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Lord Zalish Tytania was a military genius.

Lord Zalish Tytania was a brilliant tactician.

Lord Zalish Tytania was overconfident.

Now, Lord Zalish was humiliated.

His sharp steps echoed through the hall as he barreled down the corridor toward Idris’ office. Every click of his boot heels on the marble built his anger until he moved by the sheer power of his rage.

Bureaucrats scuttled out of his way as he swept into Idris’ office. He didn’t wait until the room cleared before he stopped in front of Idris and slammed his hands down on the desk. “What was that all about?” he shouted.

Idris didn’t bother to conceal his smug expression. Blond hair twirled around one finger. It was a maddening gesture that Idris did when he was about to deliver a particularly demoralizing political blow. Zalish had seen it used often enough, but on others. Not on himself.

“Lord Zalish, how good to see you,” Idris replied smoothly.

Aware that the office had not cleared, Zalish turned a displeased scowl on the remaining officials until they shrunk back from the sheer weight of his gaze. Once the door shut and they were alone, he turned his attention back to Idris. “You set me up.”

At least Idris had the grace to look surprised. “I did no such thing.”

“I was defeated and it was worse than what happened to Ariabart. Three hundred to their five thousand. Our forces took them too lightly and were overwhelmed. It was your suggestion that triggered all this.”

“So it would seem, Zalish,” Idris said. He leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs. It canted his body to rest casually against one chair arm. “I have to admit, you did place a small obstacle in my path. I was unprepared for you to volunteer your direct subordinate to handle the defense of our stationary fortress Little Bighorn. If you had just consulted with me before-”

It was Zalish’s turn to be surprised. “You mean, this wasn’t-”

Idris laughed, a musical sound that chased around the office and grated on Zalish’s patience. “Think, Zalish! Tell me where I don’t have eyes and ears in the kingdom and ask me if I didn’t know about this rag tag band of pirates trying to amass an army against us. Blaze Flag Army.” He waved a gloved hand, a careless flick of his wrist which tossed the slip of hair he played with over his shoulder. “It’s arrogant to think they can stand against Tytania.

“But you had to rush in to be the hero; so quick to upstage Ariabart. You wanted to make him look foolish and show how easily the fight could go.” Idris lifted a shoulder in a careless shrug. “And had you let me convince his highness to send Ariabart’s top aide, we’d have removed one of Ariabart’s supports-”

Realization hit Zalish like a cold wave of water. “And discredited him beyond repair.”

“In one fell swoop.”

Zalish backed up and sagged into a chair, legs flung carelessly in front of him.

“Since Ariabart’s made reparations, with Jouslain’s help, your defeat has managed to solidify his position.” Idris sighed. “Really, Zalish, you should let me do the thinking and take your cues from me. I don’t know how I can salvage this situation.”

“You don’t need to, Idris. I will be leading my fleet to swat these flies.” He pounded a fist on the chair arm.

“Let’s hope you don’t screw up. Again.” Idris tilted his head to the side with a smile that both infuriated and excited Zalish. Idris was powerfully handsome and it tripped every lust trigger within Zalish. “But if you do manage it, it could place you back in favor. Especially if you can do it without Jouslain’s aid.”

Yes. Lord Ajman was sending his pet duke along to assist in the rectifying the situation at Little Bighorn and re-establishing Tytania control on the shipping lanes through that sector. He had no idea what the clan lord was thinking in doing so. Zalish could easily handle the situation on his own.

Was it to discredit him further? Catching Idris staring at him, Zalish narrowed his gaze. “You’re thinking of something.”

Idris’ intellect was as devastating as his looks and he wielded both with expert precision. “When am I not?”

“Are you going to tell me?”

“Why should I?” Idris pursed his lips into a pout. “You don’t listen to me, anyway.”

“I…apologize for that. I was rash and…I’ll make sure to coordinate with you from here on out.”

“Pretty words from a pretty mouth, Zalish.” Idris’ finger picked up a section of blond hair again and twirled it around his finger. His stare at Zalish was slightly off focus, an indication he was lost in thought. After several silent minutes, Idris shook himself back to the present. He pushed the chair away from the desk and let his knees fall apart deliberately. “I would need better reassurances than that. My plans usually allow little room for variation.”

Zalish knew exactly what Idris wanted. The mere thought of it tore at him in two directions. For Zalish to go to his knees for any man was unthinkable. He was an unmoving rock, not known for his negotiations and compromises. Once in movement, he was hard to slow or stop. It made him formidable on the battlefield.

