Sunshine and Roses
by Anna Parrish
It was a cold, slow drizzle, the kind that made November so uncomfortable. It had rained for days, day and night, steadily. Bodie's men were chilled and soaked...and irritated. Even their tents were so damp, they slept shivering. Waster droplets glimmered and gleamed in Bodie's dark hair, to the leather and wool jerkin he wore. It glistened on the exposed areas of his white stallion.
Bodie heard murmuring and sighed. He knew it was not only the downpour, but the fact that they had not been allowed to raid and pillage the villages, storm the castle. He had to give Sir Richard a chance to give in.
King Henry the VIII had made Bodie a duke and had then taken the castle from Richard the Hunter and given William Bodie, the ex-mercenary, the castle and the lands in return for saving his life. It had been a fluke, his being there at the right time and place, but he had no intention of arguing with the king. Bodie had never had a home of his own. To have lands and a castle.... It was still unreal to him.
If he could take the huge structure without damage, so much the better. His men, however were getting a little vexed at having to wait, but why should Bodie spend the money to get the towns and this huge, grey edifice rebuilt if it were not necessary? That was not the only reasoning behind keeping the villages safe.
Bodie, the third son of a rich merchant, had himself been a soldier of fortune before coming back to his own country, but he, unlike so many others of his kind, did not believe in killing innocent people.
A head appeared at the battlements. Bodie sensed his men readying their weapons.
"I'll speak only to Sir Richard," Bodie yelled up at the wet, exhausted face. He was sure his own felt that way as well. "You have five minutes, or I swear by all that's holy, I'll order my men to attack!"
"Sir Richard is dead," came the tired yell. "He died not more than an hour ago."
"I will see his body. Open the gates." A small rock tumbled from the battlements, scaring Bodie's horse. He pulled on the reins, holding his frenzied animal. When the distant head remained where it was, the ex-mercenary demanded, "In the name of the King, open the gates! This land is ours now."
"William," came a soft voice at his side.
Without looking around, the muscular, dark haired man replied, "Yes, Robert?"
"Sir Richard had a son, adopted, but still his legal heir."
"Adopted? I thought he had a wife. Did they not have children?"
"Sir Richard did not sleep with her. He had...other lovers."
"Was there no bastard then to take over the command?"
"They were not female lovers, your lordship."
Interesting, Bodie thought. "I had heard rumors."
"They were true. He extended an offer to me once."
"Did you accept?" Bodie asked with a delighted half-smile.
"Nay! You know me better than that, Sir William. I like the plumpness of a bosom and now that of a backside."
"Yes." But you do not know me at all. The thought changed. Does anyone? Will anyone? He shook his head to clear it of unwanted thoughts. This was neither the time nor the place to think of such things.
"If his heir is within the castle...." He did not finish. He did not have to.
"Yes, Robert." It was said in disgust. "You speak truth."
"He was named Raymond at birth. I have heard he demanded to keep his father's surname."
"What? Of all the ungrateful...."
"He was past seven when Sir Richard claimed him, a child of John the Doyle, a blacksmith. He watched his parents die trying to save him when his village was raided and burned to the ground."
"His insistence at keeping his sire's surname is understandable then."
"Oh, yes, though I doubt it pleased Sir Richard overly much."
Bodie nodded. He lifted his face, cried out in a loud voice, "I'll speak to his son, then! Open the bloody gates! Lower the drawbridge! I'm tired of waiting!"
There was hesitation, then, "He's...he's not within the walls. Sir Richard sent him elsewhere a fortnight ago."
"He lies, Sir William. We watched this castle carefully. No one but Richard's current lover, and the servants entered or left. We searched lover's carriage thoroughly."
"Then he hides within." In a louder tone, he shouted up to the man above. "Open the gates or we will attack. King Henry the VIII has given me this land. You will all swear fealty to me or die."
In a choked voice, the man on the battlements announced, "We will open the gates. The land is yours."
"Its too easy," Robert de Grippe said beneath his breath.
"Mayhap, but recall, Sir Richard had no army to speak of. All his men were older, past their prime. Who do they have to fight? Servants? The villagers? What good could they do without training? Nay, there is no one within. Besides, they do not want their villages raided, burned. We have sworn not to do this if they give in. We have kept our bargain and now they must keep theirs...or forfeit their right to our honor."
The massive gates slowly opened. The drawbridge over the slimy, low-watered moat lowered.
"At least let someone else enter first, Sir William. If it is an attempt at entrapment...."
"Then one of my men dies. I am not that kind of leader, Robert. You should know this by now."
"Yes, I know, but I had hoped, just this once, you would be a logical one as well."
"My men trust me. How long would that trust last if I play them false?"
"That is the truth." Sighing, he followed Bodie onto the castle grounds. As they crossed over the drawbridge, the rain ceased. The wind died down.
Children cried against their mothers' bosoms. Women clung to their husbands. All in all, Bodie estimated that there were fewer than seventy people in that group. Such a poor place.... Was the King's gift such a fine thing after all? Bodie had his doubts. Still, he had land now. What he could make of it was on his own head.
