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A Most Unusual Honeymoon



Book Two of The Mage & The Leathersmith





Copyright © 2018 Nancy M. Griffis

All Rights Reserved




Smashwords Edition



This book is available in e-book and print formats at most online retailers





A massive thank you to Elizabeth M. Thurmond for her incredible editing skills and support.



Discover other titles by Nancy M. Griffis:


Novels

A Most Unusual Wedding

Amoven: Prophecy

Fluctuations: Book One of the Connemara Chronicles

Children of the Temple: Book One



Short Stories

A Most Unusual Courtship

CONTENTS

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Epilogue




Chapter One


“Last leg of the trip, darling, I can’t wait until we arrive!”

Gerald smiled at the hum of excitement that permeated Leo’s voice as they climbed aboard the second train of the day. Even though it was Gerald’s first time traveling, Leo seemed to feel the anticipation even more than he. Unlike their initial departure­–seen off by their entire family with waves and hugs and even some tears–Gerald and Leo were on their way with no more fanfare than the steam of the massive engines and its loud horn.

They walked through the main cars to First Class, which was very well appointed: thick, sturdy rugs; large, cushioned seats with plenty of room between them: small, polished tables at each pair of seats; brass fittings everywhere; clear and stained glass windows throughout.

Leo stopped at a seat in the center of the car, sensible as the doors opened and closed all the time, and motioned Gerald towards the window. He teased, “I assume you’ll want to watch the world go by again.”

Gerald chuckled and said, “You know me well, love.”

“I like to think so.”

Gerald smiled and sat on the inside seat, peering out the window. Bristol was already gone and it had only been five minutes since they’d boarded. He barely noticed the hours passing as he took in the changing landscape. He took a few trips to the Water Closet and brought back some pastries for them once during the afternoon, but mostly stayed pressed with his nose to the glass.

The tracks ran through more populated areas in the south. And then the towns and villages grew further apart once more as the train followed the Severn River passed Weston-super-Marie and then Bridgewater. They passed endless fields that turned into marshes or moors at some point. There were carts and carriages at many crossings and even a few of those brand new, motorized carriages.

Gerald looked at Leo and asked, “Would you get one?”

Leo dragged his attention from whatever he was writing and frowned. “Get what?”

“One of those horseless carriages,” Gerald clarified. “It seems like something you’d like.”

Leo smiled and said, “Oh, I’d very much like to, yes. Sadly, they are exorbitantly expensive and I haven’t been able to justify the purchase to Father. Yet.”

Gerald grinned and said, “Sorry to interrupt.”

Leo shrugged and set down his pencil. “It’s fine. I was just going over some notes.”

“For?”

“New spells. Nothing you need worry about.”

Gerald almost grimaced at Leo’s casual, dismissive tone. I’ll be a while making up for that, no doubt. Aloud, he said, “I’d like to hear about them, if you wish to share.”

Leo’s eyebrows rose in apparent surprise. “Would you?”

Gerald nodded firmly. “If it’s important to you, then I want to know. I promise.”

Brightening visibly, blue eyes aglow, Leo turned his notebook around and picked up his pencil again. “I took on a challenge from an old... colleague, I guess you could call him, a few months ago. This is really the first chance I’ve had to get into it.”

Gerald looked over what appeared to be so much chicken scratch amidst drawings of... star charts? “What are those?”

“Ah. Yes. It’s a navigation spell. You know how sailors use the stars to guide them at sea?”

“Yes.”

“Well, this spell involves...” Leo broke off when the train slowed appreciably, indicating their approach to Bixby as there were no stops between Bristol and there. Disappointment chased across his strong features and he said, “Well, I suppose we shall have to table the discussion for later.”

Gerald took his hand and said firmly, “And we shall. I want to hear about this navigation spell and whatever the challenge might be. Not to mention who issued it.”

Leo smiled and kissed him quickly on the mouth. “Then hear all about it you shall. Honestly, I likely won’t shut up once I get started.”

Gerald smirked and said, “I’m already well acquainted with that.”

A startled laugh burst from Leo and he wagged a finger at Gerald. Once he’d stopped laughing, he said, “You had your chance to get away, darling.”

“Never,” Gerald said, leaning in to steal another, slightly longer kiss.

The train stopped altogether and Gerald stood. Leo was only a moment behind him, picking up their satchel and repacking his notebook and pencil. They walked out of the train arm-in-arm into much chillier and damper air than had been in Bristol. A shushing sound pricked at the edge of Gerald’s hearing. He couldn’t place it and frowned as he looked around for the source.

“Over there,” Leo said, pointing to a mound that was their luggage.

Gerald didn’t bother to correct his assumption as they adjusted course towards the bags.

A porter waited there for them and said, “Evening, m’lords. I’ve taken the liberty to call for a private cab to take you to your hotel. Where are you staying?”

Leo said, “The Warrington.”

The porter nodded and said, “Very good, m’lord. An excellent choice. I’ll get your baggage settled for you. It’s just this way.”

They followed him out of the small station; it was easily half the size of Bristol’s and not quite so well put together, despite being newer. The sound that had caught his attention suddenly got much louder and Gerald asked, “What is that noise?”

A smile curved along Leo’s lips. “It’s the ocean. Would you like to stop at the pier first?”

Unexpectedly, Gerald’s stomach tightened in anticipation and eagerness. He found himself nodding rapidly without consciously thinking about it.

“Change of destination,” Leo called to the driver now assisting the porter in putting their bags into the back of the hansom cab. “We’d like to go to the pier first.”

The driver touched his cap and said, “Of course, m’lord. Get you there in just a tick.”

Gerald and Leo climbed inside and Gerald immediately looked out the window, though they weren’t yet moving. Night was just starting to fall, so there was plenty of light for him to take in the busy street and the shops leading away from the station. The cab moved forward a minute later and Gerald watched the city with interest, taking note of the well-cobbled streets and pavements. The storefronts and brick office buildings were all extremely clean; this was a modern city on its way. Likely, the competition with Bristol urged it ever onward.

They turned off the main street to a smaller one that led west and suddenly the street opened up as the pier grew before them. There was a large, wooden arch marquee that read BIXBY’S FAMOUS PIER at the beginning of what looked to be a truly massive structure. The cab stopped and the door opened a few seconds later.