Yet, Idris was so striking. Zalish ached to worship his fey exquisiteness with any part of him. Every part of him.

He could do this. He would do this because desire rode him hard and brooked no argument. Desire to have Idris. Desire to hear Idris. Desire to please Idris. He rose from his chair, long strides carrying him across the room to the door. Before he reached it, Idris’ ’Stop!’ halted his progress. Confused, he looked back at Idris.

“Don’t lock the door.”

“Are you insane? Someone could walk in while we…while I…”

“They could,” Idris said. “Would it bother you, Zalish? For someone to see you on your knees servicing me?” His voice was thick with dark seduction and the purr vibrated through every sinew of Zalish’s being. “To see your mouth stretched wide over my cock, and to hear my moans?”

“Of course it would!” His protestations didn’t carry the weight his lust did in his declaration. The illicit thrill of possible discovery tingled down his spine and throbbed with aching precision in his groin.

Idris rolled his head against the chair back and he turned his chair away from the desk, setting him in profile. “Well, it doesn’t matter.” He gave Zalish a seductive, sleepy smile. His arm shifted rhythmically, obscene movement that indicated he stroked at his prick while waiting for Zalish’s decision. “I could do it right here, in front of you while you watched, and your reputation, if caught, would be no less tarnished. I wonder…would you go into exile with your brother, if caught in such a position? What would you tell your mother?”

His brother? How did Idris know about Alses? It was his shame, to enjoy his brother sexually, and one he thought he’d kept secret by sending Alses away. But if Zalish’s mother ever found out, it would crush her. Internal inconsistencies warred within him.

“I’m waiting, but not for long.” Idris’ words slid into a moan and Zalish bit back an answering one, pressing his lips into a thin line. He couldn’t see Idris’ erection but the flex of his arm spoke of what he did. His fingers flexed subconsciously wanting to be the hand that stroked Idris.

Zalish knew he would be consumed by the fire that coursed through his body if he didn’t yield. The physical ache would destroy him if he defied.

He had felt the burn ever since their first time. Uncomfortable for days on end, no amount of taking his pleasure by his own hand, or in others, dislodged his ache, until he finally submitted to Idris’ demands. How one man held such a power over him, he was at a loss to explain.

There was no doubt that Idris held Zalish tight in a dangerous, predacious grip.

Thoughts of resistance fell to the side in ashes. Zalish’s senses took leave of him and, abandoning the door lock, he crossed back over to fall to his knees in front of Idris. It was then he discovered Idris was still clothed. It should have angered him but it only served to tighten his skin in anticipation. Idris’ knowing smile drove his embarrassment home and he chafed beneath it.

The sheer ache that ravaged through him threatened to drive him to the edge of his sanity.

Nimble fingers quickly exposed Idris’ hard arousal and Zalish palmed over the heated flesh, drawing a lascivious moan. His own erection throbbed in response. He moved, driven by sheer animal lust, needing to touch, to service, to please as he would do for no other.

For what? Did Zalish truly believe that Idris held that much sway over his reputation? He did. Idris could destroy him. He had proven it time and again as Zalish watched those who rose against Idris fell to the side like trash.

It was a prudent and logical choice to throw in his lot with Idris Tytania and it was a decision he’d not come to regret.

Even if it meant performing this act every so often.

Idris hooked one leg over Zalish’s shoulder and propped the other on the desk, which displayed him. “In your mouth, Zalish. I have an appointment in fifteen minutes.”

He regarded Zalish coolly. Spread like that, Idris looked positively decadent. His blond hair disheveled and uniform in slight disarray completed the perfect picture of debauchery that was Zalish’s weakness.

Shifting to reach Idris comfortably, his lips slid down the column in a slow descent, tongue working along the skin to keep it slick until he felt the head nudge at the back of his throat. Idris’ fingers combed through his hair and cupped the back of his head in a pressured hold. He didn’t force Zalish down on him but the insistent pull to move was unmistakable.

He lifted his gaze, caught Idris’ approving smile and watched as those penetrating eyes closed, lost in the sensations Zalish provided with every bob of his head. The leg over his shoulder tightened and pulled him closer. “Yes, Zalish, very good.” Idris’ voice was sex-drenched and thick. “You’re an excellent cocksucker. Keep this up and I’ll coat your fucking throat as a reward.”

