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This is a slow build kind of story. Read Tanners and the Banker’s Boy for a background on the main character, and also for a very sexual story.
The seventh day market was possibly the most obnoxious event in the town. Charles the Younger had been stuck in the crowd for the better part of an hour, guiding his horse anywhere there was an opening and shooing pickpockets away from his purse. Had not his wife requested new ribbons he never would have ventured into the fray.
“I detest the market,” he groaned loudly, not for the first time.
“Well known,” his friend Wolfgang replied wryly. The young man urged his mount around a spice hawker to catch up with the banker’s son. “You’ve been bellyaching the entire morning. Why do you bother coming?”
“My goodly wife has many requests, and I am an obliging husband.”
Wolfgang didn’t respond to that, knowing full well that only half the statement was truth. Charles, turned as he was to speak to him, didn’t notice the approaching family until he had nearly trampled them.
“Good sir!” cried a woman.
Charles reined his horse sharply. It was that goatherd with the big eyes, her belly swollen with child. Who should be laden with her other bastard but the handsome village idiot? Charles grinned, waiting for the man to look up.
“Apologies,” Wolfgang said for him. The goatherd bowed as best she could and moved along. Was it imagination that made her eyes seem as though she could look into a man’s soul? Charles wondered if she knew what her simple lover was up to whenever Charles sent for him. Likely so, for the way the peasant spoke of her, the goatherd was his sole confidant.
“Indeed, apologies,” Charles added at Wolfgang’s sharp look. At the sound of his voice Tanners finally raised his gaze as Charles had known he would. Those odd eyes widened, almost glowed in the morning sunlight. Why be so shocked? Everyone was at the seventh day market. Charles winked at the man and was rewarded with Tanners’ bright red blush. He felt his friend glance sideways at him.
“You’ve an odd rapport with the tanner’s boy,” Wolfgang remarked once the goatherd had moved her party on.
Narrowing his eyes at the strapping peasant’s back, Charles replied, “You would as well, had you ridden him like a charger.” He would have to summon the man soon.
Wolfgang shook his head. “I’ll never have a straight answer from the likes of you,” he laughed.
Charles pretended affront at the cachinnation. “You doubt my honest lips?”
“I’d believe he enjoyed a good sodomizing but for the common knowledge that he has taken up with the little goatherd on the hill.” Wolfgang raised a shrewd brow at his longtime friend. “I very much doubt that she has the equipment for the task.” With that he clicked his heels against the bay he rode and made his way through the market crowd.
Charles followed the other man, wrapped in pensiveness. Dare he tell Wolfgang the truth? The man may never have liked Charles’ wife, but the revelation that Charles preferred the rough hand of a tanner’s by-blow could destroy the bonds of even a lifelong friendship. It was a shame, Charles thought, that he and Wolf had never gone further than to compare sizes and follicle growth during their adolescent years. Would it that Wolfgang be the one Charles met in the forest…The banker’s son shook those thoughts from his head. His companion was comely and fit, but was not the kind of man to encourage the sort of passions Charles favored. He was too genteel; too genial; too good. There was no devil in Wolfgang.
The two men’s conversation turned to more mundane matters as they neared the edge of Wolfgang’s property: business, estates, the rumors that a band of gypsies was camping between their town and the next. Charles responded distractedly, his mind still on Tanners and his goatherd. She didn’t seem to mind that her lover spent four days fucking Charles every moon. However, if the gypsies were the sort who caused problems for villagers, would that not herald the return of the brute squad? In that case, the simple romantic would surely return to the famed Keilan, leaving no one to satisfy Charles during those sweet brief days of extramarital freedom. Should he find a whore beforehand? Were there men of age and stature who could be discreet?
“Charles!” Wolfgang said suddenly. “Where is your head?”
Charles blinked. “My apologies. It seems I am preoccupied.”
“Is it the good Lady Eleanor again?” Wolf’s tone made it clear that he expected as much.
Only in that her very regular menstrual cycles have become the highlight of my marriage, Charles thought dryly. “In part,” he answered. “Shall we have a swim in the pond?”
As soon as the other man opened his mouth Charles was off, spurring his mount over the packed dirt on the road. He heard his friend’s whoop not far behind, and looked over his shoulder to see Wolfgang’s mouth stretched in a bright grin, green eyes sparkling playfully. The sight pricked gaziantep escort the stone walls of Charles’ heart, and he turned to urge his horse faster down the road.