Gerald hopped to the ground and walked forward to the chest-high rail along the beach. The ocean spread out like a moving blanket, incomprehensible in its vastness. Even in the growing darkness, the swells and whitecaps were easily visible. Gerald stared unabashedly, breathing in the salty air and unable to tear his eyes away.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?”

Gerald nodded at Leo’s soft question. His thoughts went to his best friend, now surely back at sea in Her Majesty’s Navy. “I think I understand Harry a bit better now.”

Leo tucked his arm along Gerald’s waist and leaned against him, which prompted Gerald to put his arm over Leo’s shoulder. Standing in the twilight with Leo while staring at the sea filled a sense of peace deep inside and Gerald let out a long, slow breath.

It did, eventually, grow too chilly for them to remain. Despite being May, the ocean air had a bite to it shortly after dark. Reluctantly, Gerald said, “We should get to the hotel and check in.”

Leo gave him a brief squeeze before he straightened and said, “That sounds like an excellent idea. We can come back tomorrow, if you like.”

Gerald frowned at him. “Why wouldn’t I want to come back?”

Leo grinned and said, “Well. We may be doing activities of a more... personal nature tomorrow.”

Gerald thought back to the night before and a different sort of anticipation altogether ran through him. He grinned back and said, “We might indeed.”

Leo laughed outright. “Oh, I am a bad influence on you. I don’t think you even blushed that time!”

Gerald chuckled and they walked back to the cab.

The driver jumped down on seeing them and moved to open the door.

Gerald climbed inside and Leo stepped in after him. It was a short ride from the pier to the hotel and Gerald opened the door himself before he hopped down, eschewing the metal steps and turning back to hold his hand out for Leo. The smaller man took it with a wink and stepped down.

The Warrington stood eight stories high and spread out over the block. It was built with all the trappings of what appeared to be a French palace. It was certainly made to impress with tall windows, a columned entryway, and balconies on the top few floors at every other window.

Turning to Leo, he said, “I should have expected this.”

Leo chuckled. “Well it is me, darling. Of course you should have.”

Bellboys in snappy red uniforms and brass buttons similar to the porter’s uniform walked swiftly to the back of the cab. Leo paid the cabbie and ushered Gerald inside. It was even more lavish within; thick carpeting, marble floors, and a gold balustrade along the curved staircase. Gerald followed Leo to the concierge counter at the back of the main lobby. To the right of the lobby was a dining room filled with well-dressed patrons.

Behind the counter stood a man in a smart, dark suit that didn’t quite hide his paunch, and a gray cravat. He had dark hair with streaks of silver, watery blue eyes, and a weak chin overwhelmed by impressive jowls and a neatly trimmed beard. “Good evening, gentlemen. My name is Wilson and I am the manager here. Lords Harris, I presume?”

Gerald bit his tongue, knowing that to the rest of the world, he was Leo’s husband and of course the Harris name took precedent. He also restrained the eye roll that desperately wanted to get out.

Leo cleared his throat, possibly sensing Gerald’s irritation, and said hastily, “Yes, that’s us.”

Wilson nodded and said, “Your suite is ready for you, m’lords, if you’d care to go up?”

“Yes,” Leo agreed, lacing his fingers with Gerald’s.

Wilson walked around the counter and held out two keys. “These are for your suite on the eighth floor. If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to your rooms.”

Leo took the keys and said, “Thank you, Wilson, I believe we’ll be fine.”

Wilson paused, but then nodded with a small bow. “Of course, m’lord. Should you need anything, please ring for me at any time. I reside on the premises.”

“Thank you,” Leo repeated, tucking Gerald’s hand around his arm. “Shall we?”

Gerald smiled. “We shall.”

Instead of the stairs, however, Leo led him to the left where a brass grate over a half-door and a man in a bellhop uniform waited. Gerald frowned and asked, “I thought we were going to our rooms?”

“This is the elevator,” Leo said with glee shining from eyes and wide grin. “We simply must try it.”

Gerald stopped short and said, “Leo. No. Those things are dangerous.”

Leo’s blue eyes widened in obvious and blatant manipulation as he asked, “Please, Gerald? It’ll be ever so much fun.”

Gerald knew he was going to give in; he’d yet to successfully resist what Adele had termed her son’s ‘doe eyes.’ He grimaced and said, “Fine. But if we die, I’m going to be very put out.”

The bellhop clearly heard the capitulation for he turned the brass handle that opened the doors and gestured for them to enter with a respectful, “After you, m’lords.”

Gerald hesitantly stepped into the tiny, cage-like elevator. The red carpeting was thinner than that of the lobby, but everything was plated in either brass or copper, giving the small enclosure a shiny appearance.

Leo walked in beside him and said, “Eighth floor, please.”

“Of course, m’lord,” the elevator operator said, closing the grate and door at the same time. They looked to be attached to one another.

Gerald held tightly to Leo’s hand as the operator started the elevator on its journey. Leo stepped right up to the glass occupying the top half of the door, his face nearly pressed into it as he stared downward while they ascended. Gerald kept his own gaze on the red carpeting, not wanting to see anything of the world falling away below them. Thankfully, it took only about a minute to reach their floor. The elevator stopped with a jolt that set Gerald’s heart racing.

The operator calmly unlatched the door and pulled it and the grate aside to let them out.

“I say! That was extraordinary!” Leo exclaimed, smiling broadly. “I bet you love your position.”

The operator grinned back, no more immune to Leo’s charm than anyone else. “I do, m’lord, rather a lot.”

Gerald walked quickly out of the elevator and pulled Leo out from it. “I think that’s quite enough for the moment.”

Leo chuckled and said, “Yes, of course. Have a good evening.”

“Thank you, m’lord,” the operator said, closing up the elevator.

Gerald gave Leo a stern look and said, “We’ll be taking the stairs to dinner.”

Leo’s smile remained firmly in place. “Absolutely. I won’t subject you to that more than once a day.”

“Good luck with that,” Gerald muttered, turning to look which way their rooms would be.

Leo snickered and pointed. “I believe we’re that way.”

Their brass keys dangled brass ovals with the room number 801 etched into them, and 801 was etched into a matching brass plate on the first door visible from the elevator. They walked the short distance to the door and Leo unlocked it without any problems. As soon as the door opened, Gerald bent and scooped Leo up in his arms.

