QSFer Grace R. Duncan has a new mm historical fantasy out: Deception.
Cyrus and Nadir first met as hungry orphans on Behekam’s streets at twelve years old. They became friends, then partners in the thievery that enabled them to survive, and as they passed their days together, they fell in love. When they are both taken as pleasure slaves in the opulent palace of the Malik of Neyem, love becomes more complicated.
Rumors of an attempt on Malik Bathasar’s life put Cyrus and Nadir’s relationship to the test—they must pose convincingly as intimate slaves to the young malik as part of a plan to lure the assassin into the open. Teman—Malik Bathasar’s real personal pleasure slave and true lover—was once trained by Cyrus for the same duties, and the attraction and care Cyrus developed for him then still remains. The Malik of Neyem proves an easy man to love and Nadir’s feelings for him grow while they’re pretending to love each other.
Cyrus and Nadir care deeply for each other but they’ve forgotten the first rule of love: communicate in honesty. Their love remains strong enough to weather the changes—if they have the courage not only to face the coming dangers, but to put aside deception and find their truth.
Behekam, Neyem—1096 A.D.
Bathasar slid along the alley, shifting from shadow to shadow. He could just barely make out the footsteps behind him, and he kept enough distance between him and them to stay out of the man’s knife range. He had no wish to go back to the palace with a wound his advisors would lecture him over.
He took a swift right turn and then a left, but the footsteps never faltered. He frowned and melted farther into the shadows, reminding himself to be lighter on his feet. As malik he rarely worried about how softly he walked, except if he was trying to let his lover sleep when he couldn’t. He forced himself to think like a thief or assassin and worked to shift his weight. Thieves didn’t stride like a malik did, they slipped or tiptoed.
Another turn to the left, then another right, and Bathasar found himself facing a solid wall. He grumbled under his breath and frowned, trying to decide if he should attempt to scale it or turn around. Before he could choose, however, the first knife flew through the air and embedded itself in the fence next to him. He spun on his heel and cursed soundly as three more found their marks around his torso, an inch of their blades buried in wood.
“Four? Where in the world did you hide four?” Bathasar asked, amazement and amusement fighting for dominance in his tone.
“Where I hid them, which is the same place I hid this one,” Teman said, holding a fifth knife, aimed at Bathasar’s stomach, “isn’t an issue. What is, is that I could have heard you walking from a mile away. If you insist on striding, you might as well paint a target on your back.”
Bathasar laughed. “You sound so peevish, love.”
Teman rolled his eyes. “That’s because the idea of my love’s life being taken tends to make me a bit peevish.” He pulled the knife back, spun it, and it disappeared into his pants. Bathasar watched, eyebrows going up.
“Have I mentioned lately that I am very grateful that you’re on my side?” he asked, chuckling. “And really, let them come. I do know how to use the sword I carry, you know.”
“The problem, my love, is that they won’t let you get close enough to use it. You would already be dead were it not for the fortunate position I was in my first night in the Grand Hall. They have deadly aim. They do not miss, and were it not for the fact that you had me on your side, you would be dead.” Teman shook his head and crossed his arms as he peered up at Bathasar through the gloom of the alley.
Bathasar sighed. “You are right, of course. I promise next time to work harder at walking lighter. It is exceedingly difficult. I have spent my entire life being groomed for the throne. It’s not easy to undo nearly thirty years of training.”
“I know. But your life may depend on it. I can’t always be at your side.” Teman frowned and stepped closer to Bathasar until he was enfolded in Bathasar’s arms.
“I intend to change that. I have been thinking about it, and I do not think there’s anything you shouldn’t be able to be present for.”
“Really?” Teman asked, looking up.
Bathasar nodded. “Yes. Besides, if you insist on acting as my bodyguard,” he said, sighing, and Teman chuckled at the put-upon tone. “Then we must establish that you will be with me at all times. If they think I can’t live without my pleasure slave, then they won’t question it.” He paused to push aside a bit of brown hair and run his thumb over the jeweled collar Teman wore. “And you will be able to protect me.” He frowned again. “I don’t like the idea of you being the one to protect me.”
“It makes sense. You are the much more valuable out of the two of us, love.” Teman reached up and pushed a few stray strands of hair out of Bathasar’s face.
Bathasar rolled his eyes. “Yes, yes, so you’ve told me. Well, I have had enough of ‘training’ for one night. There are much more pleasant things I can think of to do with you.”
“Mmmm, I can agree with that,” Teman murmured and tilted his lips up to be caught by Bathasar’s. A full minute later, they pulled apart, both having trouble breathing.
“Let’s get back inside. I want you,” Bathasar managed as he struggled for air. Teman had been back at the palace for over a year since his initial release and self-discovery, and even after all that time, Bathasar still had trouble gathering wits after kisses like that.
Teman stepped back and took Bathasar’s hand. “Then let’s not wait any longer, my love.” Teman grinned, and Bathasar laughed as they turned toward the palace entrance.
He almost missed them. If he’d been just a few minutes later, he would have. He ducked into a shadowed alcove between two doorways and watched them making eyes at each other. He couldn’t hear what they were saying, but he didn’t have to. He could guess.
The rumors of the malik’s pet were still running rampant a year after he’d ascended to the throne. There were quite a few accusations, including those that said the man didn’t care one bit about the country or how it ran. Rather, he spent all his time with a pleasure slave—and sometimes even more than one.
He knew that only part of those rumors were true. Like all rumors, they were founded in reality and embellished along the way. Though what part, he didn’t know.
He reminded himself that wasn’t his job. His job had been to spend the time over the last year learning the malik’s comings and goings, understanding routines and schedule, and security and its weaknesses. He’d watched, waited, and made notes.
It was just about time. He still wasn’t sure about trying while the man was in the palace, and it was frustrating to note the malik rarely left it. But this evening confirmed the malik did, in fact, leave. He cursed his luck at not having seen them depart. He would have loved the chance to be through with the job.
But it was okay. He was patient and had other, smaller jobs he could do until the right opportunity presented itself. And he knew it would. Sooner, rather than later.
Grace Duncan grew up with a wild imagination. She told stories from an early age – many of which got her into trouble. Eventually, she learned to channel that imagination into less troublesome areas, including fanfiction, which is what has led her to writing male/male erotica.
As someone who loves to travel and see new places, Grace has lived all over the United States. She has currently set up camp in East Texas with her husband and children – both the human and furry kind.
As one of those rare creatures who loves research, Grace can get lost for hours on the internet, reading up on any number of strange and different topics. She can also be found writing fanfiction, reading fantasy, crime, suspense, romance and other erotica or even dabbling in art.