Charles broke the surface of the pond with a loud gasp, flinging water from his hair and eyes. Springtime had warmed the water just enough to be tolerable, but as he swam towards the muddy shore Charles was ever more conscious of his chattering teeth and icy toes.
“It’s cold as a witch’s sagging teats!” he grumbled, stumbling over to his pile of clothes. “My familial jewels have shrunk to grains of sand.”
“Aye, you’d do well to lay out and soak up some sun before you deliver those ribbons to your waiting wife,” Wolfgang agreed. He was stretched out on the grass, his pale freckled skin almost glowing in the midday sun. The waterlogged knickers clung to his frame and revealed the enticing bulge of his manhood.
Charles groaned internally. How badly he ached to drift his fingertips over the smooth ridges of muscle, around the dip of his friend’s navel, and follow the thin line of strawberry blond hair up to Wolfgang’s chest. Charles flopped down beside his friend and pulled a long blade of grass from the ground. He used it to trace Wolfgang’s strong brow and sloped nose, and ran the blade around the firm Cupid’s bow lips once, twice, before the other man stirred enough to knock it away.
“I’ll toss you back in,” Wolfgang threatened, opening one emerald eye with a laziness that belied his tone.
Charles grinned in reply. “Liar.”
The moon was visible in the clear sky, full and low on the horizon. Eleanor would soon visit her family in the countryside to avoid the bustle of the brute squad’s arrival. She is the most beautiful, graceful idiot I’ve met, Charles thought bitterly. Even rough men from the brute squad knew better than to disrespect a woman of such high birth as his wife. However, her idiocy would leave Charles free for the better part of the spring and summer. Tanners had found his love among the battered and tough lot. How could I ever contrive a way to meet those men, not to mention find one who is willing to risk his life and livelihood in order to fuck me?
“You were right about the tanner’s boy. We’ve an odd rapport.” Charles said suddenly. He glanced at his friend to gauge his reaction. Wolfgang merely gazed back, waiting for Charles to explain. “It’s not so much that I’ve ridden him like a charger…”
“As I suspected,” his friend joked.
Charles squirmed and cursed that outburst of honesty, no doubt borne from years of complete disclosure with his oldest friend.
“It’s that I am the mount to his…erm, I suppose you could say he’s my paramour. Well, that sounds as though we are in love, and I am certainly not, and certain he is not—perhaps whore is a better term, save that I don’t reward him with coin.” He was babbling now. “That is to say the man is obedient. He comes when I call and the goatherd doesn’t seem to mind.”
No matter how Charles honey-coated his phrases, Wolfgang would hear the truth underneath. He sat up. “You jest, Charles. Surely, surely you’re making sport with me.”
Charles shook his head slowly.
“You’ve fucked the simpleton?” The man’s tone was incredulous.
“It sounds very crude when you say it in that manner,” Charles replied lightly in spite of his swift heartbeat. “His simplicity is the product of his upbringing, I’m inclined to believe. There’s some intelligence under all that dark unruly hair. Moreover, I didn’t fuck him so much as I provoked him into fucking me.”
Wolfgang was no fool. “The day when you went after him and then returned much later with the claim that you had wrestled. Was it then?”
“That was the first time, yes.”
“The first time,” Wolfgang muttered to himself in disbelief. “Why?”
Charles opened his mouth, but there was only so much truth he should reveal at once. He paused to rephrase his thoughts. “At first, I don’t rightly know. I was curious, I suppose, about what two men could…do together. The opportunity presented itself. He’s a beautiful creature. Tanners is convinced that his devil’s eye makes him do it.”
Wolfgang shook his head. “You tricked him into it? Anything for your amusement, Charles.”
“He had already fallen in love with some brawny member of the brute squad,” Charles argued. “Truly, the core of this queer arrangement is to fill some sort of need for each other. I suppose we’re both lonely souls.”
“Lonely souls?” Wolfgang scoffed. “You’ve a wife and the tanner’s get has filled the goatherd’s belly with a child.”
“I love—I do not love my wife, you know that, and she has made it clear that although she does not love me she expects to bear me heirs.” Charles ran his hands through his hair. “Lying with her, Wolf, it feels like nothing; little different from my own fist. It’s too soft. I do all the work. That tanner’s boy is stupid but strong. It’s…restful. He’s—”
“The entire town is convinced that he is possessed, Charles,” Wolfgang bit out, strawberry brows furrowed fiercely. “I’ve seen that change come over him, enough to be half-convinced that talk of a devil within may not be far from the truth. What if he hurt you?”