Leo whooped with laughter, his arms wrapping around Gerald’s shoulders. “What the devil are you doing?”

“It’s tradition to carry the spouse across the threshold,” Gerald said smugly as he walked through the doorway. Lamps flared on as soon as they entered the room and he jumped a bit, then thought, Well. I suppose that’s convenient.

Leo shook with laughter hard enough that he couldn’t speak. Gerald kicked the door shut behind them and walked to the center of what seemed to be the main sitting area of their suite. He turned in a circle to take in the suite: two soft-looking, beige sofas with a short wooden tea table between them; a large fireplace opposite the sofas; and a gleaming table with two chairs near the windows. A single door occupied the remaining wall, which undoubtedly led to the bedroom.

Leo recovered his breath at last and asked, “You do realize that it’s a bride who gets carried across the threshold?”

Gerald kissed him briefly and then said, “Don’t want to take a chance on dark spirits following us into our new life.”

“I’ll have to carry you across the threshold to our new home, then,” Leo said, blue eyes warm with mirth.

Gerald laughed and said, “I’d like to see you try,” as he carefully set Leo back on his feet.

Leo slid one of his hands behind Gerald’s neck and tugged him in for a proper kiss, slow and easy. Gerald opened to it, kissing back with equal passion. A sudden need for Leo rushed through him, almost frightening in its intensity. This was no sleepy encounter safe in their darkened bed, but out in the open with lights ablaze and nothing to stop them. His inexperience tangled with the need and he reluctantly broke the kiss into smaller ones before pulling back altogether.

Licking damp, tingling lips, Gerald said, “I think, ah, dinner. Yes?”

Leo cupped his cheek and said, “Whatever you want, darling. And just because we’re married doesn’t mean I’m going to do anything you don’t want to do. If you wish to simply share a bed tonight, that is perfectly fine.”

The words reassured him, though of course he knew Leo would never do anything to hurt him. Embarrassment and annoyance chased away the lingering desire and he said, “I have had a lover before, you know, I’m not a complete prude. It’s just... well, we honestly didn’t do very much and it was always rushed and furtive. He was afraid of Granddad, which alone should have told me that he wasn’t the one for me. And the man before that, the one who bespelled me, thankfully never took full advantage.”

Leo nodded soberly and said, “We have our whole lives to be together. A few nights, or more, for you to become comfortable with physical passion won’t hurt me.”

Gerald half-smiled as he said sincerely, “I doubt it shall be that long. We’ll just play things by ear.”

“Well. I am rather good at improvising if I do say so myself,” Leo boasted, a merry twinkle in his eyes once more. “Now then. Let’s freshen up and go down to dinner.”

Their baggage waited in the bedroom, stacked neatly by the wardrobe and bureau along the wall. Another door stood midway in the side wall, likely to the W.C. Front and center, however, was the largest bed Gerald had seen in his life. It had posts at each corner, diaphanous curtains hanging down, and far, far too many pillows for Gerald’s sense of propriety. What he assumed was a servant’s cord hung from the wall near the left side of the bed. If it worked the same as at Harris Hall, then all he had to do was pull it and a maid or valet came to the suite.

Leo chuckled and said, “Well. At least we won’t want for space.”

Gerald just shook his head in disbelief. “I’ll unpack.”

Leo waved a hand at the wardrobe and said, “It should already be done. I’m going to use the facilities. Be right back.”

Frowning, Gerald walked over to the wardrobe and opened it to find that yes, their belongings had already been unpacked. He checked the bureau and it, too, was filled with clothing. He sighed and thought, I suppose I should get used to it, with Mrs. Call being our new housekeeper. It’ll be dashed odd, though.

Leo came out of the W.C and said, “I could get used to this suite,” with a decided leer.

Gerald laughed and said, “That would likely be a mistake. I’ll be out in a minute.”

Leo nodded and Gerald went into the W.C., which turned out to be an actual bathing room. It held a large, claw-foot porcelain tub the likes of which he’d only seen in the adverts of those new department stores. It looked like it could hold him and Leo without a bit of trouble. Given that his own much smaller tub made his back ache, Gerald rather looked forward to testing it out.

Gerald relieved himself with a groan. It was good to do so outside the tiny confines of the train’s W.C. He tucked himself back in and buttoned up, righting his clothes before rejoining Leo in the sitting area. Gerald took the arm Leo held out and they left the room, Leo pausing to lock the door. Leo thankfully didn’t test his resolve about the elevator and they walked down to the lobby. The stairwell was smallish, but carpeted and opened onto the mezzanine level, which of course connected to the large, curving staircase down to the lobby.

The restaurant in the lobby was very well appointed indeed with pristine white tablecloths, sparkling stemware, and gleaming silver flatware. The waiters were dressed in proper evening wear and ranged in age from young twenties to near forty. Dressed in a perfectly pressed black evening suit, the maître d’ smiled at their approach. With his narrow eyes and slicked-back dark hair, the man gave off an obsequious air as he said, “Good evening, my lords, my name is Stuart. May I help you?”

“Two for dinner, thank you,” Leo said.

Stuart nodded. “Of course, my lords. Right this way.”

He brought them over to a single table to the side, with room around it that it would be difficult for neighboring diners to overhear conversation. Stuart waved one of the waiters over, one of the older men. He was trim of form and short with sandy, slicked back hair and brown eyes. Stuart stepped back upon his arrival and said, “You’re in very capable hands, my lords. Enjoy your meals.”

Gerald nodded and opened his mouth to say goodbye but the man had already left. He snorted quietly in amusement and looked at their waiter.

“Good evening, my lords. My name is Peter and I shall be serving you during your stay.”

Gerald smiled. “Good evening, Peter. I’m Gerald.”

Leo smiled a bit at Peter’s pursed lips and added, “And I’m Leo.”

Not stymied for long, Peter said, “May I start you with a drink?”

“A nice red, I think,” Leo said. “I’ll leave it to your discretion.”

Gerald suspected it was a test for the man, but didn’t ruin Leo’s fun.

“Very good, m’lord. Tonight we have a wonderful filet mignon with asparagus and a garlic potato mash. We also have a delightful salmon en croute with watercress and spring potatoes. Lastly, there is a delicious porterhouse steak with baked potato.”

