Prince Padriac is a hedonistic degenerate—or at least that’s what his mother and the rest of the royal family think of him, and he’s happy to live down to their expectations. But when the crops of their kingdom start failing, the queen commands that Padriac be joined to Brother Laurel, a monk, in order to combine his royal magic with that of the earth Goddess to bring fertility back to the land. The union is only meant to be temporary, but Brother Laurel is so ugly and prudish that it might as well be an eternity. However, as they get to know one another, Padriac realizes he has misjudged Laurel and finds himself falling for the thoughtful and sensitive monk. The fate of the kingdom relies on their sexual union, but as time goes on, it becomes clear that the fate of their hearts is in jeopardy as well.
Padriac had just finished his preparations when there was a knock on the door. When Padriac opened it, he found Brother Laurel standing there, dressed once more in the green robes of the acolyte. His expression was grim as usual, but Padriac did not let that deter him.
“Good evening,” he said with his most charming smile. “I’m so glad you’re here. Please, come in.”
Laurel gave his customary reply—nothing at all. He entered the room swiftly, brushing past Padriac with hardly a second glance. Padriac muttered a brief prayer before shutting the door. Since this was all in service of the Goddess, surely She would offer him a little help.
Laurel stood in the middle of the room, frowning at everything. Padriac cleared his throat and gestured toward the sofa. “Why don’t you have a seat and join me for a glass of wine?” Padriac paused as something occurred to him. “You haven’t taken a vow of silence, have you?”
“No,” Laurel said.
“Excellent. Then sit, please.”
Laurel did not move toward the sofa. “Is there somewhere I can disrobe?” he asked instead.
Padriac blinked. This was moving along more rapidly then he had anticipated. “Certainly. There’s a dressing screen to your left there.”
As Laurel got undressed, Padriac settled on the sofa and poured them both a glass of wine. Laurel emerged soon afterward—he was not nude, but dressed in a strange garment. It was like a nightgown, except that the sleeves were long and snug, and it had a button collar that was done up all the way up. It was not the most erotic of garments, but that did not dissuade Padriac. He patted the sofa beside him. “Come, sit. Have a drink.”
“No, thank you.” Laurel headed for the bed and got in under the covers. “Could you put out the candles?”
Padriac frowned. This was not going as planned, but if Laurel wanted to jump right into it, he supposed that he could accommodate him. Perhaps it was best to get their first time over with—it would take the edge off the situation. After all, they had several months together. He snapped his fingers, extinguishing half of candles, before approaching the bed. “Is that better?”
“I meant all of them.”
“But if I put them all out, how am I to see you?”
“I thought seeing me wasn’t something you would want,” Laurel said stiffly.
Ah. So he was still hung up on that. Padriac sat at the edge of the bed. “I know we got off to a somewhat rocky start, and for that, I apologize. You have to understand that I was taken quite by surprise with the whole situation.” He leaned down, only a breath away now. “I am more than happy to have you in my bed.” He went in for a kiss.
And was shoved backward. “No kissing,” Laurel snapped.
Padriac blinked at him in surprise. “What?”
“No kissing, no touching, other than what is strictly necessary. You might be happy to have me in your bed, but the feeling is not mutual. I am not here for pleasure. I am here in service to the Goddess and to the people. So spare me your seduction. Put out the candles and do your duty.”
It was a truly shriveling outburst. Padriac gritted his teeth. He had promised himself he’d be patient, but this was really testing his resolve. With another snap of his fingers, the candles all went out. He removed his dressing gown, taking care first to remove the vial of oil from its pocket, and hung it on the bedpost. Then he got into bed.
But once he was there, he had no idea what on the Goddess’s green earth he was supposed to do. No kissing—he could understand that much. But what constituted “necessary” touching?
Padriac gave his own cock a few strokes, attempting to coax himself into arousal but was only half successful. He slipped his hands under Laurel’s garment. His skin was clammy to the touch. Padriac caressed his thighs before moving upward, brushing a hand over Laurel’s flaccid prick--
Laurel jerked away. “I said no touching!”
“Well, I’m going to do some touching,” Padriac snapped in exasperation. “I can’t just shove my prick in you with no preparation.”
Laurel was quiet for a moment. “All right,” he finally said. “Just don’t-don’t touch me…there. Just where you need to.”
