Nikola and Justin spent more effort on conversation than fishing; for his part, Justin found conversation more rewarding. Still, they lapsed into companionable silence at times. Even spread out, Nikola’s jacket wasn’t wide enough for them to sit upon without touching occasionally, and Justin was keenly aware of his friend’s nearness. Whenever Justin shifted and stretched to keep himself from stiffening, he inched a little farther away, until he was sitting half-off the jacket in an effort to get a buffer of distance between them. Which was the opposite of what he wanted: his mind was full of fantasies of pushing Nikola down on the moss and making love to him as they had of old. Why did I choose this spot, so full of memories? It was almost intolerable to brush against Nikola when he could not claim him. Distance was safer. A little safer. Has anyone ever petitioned you to mend a broken heart, Nikola? If the Savior cannot heal it, do you know how long it takes to recover on its own? Will I never stop wanting you? He could say none of it.
The day grew warmer, the sun chasing back their shade as it climbed. During a conversational lull, Nikola yawned and shook his head. “Ah, forgive me, Comfrey. This heat is making me drowsy.” He set his fishing rod down to stand and stretch, then bent to slip out of shoes and stockings and roll up his trouser legs. The fair-skinned man picked his way down a sloped section of bank to stand in the shallow water along the edge.
“Testing to see if human toes make more appetizing bait than shiny baubles?” Justin watched the waterfall upstream to avoid staring, but from the corner of his eye he could see his friend’s lithe form as Nikola shook the kinks from his shoulders.
“They can’t do worse.” Nikola wiggled his toes in the muck and bent to splash water on his face and hands.
Justin was more overheated than ever, and the water looked cool and inviting. What harm could there be in bare feet? There is nothing whatsoever for a normal man to find erotic in this. (Yes, and there has never been anything normal about my desires.) He pulled up one foot at a time to unbuckle his own shoes despite his misgivings.
“Did you want to keep on fishing?” Nikola asked. “I think I’ll swim for a bit instead. I don’t suppose it’ll scare the fish any more than the lures do.”
Justin froze in the act of placing stockings atop shoes. He finished the movement with exaggerated care and looked up to see Nikola turned in profile to him, eyes on the depths of the pool. His handsome friend unbuttoned his shirt and shrugged out of it, tossing it carelessly atop the jacket. Justin clenched his fingers against the urge to run them over exposed Haventure-pale skin, to feel the lines of lean supple muscle. Nikola drew the ribbon from his ponytail and ran his fingers through long loose waves of golden hair as he waded deeper into the pool.
Justin splashed into the pool after him. Nikola was up to his thighs before he felt a hand on his upper arm. “Am I stone, Nikola?” Justin asked, softly. Skin flushed pink beneath his fingers. Need overcame restraint and he circled his other arm about the fair man’s waist, caressing his stomach, pulling Nikola to him to press the younger man’s back against his chest. He nuzzled aside golden hair to bare Nikola’s shoulder to his lips. His former lover’s body tensed against his touch, but Justin could not make himself draw back. “Am I unfeeling rock? You are not sixteen, Nikola. Nor innocent.” He kissed the exposed shoulder, skin reddened and heated against his lips. “You know full well what effect you have on me.” In emphasis, Justin ground his hips against Nikola’s rear, ensuring he felt the erection through their clothes.
“I…Justin, I’m…” Whatever he was going to say trailed off unfinished.
“Curse it, boy. Fidelity was your choice.” Justin nipped at the side of Nikola’s throat, provoking a stifled moan. One hand drifted up Nikola’s chest, feeling firm muscle beneath the skin. “Why are you tormenting me like this?”
Nikola shuddered under the attentions of hands and mouth, then twisted to face him. Justin released Nikola and forced himself back a step, eyes down. “I’m not sorry,” Nikola whispered, hoarse and fierce, following Justin’s retreat and wrapping him in his arms to prevent further withdrawal as Nikola dipped his head to lock his mouth over Justin’s. They kissed with the pent-up passion of months of frustrated desire. Nikola tore open Justin’s shirt to stroke the skin beneath. “I can’t stop wanting you, Justin,” Nikola whispered, lips moving from Justin’s to press against his cheek, to lick his ear. “I’ve tried, I’ve been trying for months, but it’s all pretense. I am so very tired of pretending, my lord.” Teeth raked over the curve of Justin’s ear, Nikola’s hips grinding urgently against his.
With a groan of pure need, Justin lifted Nikola and carried him to the bank. He laid him down on the moss and covered him with his body, his dominant thought take him now before he changes his mind. Nikola arched into his mouth as Justin bit down on a stiffened nipple, a hand clamping on the back of Justin’s head to hold him in place. Justin stroked his fingers over the trousers covering Nikola’s cock, fumbled at the stiff wet cloth as he tried to unbutton them, fingers clumsy and shaking with need.
Nikola’s note had said he expected to find Justin near the waterfall, which didn’t surprise Wisteria. It was one of the most picturesque spots in Fireholt; she and Nikola had been there many times on pleasant days like this one. It was also private, screened off by forest and part of the few dozen acres that remained reserved to the lord of the manor. As she walked up the final rise, she hadn’t heard or seen them yet. But she didn’t expect to; the waterfall often masked other sounds.
The first indication that the men were about was a towel hanging from a tree not far from the pool. She continued along the path, peering between the trees to look for them. Wisteria was about to call out when she saw two figures standing hip-deep in the water. Standing oddly close together in the water. With their arms about one another. How strange. Are they all right? By build and hair color, the two had to be her husband and Lord Comfrey, but why would their heads be so…Oh.
Stunned, Wisteria stepped off the path and into the trees, using them for cover as she drew nearer. She watched as Lord Comfrey lifted her half-naked husband from the pool, as Nikola stripped the dark-haired man of his shirt, pale pink hands moving with eager, practiced assurance over golden-brown skin. They lay together on the mossy bank, Comfrey half on his side and half on top of Nikola, kissing, licking, nibbling at her husband.
Am I dreaming? Wisteria touched the bark of the tree she was half-hiding behind. It felt very real. My husband is making love with Lord Comfrey.
It was the most moving, erotic thing she’d ever witnessed. They looked beautiful and right together, as if they were made for this intimacy. She set her half-forgotten basket on the bare earth and crept nearer, wanting to see more, sensible of the impropriety of her actions but unwilling to stop herself.
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