A few bullheaded farmers, a few stubborn servants, brandished rakes and sticks, but one by one, as the cold blueness of Bodie's eyes swept over them, they dropped their makeshift weapons.
"I wish to speak to Sir Richard's son." He swept over each person again, waiting, but no answer came forth. "Come now. I do not intend on killing him. I would gain little in doing that. I want only to speak to him, show him this missive from the king." No one uttered a word. No one stepped forward. "I know he has not left. We have had this castle under surveillance for over a month." Still, no one came forward with the information he wanted. He ground his teeth and snapped, "Search for him."
Robert turned to the men, divided them up into small groups and then sent them on their way.
Bodie dismounted, handed his horse's reins over to Robert who in turn called forward the stable master. "See to the lordship's horse."
"Have all the mounts seen to, Robert. This rain has taken its toll on them as well." Robert nodded and Bodie went inside the castle.
It was clean but a poor place, not fit for a man of Richard the Hunter's standings. Bodie scowled at the threadbare hangings, the lack of refinery anywhere. He had heard that Richard had spent his farthings on his lovers. The appearance of this castle agreed to that.
"Robert, have one of the servants come back in. I want a fire in that fireplace and I want food for our men."
A slim, tall man returned with Robert. He had chestnut curls. It was worn long, tied back. His eyes were green, challenging, yet he knelt, murmured, "I give thee good day, sir."
Bodie nodded, understanding the other's feelings. The soldier was a stranger, an unknown element to the servant. The mercenary said, "Thank you for your attendance. My men are hungry. Is there sufficient food in this castle to feed them?"
"For three days only...your Lordship."
"Is this place so poor?"
"Sir Richard never thought of earthly requirements. His servants did the best they could with what they had."
"He was busy elsewhere, was he?" He watched the young man flush darkly and wondered if he had been one of Richard's lovers. "Can the villager's provide further provisions?" When the young man hesitated, Bodie said sharply, "I'll not force them to starve to feed our bellies. If they cannot provide, I'll send a few of my men to one of the larger towns to buy what we need!"
"The villagers are poor. Sir Richard never...he...."
"You need say nothing further on the subject. I understand. Make the fire now. I'm cold."
"Yes, your Lordship." The young man made the fire and then vanished quickly back outside where the cook house waited.
Bodie had Robert send five of his men to the closest town to purchase what they would need and then he settled back to wait for the result of searching the castle. Within the hour, the verdict came back: Richard the Hunter's son was no where to be found.
"Damn his flesh! He must be hiding with the people! Round them back up."
"We have not allowed them to leave."
Bodie nodded thoughtfully. "Wise, Robert. How did you know?"
"When I served under Richard the Steward, we encountered a similar problem."
"And was it so easily resolved?"
"The man we sought was dead within the hour."
Bodie's face revealed nothing of what he was thinking. I am so tired of killing. I want only a warm bed to sleep in, peace around me. Is that so much to ask?
Moments later, Bodie walked down the line of people, staring at each one with careful, thoughtful eyes. He did not know what the Hunter's son looked like, but he was hoping he could tell by his appearance. Surely he would stand out in his rough clothing like a sore thumb would in a costly ring.
No one did.
Bodie turned to Robert de Grippe. "Do you know what he looks like?"
"I've heard he was thrown from a horse when he was twelve and broke a cheekbone and his shoulder blade. As to the color of his eyes or his hair...." Robert shrugged. "Sir Richard never brought him to court. He was never paraded."
Bodie faced the villagers and servants once more. "I want Sir Richard's son." He waited but no one gave him anything but dour looks. "I mean him no harm. I wish only to speak with him." He saw the distrustful gleams in their collective eyes. That and their refusal to answer angered him. He reached out, grabbed a female and pushed her down at his feet. He drew his sword. He placed it gently her shoulder. Its edge was upward so that it would not cut her but she was so fearful of the man and that weapon, she began to wail in terror. "I will kill this woman if I am not given the truth! I want the son of Richard the Hunter!"
The servant who had lit the fire stepped forward. His features and the glare in his eyes revealed his rage. "Let her go!"
"Ah! The cook. A wise man has stepped forward. Where is the Hunter's son?"
"He stands before you, Sir William."
Bodie searched the crowd. "I grow tired of your games! Point him out."
"I am Sir Richard's heir."
Laughing, Bodie released the woman. She scurried back to the crowd and was soon buried behind the others. "The cook? I doubt Sir Richard would adopt a son and then make him cook." Yet, the cheekbone showed it had been broken at one time. There was a chance, true, but...would a duke's son, even an adopted one, be put into the kitchen to work as a lackey?
"I am Richard the Hunter's son." His eyes challenged the ex-mercenary. "I do not like the idea of your threatening my people."
"Your people?" Bodie replaced his sword into its leather holder. "Your wording is incorrect."