It all sounded good to Gerald but he didn’t want to be weighed down with a too-full stomach, so he said, “I’ll take the salmon, thanks.”

Leo thought a moment longer and said, “The filet for me, thank you, Peter.”

“Excellent, my lords. I’ll be back shortly with your wine.” Peter bowed slightly before he withdrew.

Leo reached across the table and captured one of Gerald’s hands. “No water?”

Gerald grinned and said, “No, I think not tonight. No need to be sober, after all.”

“Not for the whole honeymoon, if that should please you,” Leo replied with a wink. “I’m all for never leaving the suite.”

Gerald snorted. “That rather defeats the purpose of traveling, doesn’t it? We could stay indoors back in London.”

Leo’s blue eyes twinkled with mischief as he said, “Ah, but we wouldn’t be paying our neighbors to ignore all the noise I plan on you making, would we?”

Heat flushed through Gerald almost instantly and he looked around, but none of the other tables were near enough to hear Leo’s quiet, casual words. “I thought you weren’t going to tease me in public.”

Leo kissed Gerald’s palm and said, “We are at the hotel, darling. All bets are off.”

Amused despite his mild embarrassment, Gerald just shook his head and gave Leo’s hand a squeeze.

Fortunately, Peter returned before Leo could continue his teasing. He poured a small amount of deep red wine into Leo’s glass and waited. Leo released Gerald’s hand to pick up the glass and go through the wine tasting ritual that preceded all their meals. Well, all the ones eaten at restaurants. Leo nodded at Peter who immediately and smoothly poured their glasses half full.

Peter said, “Your meals should be out directly,” and then bowed again before leaving.

Gerald tentatively sipped at his wine and was glad it wasn’t too strong. It warmed him on the way down, but tasted pleasantly. Leo quirked an eyebrow at him and Gerald said, “I like it. Fruity, almost.”

Leo smiled. “Excellent! I’ll make a connoisseur of you yet.”

Gerald chuckled and shook his head. “Doubtful, but I will do my best to learn.”

“Leo Harris? What a surprise!”

Gerald looked at the man who’d spoken and found a young couple walking up to them. The man was around their age and stood in height closer to Gerald than Leo. He had fair hair and pleasant features that included pale blue eyes and a solid chin. His wife was a pretty slip of a thing with golden hair and eyes that matched her husband’s. Their manner of dress wasn’t quite as rich as Leo’s, but certainly a higher quality than Gerald generally wore. They were German, if the man’s accent was anything to go by, maybe Austrian.

Leo broke into a smile and stood. “Alex! How wonderful to see you!”

The two men exchanged brief hugs and Alex said, “I haven’t seen you in, what, three years?”

Leo nodded and rested a hand on Gerald’s shoulder, subtly encouraging him to stand, which he did. “At that conference, right! This is my new husband Gerald Smithson. We’ve just arrived on our honeymoon. Gerald, this is an old friend, Alex Neuschwander.”

Alex laughed and gestured to his wife. “How funny, we’re here on our anniversary! This is my beautiful wife, Sara.”

“Well my goodness. What are you up to these days?” Leo asked, alight with curiosity.

Chuckling a bit more, Alex said, “I’m a junior diplomat, believe it or not.”

Leo smiled widely. “I say, that’s capital!”

Alex smiled broadly. “And you?”

Leo slid an arm around Gerald’s waist and said dismissively, “I do the occasional magework for private clients. Gerald’s the real talent. He’s a master leathersmith. Best in London.”

Sara exclaimed, “Gerald Smithson! Of you, I’ve heard! My friend has the most delightful little purse. So wonderfully made.”

Gerald beamed in satisfaction and said, “Thank you, that’s very kind.”

Leo looked to Gerald before asking Alex, “Have you eaten? Would you care to join us?”

Alex shook his head and said, “Thank you, no, we have eaten. Perhaps we can meet up for a meal another night?”

“That sounds great,” Leo said, holding out his hand. “I’m sure we’ll bump into one another often.”

Everyone exchanged handshakes and goodbyes and then the Neuschwanders were on their way.

Sitting, Gerald said, “He seems a nice fellow.”

Leo nodded. “He is. We met at a business conference. A last ditch effort from Mark to get me interested in the family business.”

Gerald grinned and said, “It worked, I see.”

Leo snorted. “Quite. Alex had similar issues, though his was with his father. Not a good man at all, from what I understand. Dirty dealings and such. It looks like Alex was able to resist that path.”

The meal arrived just then in all its aromatic glory. The pastry that surrounded the salmon was light and buttered. The salmon itself was seasoned perfectly and melted on his tongue as swiftly as the pastry. Leo clearly enjoyed his nearly-bloody filet if the way he set-to was any indication. Gerald was hungrier than he’d expected, though perhaps the wine aided that. He finished his meal in very short order and then lingered over a second glass while Leo cleared his plate.

All in all, Gerald was quite content and relaxed as he and Leo walked back to the stairs. Granted, the walk up cleared his head a bit of the wine’s influence, but the simmering happiness remained.

Words didn’t seem necessary once the suite door closed behind them. They walked to the bedroom in a comfortable silence, Leo’s hand warm and strong in his. His earlier nerves seemed a little silly in retrospect, but he didn’t dwell. Whatever he needed to know, Leo would teach.

They stopped beside the bed where Leo asked, “May I undress you, Gerald?”

Gerald smiled warmly. “Of course.”

Leo’s hands were light and efficient as they divested Gerald of first his vest, then his braces, and then his shirt, button by button. He leaned in to kiss Gerald’s bare chest and the feather-light kisses across his skin made Gerald shiver.

“Leo?”

“Yes?”

“Could you undo your hair?”

Leo smirked as he immediately reached back to pull off the hair-tie. “Of course, darling.”

The wicked grin was both alarming and enticing. What on earth could he think I want to do with his hair?

The intriguing thought was interrupted by the sight of Leo’s thick golden hair falling over his shoulders. There was something decadent and wild about the length of it, as if Leo were a warrior from a time long past. Gerald licked at dry lips and reached out to comb his fingers through it, gently untangling the few knots that dared exist.