“It only hurt the first time, though even that was satisfying. I was less prepared than I thought,” Charles admitted, aware that he was revealing far more information than Wolfgang would ever wish to know.
“So you enjoy the pain?” Wolfgang’s expression was entirely nonplussed.
“That isn’t it, Wolf. Yes, Tanners may be easily manipulated and there is a dark and angry force within him. Yet the tanner’s son and I, we have some similarities. His first love is out clubbing gypsies in the forests, and mine—” Be careful, Charles. “—is certainly not the woman to whom I am shackled for the rest of our sad privileged lives.”
“Why, Charles?” Wolfgang demanded.
“I told you. He’s willing, available, and very comely. Those odd eyes are beautiful up close.” Had he not already answered that question? Charles was beginning to suspect that there was something else Wolfgang was angry about, but the terror of losing his best friend had paralyzed him into flippancy.
Indeed, Wolfgang rose to his feet with a noise of exasperation and began to tug his clothes on. Charles rolled to his back to watch the young man, a stone of anxiety and regret weighing down his stomach.
“Wolfgang, surely you cannot be angry,” he began, hating his own cajoling tone, but a sharp gesture from his friend silenced him.
“I don’t understand you, Charles,” Wolfgang said tightly as he pulled his waistcoat on. “You’ve always been a self-centered creature, but I thought it was a combination of our status and age. This dalliance…I cannot decide who deserves more sympathy: those of us who’ve been deceived about your character, the peasant for being drawn into your web, or you.”
“I beg pardon?” Amazing that such words could sting so ferociously.
“I’ve heard as much as I can today,” Wolfgang said. His stride to his horse was angry and stiff. “Good day, Charles.”
“Wolf, wait!” Why does he avoid my gaze? Charles’ heart had turned to needles and thorns; it pricked with every breath.
The redhead swung into the saddle without another glance at his friend. “Good day.”
“I did not expect to be called so soon.” The baritone startled Charles in the shadow of the orchard.
“Your goatherd doesn’t mind, I presume, swollen as she is with your spawn.” Charles meant the words to bite, but his heart was not them. Moonlight dappled Tanners’ broad shoulders as he moved softly to meet the banker’s son. It must be the demon that allows him to go undetected by Father’s watch, Charles thought wryly. Such a doltish creature should at least lumber.
“You’ve been crying,” Tanners said in wonder, reaching towards the young master’s face.
Charles knocked the rough hand away. “I stared too long at the moon. The light made my eyes water.”
“Why are you sad?”
“Damn it, piss-gatherer, I’m not sad,” Charles snapped, “I am impatient. I need you for one purpose only, and begin to think a carrot would do your job better.”
Tanners shifted his weight, the soft pearly light catching the bright blue of his eye. His gaze was calculating and unsympathetic. Good. The devil’s out.
“Rich pup,” the peasant replied evenly, “you think to deceive me yet again, but the evidence lies red in your eyes and silver on your cheeks. It is sight enough to shrink any sane man’s meat.”
“You are far from sane,” Charles replied. Perhaps this had been a bad idea.
“It can’t be your fine wife,” Tanners continued, unperturbed by the barb, “and your arguments with your father bring only anger and that self-loathing I find…enticing.”
Charles was silent. Had he underestimated the man this whole time, or was there truly a crafty demon looking out of his left eye?
“So it must be that mysterious love of yours,” Tanners concluded. “And your snide attitude leaves you with no confidant save I. After all, what would your privileged sycophants say to your lust for cock?”
For a moment Charles cursed his involvement with the peasant. “You’ve sharp senses, even for a cur.”
“I’m no dog.” The rejoinder was swift and defensive, a sure sign that the simpleton was re-emerging.
Just fuck me, and make it hurt. The words stuck in his throat and instead Charles replied, “I know. I’m sorry.”
Tanners blinked owlishly at the young master’s apology. His expression softened. “Why are you sad, Charles?”
Don’t presume that sheathing your sword in my ass gives you the right to call me by name. Something was indeed terribly wrong, because the thought crumbled under the sudden weight of the young man’s sympathy. Charles sat down with his back against an apple tree, staring through the pale blossoms at the shimmering moon. “I’ve lost a friend because of you.”
The tanner’s son sank to his haunches beside Charles. “Was it my fault, or was it something you said?”
