol-Elakdon started something up. Like the City of Beauty I did here, but he met an unforeseen problem.”

“So…you’re going to war?”

“No. I’m not a warrior. Ela is. I’m the one he asks because I bring the vision he’s trying to make room for, that’s it.”

Aaron studied Daniel for a moment, but this time it wasn’t a bullshitting. That was true, but Daniel was hiding something. “Then why don’t you want me along?”

“Because you have an important assignment here.” Daniel grabbed Aaron’s shoulders, flashing an upbeat smile. He then looked around. “And you’re here doing important work.” Daniel looked at Aaron again. “Your art is important for my House, and you’re using it the right place. Here. Looking sexy in your boots.”

“I do, don’t I?”

Daniel chuckled. “Very.”

“But you’ll bring everybody I know.”

“Not everybody. Not Freydon.”

Not Dawdon. Why Aaron immediately thought of him indicated there was more to be explored there.

“Also, I’ve ordered a Lord to rotate out of House to take over for your Dad. He’ll return soon so you have him.”

Aaron cocked his head, feeling both excited and confused. “How long will you be gone?”

“I don’t know. When a Royal is called in like that, it can be…weeks or months.” Daniel shrugged, and for a moment his façade fell, letting Aaron see that he was more nervous about leaving than he let on. But maybe it didn’t have to do with where he was going but because his House had just been built and they’d just entered a new peace treaty. The Cubi people hadn’t even found their footing, and he was leaving less than a year after the last Royal did? Was it his people he felt nervous on behalf of?

Aaron grinned. “I’ll snap you. And I’m sure Dawdon will cover the show and send it to you.”

“Oh, he better.” Daniel pouted, and his eyes turned green. “I’d so looked forward to this.” Now he sounded like the bratty tween he was, and Aaron fully recognized his best friend. Aaron hugged him, happy that Daniel returned it. “But you should come with me now. Freydon, too. I want to have dinner with you before I leave.”

Aaron pulled back. “When do you leave?”

“Right after dinner. I have time to pack, and that’s it. And go ask my parents to join us for dinner.”

“Shit. Okay, I’ll…” Aaron looked at the counter, finding the two mugs of cappuccino waiting. “I’ll go tell Tasha that I’ll be back to talk more about dancing tomorrow.”

Daniel smiled, and his eyes turned golden again. “Do that, yeah.”

Aaron brought both mugs. “I’m so sorry, we have to go. Freydon and I forgot a dinner appointment now.”

“We…did.” Freydon stood.

Aaron scooted the mugs to Dawdon and Geradon, then stroked Dawdon’s hand as he pulled away. It earned him a blushing smile. “See you soon.”

“Yeah.”

Aaron and Freydon left with Daniel, Guards banding around them.

Daniel walked like a King and looked like a King, even though he still had bare feet and wore yoga pants and a t-shirt they’d taken scissors to in order to make a street-smart design out of.

Back at the apartment, it took one look at Lord Seldon’s intensity, and Aaron knew that Daniel had learned to act. It was worse than he’d managed to convince Aaron was the truth.

But he didn’t get to speak more with his friend as Daniel dashed through to his bedroom. Aaron, however, was not leaving this one alone. He needed the truth, so he stalked after Daniel, ignoring that Lord Caledon was undressing to join Daniel in a shower.

“Daniel!”

“What?” Daniel half turned, sounding like he didn’t understand Aaron’s harsh tone. He then commenced undressing.

“It’s worse than you just said, isn’t it?”

“What makes you say that?” Daniel stopped and faced Aaron. Life had gotten weird if arguing with your friend while he stood naked seemed normal. “I’m not going into active war!”

“But…” Aaron motioned for Daniel to continue. “The intensity in your Tunra-Nol lover’s eyes kinda says otherwise.”

“No! He’s always intense.”

“Also, he’s bringing his pregnant mates,” Caledon said. “Do you think he’d do that if we’re walking into a war?”

That made sense, but the Dames would without a doubt not be targets the way a Royal would be. There was of course the detail that Royals were protected fiercely.

“Do you promise?”

Daniel cocked his head, and his eyes turned green. He then came over and hugged Aaron, who felt a bit too overwhelmed, and he couldn’t figure out why. “I don’t know what to tell you to make you feel better. But I won’t lie to do it. I won’t tell you everything, either. It’s a difficult balance, and I hope you understand why I can’t and won’t.”

Aaron held on, feeling…abandoned. It was an easy emotion to recognize, considering he felt like his parents had more or less abandoned him when they moved and lost everything and got a divorce. Even though he physically stayed with his mom as they moved to Vegas, he’d been left to take care of himself and the apartment, while she worked two, sometimes three jobs, leaving him to strip to put more than toast and peanut butter on the table.