It seemed natural to lean down and capture Leo’s mouth in a kiss. The gentle kiss spiraled quickly out of control. Leo licked along the seam of Gerald’s lips and he opened to it, deepening the contact with hunger for more. It felt far too long since he’d been skin to skin with his husband though it had been less than a day. Gerald fumbled at Leo’s shirt buttons only to encounter his vest and broke the kiss with a grumble of annoyance so he could see what he was doing.

Leo laughed softly and said, “Relax, darling. I’ve got this.”

Putting words to action, he muttered a few words and their clothing disappeared. Knowing Leo as he did, they were neatly folded or hung where they should be. It was a little much, but he was impatient enough not to care about the unnecessary use of power.

He looked his fill of Leo, which he hadn’t been able to do in the dark the night before. The marriage band stood out in sharp relief against Leo’s throat and he was all compact muscle under golden skin and hair. He unexpectedly had more hair on his chest and midriff than did Gerald, despite its light hue. He also had more lines and definition to his body, hips and abdomen standing out in sharp relief to the areas around them. Casting his gaze ever lower, Gerald watched as Leo’s cock – already a respectable size half-mast – hardened further as he stared.

“My God. You are... delectable,” Leo murmured.

Gerald huffed with amusement. “I was just thinking similar of you.”

Leo looked up and met his gaze, grinning. “Well. Great minds and all that. On the bed with you. I want dessert.”

Chuckling, Gerald climbed upon the monstrosity that was their temporary bed. He tossed pillow after pillow at Leo, who threw them heedlessly upon the floor. Finally able to find the blankets, he drew them back, climbing over as he shoved them down and then sat down to see Leo staring at him unabashedly, a pillow in each hand.

Leo licked his lips and said hoarsely, “Yes, well,” then cleared his throat. He held the pillows back to Gerald and continued, “Lean this against the headboard and get comfortable.”

Following Leo’s lead, Gerald did so. When he faced forward again, Leo knelt upon the bed and pushed Gerald’s legs apart, taking up residence there. Anticipation coiled Gerald’s stomach tight and his breathing shortened as he waited for Leo’s next move.

Leo unexpectedly stretched out on his stomach which put his face right at Gerald’s groin. His cock throbbed as it hardened with Leo’s breath upon it. His hands clenched the sheet just to have something to hold onto. For several too-long seconds Leo just stared and breathed. Just when Gerald was about to demand he do something, Leo leaned forward and took Gerald’s shaft in his mouth. The wet heat jolted Gerald’s heart into a fast beat and he hissed in surprise.

One of the things Gerald had experience with in his brief tryst was getting sucked off, and yet that bore only passing resemblance to what Leo now did. Leo’s mouth worshiped him as his head went up and down, sucking and licking at him with one hand wrapped around the base and stroking him in the opposite direction of his mouth. His hips tried to move, to push himself deeper into the incredible suction, but Leo draped his free arm over Gerald’s hips to hold him still. Gerald’s body slowly seized up and his mind shut down as Leo worked him over. Just when he thought he would come or die, Leo pulled off with a wet pop.

Gerald moaned and his head dropped back, thunking against the wall. “Leo, God. Please don’t stop?”

Somewhat breathless, Leo said, “Oh we’re just getting started, trust me. Look at me now.”

Gerald marshaled his strength and lifted his head.

Leo had turned sideways, resting his arse on his heels as he smirked at Gerald. “The benefits to power is that once you’re used to this, I can simply make us ready with a few words. Still, it’s good that you know how to do it... manually.”

Gerald frowned in confusion. “Know how to do what manually?”

Leo lifted a small clay pot from the bed and dipped a finger in it, drawing it out to show it glistening with something slick. “This.”

Gerald’s mouth dropped when Leo reached behind himself and slowly pushed a finger inside his arse. His heart, which had slowed a bit, sped up once more as he watched Leo finger himself open. He gaped as Leo worked up from one to three fingers in relatively short order, hips moving back with greater force and liberal groans of pleasure as he did so. It was a sight that Gerald had visited in his fantasies. He’d had no idea that he would even entertain the notion of receiving Gerald into his body.

The unexpected show stopped and Leo bit his lip, shuddering. He knee-walked forward with the clay pot and poured some over Gerald’s shaft before wrapping his hand around it and slathering it around. Gerald gasped Leo’s name and struggled to keep control. I will not embarrass myself like an untried youth. I will not embarrass myself like an untried youth! I will not embarrass myself like an untried youth!

If he came before Leo was satisfied, Gerald would be mortified.

Fortunately Leo didn’t waste much time. He straddled Gerald’s hips and reached behind himself to take Gerald’s cock in hand again. They both groaned as his body took in Gerald one excruciating inch at a time. It was all Gerald could do not to thrust like an animal once Leo sat on him fully. His cock had never been inside someone before and the tight heat was almost more than he could bear.

Leo kissed him then, practically savaging him with teeth as he demanded his due. Gerald wrapped his arms around Leo’s waist and held him tight, devouring his husband in turn while his hips thrust up without finesse, heels digging into the mattress for purchase. Leo pushed down to meet him, but it was a few minutes before they worked out a cooperative rhythm. Gerald did something right, because Leo tore from the kiss with a wordless shout. It was nearly impossible to keep things up like that, so he instinctively held tight to Leo and flipped them over. His grip wasn’t tight enough, unfortunately, because his cock slipped free of Leo’s body.

He snarled with frustration and reached between them to grab himself and push back in. Leo’s legs wound about Gerald’s hips as he sank into Leo’s body again. Lifting on his hand, Gerald tried to calm himself, not wanting things to end too quickly. He thrust in and out as smoothly as he could, trying to find that angle which had...

“There! Oh God, darling, more.”

Gerald grinned wolfishly and set to with great pleasure. He stared down at Leo, loving the sweaty, passionate tightness of his husband’s face. Leo’s eyes were clenched shut and his mouth open, inviting a kiss which Gerald pursued as well as he could. It was hit and miss, given the rapid movement of the rest of them. He leaned in and kissed along Leo’s chest, sucking marks into the golden skin with a hunger that was new to him. He bit and sucked at random, wanting as much of Leo as he could get, wanting all of him.

“Gerald, oh God, Gerald....” Leo moaned and jerked, cock spilling copiously between them.