Dirty words, words reserved for whores, words he’d used on his brother, now held high praise. Heat lanced through his body, jabbing uncomfortably into his too-tight pants. He palmed over his prick, which only stimulated him more. There would be no relief until he took himself out but a part of him enjoyed the tease of his touch through wool. Very possibly, he could release from the friction alone.

Idris' booted heel dug hard into his shoulder and using the leverage, nudged him roughly. “I didn’t say you could touch yourself. Suck me, bitch, and keep your hands on my chair.” Even teetering on the edge, his voice held dark threat.

A whimper of frustration rocked Zalish. The tension wound tight around his solar plexus, ready to spring free. So close; it would take so little to push himself over. With considerable effort, he placed his hands against the chair next to Idris’ hips, fingers biting into the leather to hold them there.

He could feel Idris’ shaft and head thickened; a sure sign he was close as well. Idris’ hips lifted and his hands held Zalish’s head still so he could thrust brutally into the channel formed by his lips. They were going numb but Zalish held fast, providing a tight slide for the fast pummeling his abused mouth received.

Idris’ foot slammed onto the desk. Like a taut bow string, his back arched and his hips snapped one final time with a thrust up. He pulled down hard on Zalish’s head. “Fuck yes. Swallow me, you fucking whore.”

Zalish held his breath, both men hanging on the cusp until the catch released and Idris shouted. Warmth flooded his mouth and throat. Fighting to breathe now, with Idris’ filling his mouth, he dared not to pull even one whit away. Zalish swallowed with vigor, drinking down faithfully until Idris relaxed.

Yes. He was Idris’ whore. His dirty, filthy, cocksucking whore. He willingly went to his knees. He willingly took what Idris gave him and was pleased if he got something in return. If he didn’t, he worshipped Idris patiently anyway.

Once Idris’ erection started to soften, Zalish risked lifting his head and the young duke let his hands fall away. For one final suck, he received a strangled grunt for his efforts. Idris lifted his legs and let them fall heavily to the floor. Still on his knees, Zalish sat back and tempered his breathing with deep, shaky inhales. He watched Idris, every nerve in his body pulled tight and singing with driving need to find his own release. He was disappointed he was not allowed to reach it when Idris did and he hoped he’d be given leave to finish now.

After a few minutes, Idris opened his eyes. He ran his gaze over Zalish, from head to foot, the tip of his finger pulling at his bottom lip in thought. “You succeed in taking back Little Bighorn, and I’ll see to it,” and Idris nudged at Zalish’s arousal with the toe of his boot, “that is handled.”

Zalish’s breath hitched, caught and held. It took every bit of his control not to lean into Idris’ foot; or to pull away to keep the stimulation from driving him mad. Either movement would only prolong his agony. Instead, he drew on his frustrated pain for grounding and held firm, desperately looking for his center. He licked at his lips and still tasted Idris. “Handled?”

Idris pressed his boot sole firmly into Zalish’s groin once more for emphasis before it thumped onto the floor. He didn’t bother to put his uniform back to rights. He simply sprawled licentiously in his chair, finger twirling through a blond lock again. “Yes. I’ll let you fuck me.” Pausing, “Unless you don’t want to,” he finished with a calculated pout.

A spike jolted through his body like he’d been shot and it pulsed in his unrelieved groin. Technically, Zalish could try to find relief somewhere, anywhere, else. He wouldn’t have to be beholden to a tenuous promise that may or may not be filled.

Idris didn’t have any hold on him.

…except that he did. Somehow, that arrogant, spoiled, lascivious…seductive man had driven a spike into him and firmly tethered them together.

So far, it had been nothing more than oral sex and then allowing Zalish to take himself in hand to finish. Now, a promise for more? The promise was a beacon in the darkest of the night.

Even if he did go elsewhere, it wouldn’t be satisfactory. Not like it was, and could be, with Idris.

It gave Zalish internal determination. He would hold to that, just for the chance to have Idris beneath him. An internal voice reminded him that being beneath wouldn’t necessarily mean being beneath.

No need for semantics and he grimly pushed that nagging voice away.

Swiftly rising to his feet, Zalish adjusted his own uniform, a way of pulling his resolve back from the shredded tatters that Idris had rendered it. He stood to his full height, balled his fist, and then touched his chest in a proper salute. “I will return victorious, Lord Idris.”

The corners of Idris’ lips curled into a smile. “See that you do, Lord Zalish.”

Damn him. Idris would be his downfall.