When Padriac resumed, Laurel was shaking. Padriac pulled back and rubbed his face. This wasn’t going to work. His prick had completely wilted; he had never felt less aroused in his entire life. With a snap of his fingers, the candles lit again.
Laurel, whose eyes had been screwed shut, gradually blinked them open. “Why did you stop?”
“We need to talk.” Padriac grabbed his dressing gown and stood. “Come on, get out of bed. Let’s go sit on the sofa, and I’m afraid I must insist this time.”
Once they were both settled on the sofa (or, well, not “settled” precisely, since Laurel only perched at the edge, as if waiting for a moment to flee), Padriac picked up the wine glasses. “Are you sure you don’t want some?”
Laurel shook his. Padriac downed his glass, and Laurel’s too. He rubbed his face again before speaking. “Are you here of your own free will, or have you been coerced?”
Laurel worried the hem of his garment. “No. I mean, yes, I agreed to this. No coercion.”
“Are you certain?”
“Yes. I volunteered.”
That surprised Padriac, considering how unhappy he clearly was. “You volunteered? Why?”
“Because my connection with the Goddess is among the strongest anyone’s seen in a century,” he said. “The High Priestess herself said so. How could I say no when such a small sacrifice will save so many lives?”
“A noble sentiment,” Padriac conceded. “But it seems to me that it is not such a small sacrifice for you. You’re terrified.”
“I am not,” Laurel said, some of that earlier ferocity back in his voice. Padriac was glad for it—it was certainly more appealing than the frightened fawn demeanor. “I have pledged myself to the Goddess to do Her work on this earth. I will endure whatever I must to end the famine.”
Padriac felt a headache coming on. He poured himself another glass of wine. “That’s all very well for you, but I’m afraid I won’t be up for such an arrangement, if you catch my meaning.”
Laurel’s cheeks flushed. “All right,” he said quietly with his head bowed. “You can kiss me if you need to.”
Padriac considered him. “No, I don’t think so.”
Laurel looked up, confusion in his eyes. “Then what must I do?”
“Nothing for tonight.” Padriac stood. “I’m going to bed.” He made his way to the bed without looking to see if Laurel was following.
Padriac took off his robe and got in under the covers. With a snap of his fingers, the candles extinguished, leaving the room only dimly lit by the fireplace. After a few minutes, Laurel joined him.
When several more minutes had passed with Padriac saying nothing, Laurel spoke up. “I’m ready,” he said, his voice shaky.
“No, you aren’t. And that’s the issue. I’m not touching you until you are comfortable with this.”
“But I am!” Laurel protested.
Quick as lighting, Padriac rolled onto Laurel, supporting himself with his arms on either side of Laurel as he loomed over him. Laurel cried out in surprise and flinched. Padriac looked down at him grimly. “That’s what I thought.” He moved off of him and lay down with his back to Laurel.
“I’m sorry! I’ll do whatever you want—”
“What I want is to get some sleep. I suggest you do the same.”
“So that’s it then?” Laurel’s voice raised in outrage. “You’re just going to abandon your duties and let all those people starve?”
“I doubt very much that we will end the famine in one night. It can wait.”
Silence fell between them. Padriac thought that that would be the end of it, but then Laurel spoke again. “Everything I’ve heard about you is true. You care nothing for duty— the only thing that matters to you is your own pleasure!”
Padriac wasn’t quite sure what to make of that. Was it a genuine outburst of temper, or an attempt to goad him? He rolled onto him again, taking a wrist in each hand. Laurel didn’t flinch this time; he glared up at him, his face flushed again and his jaw clenched tight, his chest heaving. Interesting. Padriac made a mental note of his reaction.
“I am your prince,” Padriac growled. “And you would do well to remember that before you speak in such a manner to me again. And if you think you can shame me into doing what you want, you’d best think again. It doesn’t work when my brother does it, and he’s the crown prince. It certainly won’t work coming from you.” Padriac released him. “Now go to sleep, or get out. I don’t care which.”
Padriac rolled over and shut his eyes. Laurel remained where he was for a few long moments, but then he got out of bed and made his way to the sofa. Which was fine with Padriac. He sighed. Goodness, what a mess. But it was a mess that could wait until morning.
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