Triumphant that he’d made Leo come–and that his husband was apparently insensate and utterly boneless–Gerald let himself go. He chased after his own release ruthlessly, driving into Leo’s pliant body with an urgency he’d never before felt. It couldn’t have been longer than another minute but felt like an eternity before his body seized and he ground his cock into Leo’s hole, coming harder than he ever had.

Moaning in pure bliss, Gerald retained just enough sense not to collapse on Leo and crush the smaller man. Though his arms shook with the exertion, Gerald carefully withdrew from Leo’s body and dropped beside instead of on him.

“Mmm... darling. I think I’ve died and gone to Heaven,” Leo murmured.

Gerald barely had the breath to chuckle. He reached down to grab the sheet and used the corner of it to clean off Leo’s belly. He pulled the clean part of the sheet, and the blankets, around them and turned so that he could curl around Leo. He took a deep breath and slowly released it. Gerald kissed the sweaty chest, nuzzling into the coarse hair, and said, “Me as well.”

Leo draped an arm over Gerald’s shoulder and said softly, mostly asleep, “Love you.”

Gerald smiled broadly and kissed his chest again. “I love you too, Leo.”



Chapter Two


Leo woke pleasantly sore and utterly comfortable, as though he’d slept exceptionally well after a day of physical labor. He grinned and thought, Well, conceivably it was a night of physical labor.

Gerald slept pressed up behind him, long arm wrapped possessively around his waist, legs tangled with Leo’s, and drooling onto Leo’s shoulder. It was safe to say that Gerald no longer had any reservations about being intimate, which widened his grin past cocky and well into smugly proud. They’d gone two more rounds during the night that had been equally as wonderful.

He gently picked up Gerald’s arm and deposited it onto the mattress, sliding carefully out of bed. Standing, he looked back at Gerald and saw him slumbering on, though the big man did mumble and reach for Leo, frowning in his sleep when all he met was the pillow. Leo gazed soppily at him a moment longer before walking slowly to the bathroom. Gerald had definitely become a bit too enthusiastic at the end there.

Not that I’m complaining, Leo thought with another self-satisfied grin. A bit more practice and he’s going to make me lose my mind entirely.

Leo closed the bathroom door and ran the bath. He would definitely need to soak for a bit before they started the day. He relieved himself and then looked in the mirror, taking in the love bites that littered his torso as he waited for the tub to fill. Who knew that his sweet Gerald could be so unrestrained? Or possessive?

Then, too. Still waters do run deep, he thought, turning to the tub. He had more than half a mind to wake Gerald with his mouth and keep him abed all day, but also wanted to spoil Gerald by taking him out and giving him everything. I’ll let him decide. I’m sure he’ll know what he wants to do more. And we’ve got the rest of our lives for loving, but only two weeks in Bixby.

The tub finally filled and he turned off the taps, stepping inside with a hiss at the nearly too-hot water. As much as he loved modern inventions like the elevator, there still wasn’t nearly enough control over water temperatures. It took a few minutes, but at last Leo submerged into the water. Goosebumps ran over his body, especially his scalp, but he remained underwater for long enough that his lungs began to strain.

Sliding up against the back of the tub, Leo gasped in a big breath and then chuckled, wiping his eyes clear. When he opened them, he found Gerald leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed over his chest. Leo quirked an eyebrow and asked, “Care to join me?”

Gerald smiled and said, “Tempting,” as he walked over to the tub. He sat on the edge of it and tugged gently on a lock of Leo’s hair. “Are you hurt? Was I too rough?”

Leo shook his head. “Not even a little. I loved it. Just need a bit of a soak to get the muscles back where they should be. And you. You were wonderful, darling.”

Gerald smiled and blushed a bit as he said, “I’m still a bit surprised at how, well… I thought you would be the one to, ah, take me.”

Leo gave him a wicked grin and said, “The honeymoon has just begun. We haven’t done even a thimbleful of the ideas that I’ve had. And every day we’re together just nets me more ideas. So not to fret; I’ll be having my wicked way with you in very short order, I’m sure.”

He didn’t mention that he’d thought it best Gerald know how very much Leo enjoyed taking a man within him so that Gerald wouldn’t be tense or nervous when he tried it. There was nothing like hands-on experience, after all. If Leo had simply told him him, he doubted Gerald would have fully believed him.

“Shall I order room service?”

Leo dragged his thoughts back to the day at hand and said, “If you like. Or we can go out and about, explore the town. It’s up to you.”

Gerald pursed his lips for a moment and then huffed, golden eyes amused. “I would like to do both simultaneously. I don’t suppose you have a spell for that?”

Leo chuckled and shook his head. “Sorry.”

“Well. In that case, let’s go out. We ah, we can get to know one another more tonight. Oh, would you leave your hair down for me?” Gerald requested, amber eyes bright and hopeful.

Leo captured Gerald’s hand and kissed the palm. “I would do far more than just leave down my hair for you, darling. Now go. You’re distracting me.”

Gerald bent in for a slow, easy kiss before standing and walking to the toilet and relieving himself. Leo stared appreciatively at his muscled backside the whole time, grinning widely when Gerald looked back at Leo and caught him. Gerald rolled his eyes and said, “You’re incorrigible.”

“So they tell me,” Leo agreed cheerfully.

Gerald chuckled and left shaking his head.

Leo snickered to himself and set about properly washing. He took some time with his hair which, while shorter than before, still fell below his shoulders. It had been a few days since he’d last washed it well and he’d worked up quite a sweat. Leo dunked and soaped his hair twice so that it was squeaky clean in the end.

He stepped out and unplugged the tub before drying off. He wrapped a wonderfully soft towel around his waist and another around his head to dry his hair. He turned the taps on and plugged the drain again and wandered into the main bedroom. Leo grinned a bit when he saw that Gerald had opened a balcony door and a warm breeze ran through the room. The man himself sat in his dressing gown on the sofa, reading.

Leo couldn’t help teasing. “Airing the place out for the maid?”

Gerald looked up from the book in his lap and said firmly, “Bad enough that she’ll be cleanin’ our bedding, whoever she is. She doesn’t need to be smelling us as well.”

Leo laughed and said, “You’re so considerate. It is what they’re paid to do.”

Gerald stood and dropped the book on the table. “No one gets paid enough for that. We should tip our maid extra well.”

