Attention: This book in the sequel to The King's Groom. But they DO NOT have to be read in order.
You should also know that this is a M/M story and will have M rated content in future chapters.
Chapter 1: Two Lions
Keith's neighbor bumped against his shoulder as the man was leaving his apartment, and Keith debated squashing the man against the wall as retaliation.
"Sorry." His neighbor mumbled.
Keith grunted an empty apology in return, and his neighbor continued towards the elevator. Maybe Keith would save being arrest for assault for another day; he had enough to worry about already.
It wasn't normal for Keith to fantasize about throwing innocent bystanders through walls, but his week had left him with a desire to crush something. First one of his customers withdrew his commission for a new webpage, leaving Keith with a small cancellation fee for income; then another customer skimped on his payment with a mere promise that next month would lead to a full payment plus interest. At that point Keith started to question his career as a freelance web designer. Then he had the added bonus of seeing the man he was dating practically having sex on the dance floor of a local club. To make matters worse he was nearing his thirtieth birthday, and he was behind on rent payments.
It took a concentrated effort to avoid ripping the knob from the door in anger when the key didn't turn readily.
Once finally inside his apartment, his first destination was the refrigerator where he immediately reached for a beer. Keith mentally shared his woes with the bottle, but it didn't seem to be enough.
The apartment was abnormally stuffy and his dress shirt was becoming increasingly confining. With one hand he fumbled with the buttons and freed himself from the first layer followed by his undershirt.
Removing his shirt revealed two identical lion tattoos that stretched from his elbows to his wrists. They reminded him of when he was younger, impulsive, and felt like he could have anything in the world. But now Keith only wished for a sex-starved model to arrive at his door demanding to be thrown onto the coach and screwed out of consciousness.
His doorbell rang.
Keith was tempted to ignore it. He didn't have the energy to entertain company or shun solicitors. But the image of his unlikely, irresistible model wouldn't leave his frontal lobe.
The doorbell rang again.
Keith grudgingly labored to the door and opened it, if only to stop the obnoxious ring.
Standing in his doorway must have been the most beautiful person Keith had ever seen. His visitor had jet-black hair that fell across his delicate, pixie face and brushed against his slim neck. Narrow, dark eyes rested over sharp cheekbones, and his thin nose led to full red lips that practically pouted in need of a kiss. His frame was lean but seemed more fit than frail beneath the white cloth that intricately wrapped around his body.
The stranger was far better than the model Keith had been envisioning, excluding the fact that the visitor was too young; his looks were stuck between a young man's and a grown child's. Then the visitor's gaze fell on Keith's exposed chest. His hazel eyes widened, flooding his face with a look of innocence that took another year or two off his apparent age.
"Yes?" Keith growled. Despite the pleasant sight, Keith's foul mood had returned when the visitor landed himself in Keith's too-young-for-me category.
"I am the Key Keeper." The boy announced in a confident manner that had probably sounded better in his head.
Keith couldn't help raising his eyebrow. It was an interesting introduction, but Keith didn't have the patience.
"No, you are the bell ringer." Keith corrected. "What do you want?"
The boy cleared his throat and stood taller as if attempting to raise the top of his head to the level of Keith's shoulders. He was still an inch off. "I am Alair of Eastland and the appointed Key Keeper." He said, his voice dripping with self-importance. "I am here to bring you with me."
Keith laughed. He understood now. This kid represented some religious organization as a door-to-door conversion tactic. Keith gave the group points for originality, but he wasn't in the mood.
"Thanks," he said hollowly. "But I'm not interested."
Keith started to close the door, but the boy's hand shot out to stop it. Before Keith could stop him, his slim body slipped through the gap into Keith's apartment.
"Hey." Keith barked. "Get out!"
Keith tried to grab the back of Alair's shirt, but the boy danced out of the way and used the couch as a barrier between them.
"You are the man I've been searching for." Alair said as though justifying his actions.
"Then come back in a few years when you've grown up and I'll go anywhere you'd like." Keith commented dryly.