But he knew Daniel wasn’t running out on him. Daniel had brought him. Daniel had told Seldon about their friendship, and Seldon had tracked Aaron down to reunite them.

“You won’t be alone, I promise,” Daniel whispered.

It cut into Aaron, yet he felt relieved that Daniel knew his emotions. He even figured that it was why Daniel had forced rotation of some Lords to get his dad into the House now. “And you’ll call me once in a while?”

“Of course I will.” Daniel tightened his grip for a moment, then stepped back, holding onto Aaron’s shoulders. “You know I’ll empower you personally.”

“Yeah.” Aaron still felt weird about that, but not that his best friend stood naked in front of him. He hadn’t been weird about nakedness for a long time because he’d worked as a stripper and danced like that in a few clubs, yet coming to the Cubi world had removed just about all awkwardness that could have been left.

“You bring something important as a Changeling from the human world like I brought part of what’s now helping the Cubi people merge with human society.”

“Seldon showing the way, too, yeah.”

“You help in other ways. Ways only you can because of your art.”

Aaron smiled, appreciating the compliment. “I know you have some big plans for me. I…you’re going to make me a fountain, right?”

Daniel nodded, his green eyes studying Aaron, yet then they shifted between the three colors he held before ending on gold for a while. “I don’t know what it is that makes me possess you like that. Like I do Marca. It’s…an instinct.”

Possess him? Thoughts of Dawdon pressed forward and the emotions stirred earlier.

“What if I…fall in love with someone?”

“Then love.” Daniel smiled. “But doses are not allowed around you for a long time.” Aaron’s smile grew, and Daniel gaped. “You’re in love?”

“I think so. It’s…kinda new, and he’s our age, so no doses.”

Daniel gasped, and his gaze shot about, thinking. He looked at Aaron. “Dawdon?” he whispered. Aaron felt a sheepish smile spread as he nodded. “Oh. If you’re still together when the last of you are empowered, I’ll empower you together. That might be a good thing. He can help lower the doses in you.”

“Let’s—that’s too early to think about.”

“Okay. Just saying I’m open to it.” Daniel winked at Aaron. “But seriously, Aaron, when I asked you to come with me—”

“And then kidnapped me.”

Daniel snorted. “Yeah, okay, it kinda seems like your choice was taken away by a Guard Lord just then.” Daniel shivered, and Aaron could have kicked himself when remembering it was the same instance that saw Seldon and Daniel’s dad caught and raped by human military.

“Sorry.”

“No, no, it’s true. But I promised to give you more opportunities.”

Aaron smiled. “And then you gave me a dance studio.”

“You earned that. You’re an artist here.”

That made Aaron smile. His love for provocative dancing hadn’t been appreciated in the human world. Here, he was an idol, and even cubs came up for an autograph sometimes. Which Aaron’s mind still wanted to tell him was ridiculous. But he totally basked in it.

Looking at everything, it had changed his way of looking at himself. But how? He wasn’t sure. Maybe he needed to examine that a bit further? But why? To get everything out of what Daniel had offered him by taking him to his House and let him teach his art, of course.

Aaron smiled at feeling a greater purpose than just what he wanted to do, but it left him none the wiser. Or less worried.

“Aaron, I just got an email.” Caledon sauntered over, naked and with a hardon pointing the way. “Your dad’ll be here the day after tomorrow. Alex is fixing up a room for him here to be close to you. Your five guards will remain here on your detail. Coordinate with them when you go pick up your dad in the hangar. They’ll be sent the schedule.”

“Yes, My Lord. Thank you.” More to worry about. He worried about meeting his real dad. What if they didn’t jive? He’d…be along with Daniel and everybody gone.

Aaron mentally shook the pessimism.

Daniel let go of one of Aaron’s shoulder to grope his lover, and the Lord’s eyes darkened, sending his lover a hungry look.

“Go feed.” Aaron stepped back. “I’ll…go get dressed for dinner.”

Daniel offered an upbeat smile. “Don’t worry. I’m not.”

“You suck at lying to me.”

Daniel chuckled. “Okay, I worry a little bit but not about this. I’m leaving the States for the first time to be there for Ela, and I fear I’m not as competent at aiding him as he was when helping me.”

Knowing Daniel, Aaron was sure that was the truth. Looking at Caledon, even when looking horny and focusing on his lover’s touch, seemed qualified, though. And so was Seldon.