Nonplussed, Leo said, “We don’t actually tip maids, Gerald.”

Gerald frowned. “Why not?”

Leo opened his mouth and then shook his head in amusement. “I don’t really know. We can tip her if you wish to do so.”

Gerald nodded as he walked closer. “I do. Thank you for indulging me.”

Leo smiled and said, “It’s hardly a problem. I should have thought of it myself. Oh! The tub’s running, so you’d best get in there.”

Gerald hurried by him into the W.C. and Leo heard the taps turn off a moment later. He found clothes already set out for him, including his favorite purple hat and his wedding gloves. It was a little funny how much a part of his skin the neckband already felt. They’d only been married for three days and yet he no longer thought about it, clothed or not. Leo smiled fondly at Gerald’s thoughtfulness and then noticed a note written on hotel stationery.


Leo,

While I appreciate your desire to outfit me in what you deem ‘proper’ clothes, you best not have discarded my clothing. I will be most annoyed if you have.

Gerald


Leo laughed softly and folded the note to put away as a keepsake.

He was deep into spell notations when Gerald reappeared, wrapped in a towel with his chest delightfully damp, water glistening among his dark chest hair. As if reading Leo’s lascivious thoughts, Gerald wagged his finger in warning and said, “We’re exploring today, Leo. Leaving the room and everything.”

Leo pouted and then grinned. “Very well. If you insist.”

Gerald grinned back and said, “I really do. Although if you’re good today, we can try out some of those ideas of yours when we get back.”

Leo wriggled his eyebrows lecherously, prompting a laugh from Gerald, who moved to the clothes he’d laid out for himself before his bath. Leo returned to his spellcraft, frowning at the section that wasn’t working. Not that he’d had a lot of time of late to actually try it out, but even the wording seemed off. And if it seemed wrong before he spoke a word, then it was wrong.

“I’m ready.”

Leo closed his notebook and stood. He joined Gerald at the wardrobe, slipping his arms into his jacket when Gerald held it out for him. He took his hat next and settled it at a jaunty angle, to Gerald’s obvious amusement. The bigger man took his own jacket from the wardrobe while Leo walked to the dresser and picked up his billfold, tucking it carefully into his inside pocket. Just because it was spelled not to get stolen didn’t mean he wasn’t careful with it. The sad fact of growing cities and towns was the increase in petty crime.

That thought in mind, Leo said, “You should keep your billfold in your inside pocket. There are probably a lot of pickpockets around.”

Gerald laced their fingers together and said with a faint smile, “Leo. How long have I lived in London?”

“Sorry. I don’t mean to, well…”

“Patronize?”

Leo winced and said, “Exactly.”

Gerald smiled and said, “It’s fine. Most of the time you don’t. And I know you only do it because you worry.”

“It’s not fine; you’re a grown man who can take care of himself. I will try to do better,” Leo promised. He squeezed Gerald’s hand lightly and said, “I’m starving. You?”

Humor lit Gerald’s eyes towards gold and he said, “I suspect I could eat the pig and eggs raw at this point.”

Leo laughed and pulled him towards the door. They walked to the hall and Leo locked the door behind them. Retaking Gerald’s hand, he aimed for the elevator, continuing even when Gerald angled towards the stairs.

Gerald shook his head. “I’m not getting on that contraption, Leo.”

“You agreed to once a day!” Leo protested.

“No, you agreed to once a day. I will see you in the lobby.” With that, Gerald kissed his cheek and firmly disentangled his hand.

Leo couldn’t help the exasperation from rising up, but he didn’t give it voice. Gerald was allowed to mistrust inventions that could drop him eight stories to his death, however unlikely it was. He pursed his lips thoughtfully as he pressed the call button. Maybe if I tell him I’ll have a transportation spell ready in case of emergency? He trusts my magic now.

It was a good strategy and he would relay it to Gerald just as soon as he reached the lobby. The elevator door arrived and a different operator from the night they’d arrived opened the door. This one was very young, perhaps sixteen years, with a shock of red hair barely contained by his cap.

“Good morning, m’lord,” the youth greeted, smiling. “Lobby?”

Leo nodded and stepped inside. “Yes. I say, you’re awfully young to be working the elevator, aren’t you?”

The operator pulled the door and grate shut as he said, “My uncle owns the hotel, m’lord. I’m learning the hotel from the ground up because that’s how it should be done proper.”

It sounded like something he’d been told often and Leo bit back a grin. “Sorry to hear that.”

“Gotta learn sometime, right? Er, m’lord.” The youth flushed as he hastily tacked the title on.

Leo chuckled and held out his hand. “Call me, Leo.”

Blue eyes widened in obvious surprise, but he took Leo’s hand and said, “Ollie. Oliver.”

The elevator stopped and Ollie let go of his hand to open the doors.

“Nice to meet you, Ollie. I’m sure I’ll see you around,” Leo said, stepping into the lobby.

Gerald walked down the stairs a few minutes later and seemed to relax when he saw Leo. Smiling, Leo joined him and said, “You do realize that my magic will save me and whoever is in the elevator should it suddenly plummet to the ground, right?”

Gerald blinked a couple of times before rubbing the back of his neck, an abashed look crossing his face. “I actually didn’t think of that.”

Leo chuckled and said, “The bonus to being married to someone with power.”

Gerald’s stomach rumbled loudly and he said, “The problem with being married to someone of my size.”

“Well, then I shall just have to feed you,” Leo said, wrapping his arm around Gerald’s waist. It wasn’t strictly proper behavior, even for a married couple, but he really couldn’t care less. It was their honeymoon and he fully intended to shower Gerald with affection.

Leo angled them to the concierge counter where Wilson waited. The only thing that looked to have changed was the color of his vest, which was now deep blue.

“Good morning, m’lords. How may I be of service?”

Leo asked, “What are good restaurants for breakfast and lunch?”

Wilson appeared to think about it for a few moments, though Leo know damned well that as the hotel manager he more than likely had agreements with the best restaurants in town.

“For breakfast, you’ll want to visit Cardamom’s. They are an easy walk half a block east. For lunch, I would recommend either The Lily Blossom for fine English fare or Bouchard’s if you’re more of the French inclination. Here are their cards.”

Leo pocketed the cards. “Thank you, Wilson.”