"I am grown up." Alair put his hands on his hips with an annoyed look that reflected Keith's. "This is my twentieth summer. And I can't wait. You need to come with me now."
"Come with you where?" Keith asked with a sigh. He hoped the sooner they got through the spiel, the sooner he would leave.
"Back to Eastland." Alair answered.
"I've never heard of Eastland."
"Of course not." Alair said with a frown. "Your people don't know about my world."
Keith snorted. So this boy thought he was from another world. He was probably crazy, and now he was in Keith's apartment. Great.
"So, why am I supposed to go to your world?"
Alair straightened his spine and spoke as though reciting something. "When the fortunes of land fade, / Follow the key. Open the gate. / The double doors will split / and through the tunnel waits a man / with lions clawing at his hands. / Bring him back. Use his might. / Find the spell and give it life."
"Cute poem." Keith grumbled sarcastically.
"It's not a poem." Alair corrected. "It's a prophecy proclaimed by my great-uncle."
Keith sighed. "Then go tell your uncle that he got something wrong. Because it's got nothing to do with me."
"My great uncle is dead." Alair said flatly. "He was the Key Keeper, and I took his place when he died. And now that the prophecy is coming true, I am sent to bring you back."
Just great. The kid's uncle had probably been half-crazed before he died and filled his head full of romanticized ideas.
"Kid. I don't know what drugs your parents have been sharing with you, but I'm not going anywhere with you."
"But you're the 'man with lions clawing at his hands'." Alair protested. "And don't call me kid."
"They're on my forearms." Keith corrected.
Alair's eyes narrowed into angry slits. "Do you realize an entire kingdom is relying on you?"
"To give life to a spell? Sorry, but my schedule is full." Keith lied.
Any annoyance or negative emotions seemed to melt from Alair's face, and a small smile brought warmth to his eyes and drew Keith's attention to his lips.
"Is there nothing I can do to convince you?" Alair asked in a sultry voice made to seduce weak men. And Keith wasn't feeling that strong at the moment.
Keith couldn't answer. He merely watched as Alair's hips maneuvered their way around the couch to stand in front of him.
Alair reached out and his hand touched just above Keith's heart. From there his fingers slid down and splayed across Keith's toned stomach.
"Is there anything I can do to make you come?" Alair added in that same voice that made Keith's pants feel shamefully tight.
Twenty wasn't that young, Keith reminded himself.
Alair's other hand slid around Keith's lower back for a moment before moving downwards to Keith's ass. His hand lingered and squeezed teasingly before pulling away.
Alair took a step back with a sly grin on his face.
"Is this important to you?" He asked mischievously.
Keith was about to answer something along the lines of, 'yes my release is very important to me', but then he noticed what Alair was indicating in his hand.
The little brat had slipped Keith's wallet from his back pocket.
Keith lunged to grab it, but Alair was already on the move. Alair's fast legs made it to the door while Keith was busy tripping over furniture. The door slammed open and Alair dashed out, speeding down the hallway. Keith tumbled behind and saw Alair franticly pressing at the button to the elevator.
The double doors slid open, and Alair didn't waste a second before slipping in. Keith's fast moving body hurled through the opening and slammed against the elevator's far wall. The doors shut, locking them in together as the elevator shot downwards.
"Give it to me, you little pick pocket." Keith growled.
"You have to come with me." Alair insisted as he held Keith's wallet behind his back.
Confidence radiated from Alair's body despite their dramatic difference is size.
Before Keith could make another move, the elevator dinged and the doors started to slide apart. Bright sunlight spread into the cramped room and Alair dashed between the opening doors.
Keith sped after him, but he froze as soon as his foot met sand.
Golden sand filled every inch of the glowing landscape as it stretched out beneath the perfectly clear, blue sky. There was nothing else in sight besides Alair and his knowing grin as he stood in the mile-wide desert extending out of the elevator.
Keith said the only appropriate thing that could come to his mind.