Yeah, Aaron had no reason to worry for Daniel. He worried for himself. He recognized that Daniel was part of his lifeline there. But he also had Freydon and Daniel’s sister, Dame Apdin, and her mate Sire Grydon. He wouldn’t be alone, yet abandonment was an emotion he knew he battled against. As an emotional trauma.

Aaron left and changed his clothes, then joined the others in the dining hall.

Freydon came over and stood close to Aaron, but he didn’t say anything. He merely glanced at Aaron, so his friend apparently knew him well enough to see that something was up. Aaron had told him some of it but not everything.

 

 

Dinner seemed moody compared to normal. Either that or it was merely Aaron’s emotions keeping his ability to participate to a low.

It only got worse as they all moved to the hangar to see Daniel and his following off, and Aaron held on too long when Daniel hugged him again.

“Bring art to my House, Aaron,” Daniel whispered, hugging Aaron a bit tighter. “Be your art. Show me your vision for a House full of the kind of beauty you bring. Let me see your vision when I return. Let me see what you give our people.”

That sounded almost like a challenge. Aaron wasn’t good at leaving challenges alone—especially when set forth by Daniel. Also, it sounded like a test. Aaron wasn’t good with those, so he’d focus on the challenge.

Maybe that could get him through the nerves or…separation anxiety? Nah, it wasn’t that bad, but Aaron didn’t feel well at all.

“Take care of my House.”

It dawned on Aaron that only he and Alex would stay behind with some Guards. “Can I have a kegger?”

Daniel laughed loudly and stepped back.

“No,” Afdon said.

Aaron grinned at the Guard, knowing his sense of humor enough to see through the otherwise somber expression. The humor lifted the mood for the moment Aaron needed to physically let go of Daniel.

Glancing around, Aaron caught Master Harrodon handing Daniel an envelope. Probably for his dad, Nol-Elakdon. Seeing him made Aaron think of Dawdon, since he and Geradon worked closely with the new Incubus as their editor in chief on the new newsmagazine.

As the sound of the big choppers closing in and landing interrupted more conversation, Aaron felt a strong need to see Dawdon.

Freydon took Aaron’s hand, and Dame Apdin put her arm around his shoulder. It made Aaron focus on trying to feel lucky to have them in his life as they waved off their King and his entourage.

The choppers took off, and they waved for a while, then watched for a while as the huge things became tinier and tinier on the early summer sky.

Dame Apdin tightened her hold around Aaron’s shoulder and looked at him. “Are you okay, sweety?”

Aaron shook his head. “But I will be. It’s just…Daniel kinda found me at a tough time in my life, and I…I was so happy to have him back, and I’m not ready to see him leave.”

“I know it’s not the same, but I’ll be here. Always.”

Aaron smiled and leaned his head against hers, tightening his grip on Freydon’s hand. But he still wanted to see Dawdon. He didn’t know why. Then again, matters of the heart when it was confusingly figuring out whether it was in love or not was probably not something he should try to make heads or tails of now.

They made their way back, and all five of Aaron’s Guards walked around them.

“Do you want to sleep over?” Freydon asked.

“Maybe, I dunno. I…I need to fix something first, then I might come over. If that’s okay.”

“Of course it’s okay, sweety.” Dame Apdin kissed his cheek, then walked ahead with little Beldin.

“Okay. I’ll see you later.” Freydon let go of Aaron’s hand and followed his mom and little sister.

“How can we help you, Aaron?” Guard Lady Artidin asked

“I need to go see Dawdon. I just don’t really know where he lives.”

The Guard Lady pulled out her phone and made a call, speaking in Cubi, which Aaron wasn’t really that good at, even though Daniel sometimes spoke it with Seldon and Caledon and especially Geodin and his Guards.

Lady Artidin hung up. “I’ll take you there now if you’d like.”

“Thank you.”

They split from the other Guards, and Lady Artidin took Aaron through the hallways inside Daniel’s mountain. She finally stopped by a door and pointed, so Aaron took a deep breath and knocked, hoping Dawdon was home and not at the newspaper or with Geradon.

A Sire opened the door, bowing his head at Lady Artidin. “My Lady.” He looked at Aaron.

“Sire. My name’s Aaron, and I’m—”

“The famous dancer my son keeps talking about.” The Sire smiled. “And the Untouchable of our King. Your reputation precedes you.”

“Uhm…thank you?”

The Sire laughed.

Dawdon turned up behind his dad. “Aaron?”

“Hi.” Aaron tried for a smile, but his emotions were still all over the place. Dawdon seemed to see right through that. Either that, or his emotions were also out of whack.

“Come in.”

The Sire stepped back, allowing Aaron in.

“I will wait out here,” Lady Artidin said.

“My Lady, please, come in and make yourself comfortable,” the Sire said. Aaron hadn’t learned his name yet.