Charles turned to study the other man, but the shadows prevented him from telling whether simple Tanners or sharp Tanners was asking the question. “Oh, it’s something I said.”
“It’s always something you say.”
“I told my friend Wolfgang about us,” Charles confessed, gesturing between himself and Tanners. “He was shocked and disgusted. He berated me for deceiving my wife, and for choosing you. He told me he felt sorry for you, for being drawn into my web.”
The larger man nodded. “I don’t like to hurt you, even if you are very cruel.”
Most assuredly the simpleton. “Do you feel used? Have I damaged your delicate sensibilities?”
“No,” Tanners responded after a moment of thought. “After we meet, the beast slumbers for a while. It’s safe that way. It will leave Melody and the baby alone.”
Charles nodded. So that’s why he has never refused to come. “Wolfgang finds it reprehensible.”
“Why tell him, then?”
“I’ve never kept a secret from him!” Charles exclaimed in exasperation. “Your goatherd, is there nothing she doesn’t know about you? Do you not understand the concept of deep, abiding friendship, the kind of bonds that hold stronger than blood or marriage?”
Tanners chuckled at the mention of his little bed warmer. “Melody doesn’t like you, but she doesn’t mind when you call. She’s with child, did you know that? I wonder if it will look like me.”
Charles shook his flaxen head. “I can’t fathom your odd relationship with that elfin wench, but that disclosure, that honesty, is what I have—” he corrected himself “—had with Wolfgang. He noticed when you blushed at the market, and I was unable to stop myself from telling him why.”
“The one with hair like sunset on the clouds?” asked the tanner’s son, “With the nice smile, who follows you everywhere? He looks like grown baby angel.”
“Wolfgang doesn’t follow me…idiot, do you understand that he reacted poorly to our meetings?” Charles huffed his irritation. “He’s the son of a prominent solicitor. He could be of great danger to you.”
“But you said he was angry with you,” Tanners pointed out. “Did you say that the demon forced you?”
“Did you say something to make him jealous?”
“Then why would he wish to do me harm? You are still hisfriend, and have given him no cause to wish vengeance on me. Besides, the brute squad is rumored to return. Keilan will protect me. I like him more than anyone else in the world.”
His lack of concern was not soothing to the banker’s son. Charles fumed mutely, watching the peasant stretch out his muscular limbs and play with a fallen apple blossom.
“Bastard son of a tanner,” he gritted out after a long moment, “I summoned you here not for this unlearned, plebeian wisdom, but for the flesh dangling between your legs. You can put it to far better use than that wagging tongue.”
Tanners raised his head and pointed an accusatory finger in Charles’ direction. “This is why your friend doesn’t like you anymore. Every phrase from your lips is a riposte or a jest. I’ve never met anyone so insincere,” he said bluntly. “I wager you dismissed his confusion and curiosity with nonchalance. Any man with balls intact would take offense.”
“Enough. Just fuck me.” Charles slid his hand up Tanners’ strong thigh, but was stopped before he could gasp his prize. “Please.”
“Though you begging for cock is a welcome sound, I’m not hungry.” The peasant rose gracefully to his feet. “Your fair companion is no enemy of yours or mine. Go to him and explain yourself, but leave your manipulative spirit behind.”
“He’ll be asleep.”
“Yes, but only because my thoughts were too tumultuous to sleep,” Charles muttered.
Tanners shrugged. “Trust your ability to make a man lie awake at night, plotting arguments and insults to serve you with the morning sun.” He disappeared into the darkness as silently as he had come, slipping away before Charles could muster another excuse.
“Wolfgang!” Charles hissed. “Wolf!” He tossed a pebble at the open window and missed again. The stone made a soft clink against the wooden wall before it fell into the bushes. Was that a candle’s glow behind the curtain?
Taking aim, the young man hurled the next pebble at the gap between the curtains, hoping that the stone would clatter on the floor and wake his friend. Instead the projectile struck the curtain, but a sharp “Ouch!” revealed a figure standing behind it.
“Wolf, I must have words!”
The solicitor’s son threw back the shade, rubbing his head. His hair shone rosy silver in the moonlight and his bare shoulders gleamed. “Charles, are you mad?” he whispered fiercely. “Even the watchdogs are asleep at this hour.”
“Were you in slumber?” Charles asked pointedly.
Wolfgang sighed. “No.”
“Will you come down?”
Clenching his hands to keep from wringing them, Charles replied, “Then may I come up?”
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