Wilson bowed slightly. “Of course, m’lord. Have a wonderful day.”

Leo nodded in reply and looked at Gerald, who smiled, his eyes that light, golden color that fascinated Leo. They left the hotel and stepped into bright, warm sunshine and a clear blue sky. It was a beautiful day and he breathed in the sea air, enjoying the change from the close air of London.

They walked east in a companionable silence. Gerald looked every which way as they strolled to the restaurant, taking in all the sights. Not that they passed very many shops, since the restaurant was indeed very close. Cardamom’s was small with dainty plates and the heavenly smell of baked goods lingering in the air.

A young woman with dark hair and a bright smile greeted them at the door. “Good morning, gentlemen. Would you care for a table by the window?”

Leo leaned towards Gerald and mock-whispered, “We must look like tourists.”

She laughed and said, “You do, m’lord. We know all the gentry hereabouts. Please, right this way.”

They were brought to a smallish table by the window where Gerald asked, “I don’t suppose you have a full English?”

“We do, for gentlemen such as yourself,” she replied. “I’ll bring out two with tea?”

Leo nodded and she left them. He reached out to put his hand atop Gerald’s and said, “Do you want to visit the beach next?”

“That sounds perfect. We can walk the pier,” Gerald said. He turned his hand up and clasped Leo’s. “Thank you for convincing me to come away with you.”

Leo said warmly, “It is my pleasure, darling. And it certainly wouldn’t be a honeymoon without you.”

Gerald laughed at the wry words and said, “You really are incorrigible.”

A different young woman returned with their tea. She gave a short bob and rushed away as soon as she was delivered it, not stopping to pour. Leo suspected she didn’t have much interaction with nobility and didn’t want to risk spilling anything on them.

“So tell me about your spell. And the challenge?”

Leo was a bit surprised that Gerald would voluntarily return to the subject. He had promised before the wedding to be more accepting and interested in Leo’s power – and all that went with it – but knowing his husband’s past trouble with mages, Leo had assumed it would take longer. He’d been happy with the knowledge that Gerald wanted to try.

Maybe sensing Leo’s hesitation, Gerald prompted, “I’m sure it’s an interesting story. I don’t expect many people challenge you when it comes to power.”

Rueful, Leo said, “They really don’t. As my former teacher and mentor, that particular task is left to Gregory most often. Louis, however, challenges everyone. He’s American.”

Gerald grinned at the scathing tone. “I see. I’ve never met an American. I hear they can be rather brash.”

“Brash is hardly the word when talking about Louis,” Leo said with an eye roll.

The girl who’d brought the tea returned with a tray of food, temporarily derailing the conversation. She didn’t say a word then, either, but set the plates of food and sides in front of them efficiently before darting off again.

Gerald looked after her and said, “I think she’s frightened of you.”

Leo’s mouth twitched and he corrected, “Of us, Gerald.”

Gerald paused with a piece of sausage halfway to his mouth and then sighed. “That’s going to take getting used to… So, tell me about the American.”

Leo cut up his eggs and said, “Louis Stanton and I met in Australia of all places, but for the same reason: to learn from other traditions of power. He’s a damn fine mage, but a royal pain in my arse. The man never shuts up. Never. I’ll grant you that he knows what he’s doing, but my God. If there was a way to lord it over someone, he does. And he wore the most ridiculous scarves! Every day a different, nearly blinding color… why are you laughing?”

Gerald had started smiling shortly into Leo’s description of Louis and then laughed quietly towards the end. He cleared his throat, eyes twinkling merrily, and said, “Leo. Love. You’re practically describing yourself. Of course you wouldn’t get along.”

Leo paused as he thought about it and then groaned. “I am, aren’t I? Well. I’m definitely the more handsome of us.”

Gerald smiled broadly and said, “I have no doubt. So. You met where, Sydney?”

Leo ate a bit before answering. “Yes. We stayed at the same hotel, such as it was. I didn’t have access to family money, you see. Uncle Mark was furious that I’d gone walkabout, as they say there. Said I was an embarrassment and would get no money for my mad expedition. Fortunately, Mother and Father were of a different mind and kept me afloat by wiring me funds whenever I requested it. Though I did try not to make a nuisance of myself. I’m sad to say, I allowed Louis to provoke me and we got into a fist fight and were both thrown out of the hotel. The good news is that we ended up really talking while seeking medical attention directly thereafter and called a truce.”

Gerald’s eyes widened in alarm and he asked, “Just how bad was this fight?”

Leo half-smiled and said, “It was more being thrown through a second-story window to the ground than the fight that injured us.”

“Oh my God. You’re lucky you weren’t killed!”

“Well, no. I actually landed on Louis. He was the one who needed medical attention.”

Gerald’s mouth didn’t appear to work for several seconds and then he guffawed, throwing his head back. Other patrons stopped to look at them, but he didn’t seem to notice. When he finally regained control of himself, Gerald said, “Only you, Leo. Honestly.”

From anyone else, it would have been insulting, but Gerald spoke with too much fondness to rile him any. “In any case, we didn’t become fast friends but did realize that we were essentially traveling the same path and better allies than adversaries. We traveled together for about six months, but parted ways when I stayed and he left. Every now and again, however, he likes to throw a challenge at me just to prove I’m not as good as I think I am. And, of course, I do the same to Louis. Because he isn’t.”

Gerald snorted. “Of course he isn’t.”

Leo made a face at him. “He isn’t. The current challenge is correcting his supposedly perfect and yet unusable navigation spell. It’s supposed to lock a ship onto the correct star course so that it can’t get lost at sea.”

“They can’t do that already?” Gerald asked curiously. He picked up the teapot and gestured towards Leo’s cup.

Leo held his cup out. “Thanks. And not in this particular fashion. Most officers know the star charts by heart so getting lost isn’t terribly likely. Plus they have all their sextants, compasses, and what-have-yous to guide them without needing to rely on power. Generally speaking, the mages aboard Her Majesty’s Navy aren’t like Harry; most are simply very good at a limited number of things. Like keeping the ship afloat should she be struck by canon fire, or healing, or emergency transport of a crew off a sinking ship. Harry, loath as I am to admit it, is actually closer to my level of power. And if you tell him that, I’ll deny I said it.”


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