“Guard Lady Artidin, Sire Ingdon. I will stay out here to offer Aaron private time.”

“Yes, Guard Lady.”

“But thank you for your consideration.” Lady Artidin smiled, then turned her back to the door, stepped to the right, then stepped back up to the wall. She’d stand right there and like that until Aaron exited or until her shift ended. Then whomever took over would be standing there instead.

Sire Ingdon closed the door. “Wow,” he whispered.

“Yeah, they’re intense,” Dawdon said. “We never see them when we hang out with the King.”

Sire Ingdon grinned. “I hope to meet him one of these days.”

Aaron glanced at Dawdon.

“You okay?” Dawdon asked. Aaron thought for a moment, then shook his head. “Is it about Daniel? He looked pretty intense when he came in.”

“Yeah, he…Grand Lady Geodin picked him up during dance class, and…I don’t think it should come from me. Master Harrodon knows, though.”

“Excuse me.” Sire Ingdon snuck past them, yet Aaron clearly read in his expression that it was to give them privacy.

“Come on.” Dawdon showed Aaron inside and through to his room. It was smaller and simpler than the one Aaron had in Daniel’s huge apartment. It looked cozy, though. And Dawdon clearly wasn’t a feeding Incubus yet, considering his bed wasn’t that big. “You know, even though I’m a reporter, I can keep a secret.”

Aaron smiled, but it didn’t feel sincere. “I know, it’s just…I’m not sure where I really fit in other than having grown up with Daniel, and…I mean, I’m marked Untouchable, but we learned that my dad’s an Incubus Lord, too.”

Dawdon came to sit on the bed next to Aaron. “How long have you known?”

“About…a year? A little less. Daniel’s dad, Lord Roardon, and my dad went to procreate around the same time and place. And…he’s on his way here. To meet me.”

“Is that why you’re nervous? Was that the news Daniel brought?”

Aaron shook his head, then sighed.

Dawdon’s phone beeped, but he didn’t reach for it or even look away from Aaron.

“Go on,” Aaron said.

Dawdon snatched it off the nightstand, then gaped and looked at Aaron. “Our King left the House?” Aaron closed his eyes and nodded. “Shit…Geradon says he’s going to assist Nol-Elakdon.”

Aaron merely nodded again. “I don’t do well with…being alone, and…” It felt stupid saying it out loud.

“You wanted to go?” Dawdon put a hand on Aaron’s shoulder, thumbing it gently.

“Yeah, but Daniel told me to show him my art’s impact on his House for when he returns.”

Dawdon grinned. “Well, that’s more than possible. You know I’ll market the hell out of your dance class!”

Aaron chuckled drily. “Yeah. I’m happy about that. I just…need to wrap my head around not having him around all the time. He’s…like my anker, you know? He brought me here while I was at a pretty turbulent time in my life, and my mom kinda threw a fit of…well, a bitch fit, so I only have him.” Aaron looked at Dawdon, hoping he didn’t have to say it. That he hoped to have Dawdon fill a void in his life. It felt too needy to come out and say it.

The look in Dawdon’s eyes, though, touched Aaron and made it difficult to stay collected. Such…softness and empathy.

Slowly, Dawdon scooted closer and let his hand slide across Aaron’s shoulder’s to gently pull him closer. Aaron leaned into him and enjoyed a moment of feeling supported.

“It’s going to be okay,” Dawdon said. “I don’t know the human world the way you do, and I could be wrong, but…we’re good at sticking together here. Cu’boka.”

Aaron nodded, wondering whether he was reading more into Dawdon’s comforting touches now, but that doubt didn’t mesh with what he’d seen in Dawdon’s eyes at the Natural Beauties’ café area.

Looking up to see which thought held most likelihood of being true, their gazes met, and something sparked, making Aaron’s heart flutter.

Dawdon took the initiative and leaned in, pressing their lips together, and Aaron sighed into the kiss, while his heart skipped a beat. Slowly, Dawdon leaned over him, and Aaron followed his lead to lie on the bed. With his feet on the pillow, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was how Dawdon arranged them on the narrow bed and held him, kissing him unhurried and with seemingly no other agenda than to share a moment of peace. That’s what Aaron got out of it, at least. A moment to focus fully on something other than his milling thoughts and confusing emotions.

The kissing faded, and Dawdon snuggled his face against Aaron’s neck, pulling him closer.

Aaron felt better. He felt safe with Dawdon. The overwhelming emotions of the day poked at him again, yet in the blissful aftermath of making out with someone who could make his stomach flutter made Aaron feel sleepy.

A sigh from contentment escaped him before he felt himself drift off.