"The king might have given you this land, this castle. You might now own the villages and everything within them, but you do not own the people."
"It is within my right to order them killed, the towns burned." Bodie's hand caressed the handle of his sword.
Doyle's eyes went briefly to the other man's slowly moving fingers. "You would be a fool to do that. Are you a fool, William Bodie?"
"I do not think of myself as one, and you, sir, do not look like a duke's son."
"Never-the-less, I am. I accepted the fact that the king has awarded you this land. Did we not open the gates without fighting? I do not understand why you needed to speak to me."
"A son can cause trouble with the people."
"Am I to be killed then?" His chin raised in defiance. When the people around him began to show signs of aggressive behavior, Doyle raised his hand and ordered in gentle firmness, "Hold. Let him speak." The villagers and the servants grew silent but their sullen, dangerous expressions promised the ex-solider of fortune a fight if he should touch the young man.
What king of person aroused such loyalty? Bodie wondered.
"Am I to be killed, William Bodie?"
"It would be a logical step, would it not?" Bodie smiled faintly.
"If the situations were reversed, would you slay me Raymond the Doyle?" His eyes became hooded.
"Nay. Unlike you, I am not blood thirsty."
Bodie glanced down at his clothes in mock worry. "Am I blood thirsty? I killed no one today."
"Your reputation precedes you."
"I see. Why are you dressed as a servant?"
"It was Sir Richard's idea. He had hoped that one day, the land would be returned to me. I could not receive it back if I were dead."
"Nay." A breeze blew in from the north. Bodie shivered in his wet clothing. "You," he ordered Doyle, "come back into the castle with me. Have the real servants fix nourishment for us. Robert...."
"You will sup with us tonight. Have Lorans secure the castle's drawbridge, bed down the men in the out buildings."
"My people?" Doyle inquired.
"My...people. Remind my men that no one is to be touched. Let the villagers return to their homes."
"It will be done." Robert left.
"The castle?" Bodie's brow lifted in question. "I am not enjoying standing here in these wet clothes." Doyle nodded reluctantly and followed the man back inside.
"The food is even now being cooked."
"I look forward to eating. Where is Sir Richard's room?" When Doyle hesitated, "Is his body within?"
"Nay. I ordered it buried the moment he died. He is not inside it."
"Then what is wrong?" Bodie grimaced. "He will not be needing it."
Doyle stiffened. His jaws tightened. "Nay, he won't. I'll take you to it."
"Many thanks for this small kindness." The sarcasm made the other man flush even more.
When the door to the dead man's bedroom was opened and Bodie stepped inside, he gasped in shock. "My God! The man was a fool!" The tapestries were all of men fornicating with other men. There were nude, male statues where the penises were engorged. One was bent over, his backside up in the air, his anus prominent. There were several small whips on the walls, chains and manacles on the bed posts. Bodie finally tore his eyes from the spectacle and it was then he realized Doyle had vanished. Irritated, he went in search of Richard's son.
Doyle was in another bedroom. He was kneeling by his own fireplace, shivering despite the warmth that radiated from the flames.
"Is this your room?"
"Yes." He replied without looking around. There was a tremble in his voice as well. "I know what it looks like, but Sir Richard was a good man."
Doyle shot up. His eyes blazed. "You did not know him! How dare you pass judgement on him! Do you see any of those things anywhere else in the castle?
"Nay." They studied each other, Doyle with suspicion, Bodie with contemplation. "Are you always so prickly?"
"When it comes to Sir Richard, I am. He was good to me."
"Are you like him?" Bodie asked softly, his eyes hooded. He watched the flush spread darkly over Doyle's cheeks.
"Nay!" Doyle whirled around, faced the fireplace once more. "I'm not! I'm not!" His body was stiff, taut.
Bodie smiled and said, "I cannot sleep in that room the way it is. It disgusts me. Is there another I may use until it is altered? And these clothes...I need fresh one. I brought none with me." He gave a small sound, half sigh, half chuckle. "It is not a good idea to carry a lot when one faces battle."
Doyle rose stiffly. Averting his eyes, he said, "There is the guest chamber. It was set aside for the king. It is not...like the other. I can have someone lay a fire, put fresh sheets and quilts on the bed, place the warming pan between them."
"Not someone...I want you to do that." When Doyle's gaze finally met the blue, steady one, Bodie said softly. "If you are not averse to waiting on me, you may remain in this castle, in this room. Otherwise, I would have to ask you leave."
"If I remain, I would be your servant?"
"Unless you think you're too good for that."
"There is no shame in serving others," Doyle said stiffly.
"Good. Then lay a fire in my room, turn down the bed...oh, by the way, I shall want a hot bath. You will bathe me."
"Unless you consider yourself too noble for that."
"Nay! It is just that I do not have experience in valeting."
"Surely you had one. How hard is it to emulate him?"
"I did not.... We could not afford.... Sir Richard...." He seemed embarrassed, almost ashamed.
"He had his mind elsewhere. Are you able to procure fresh clothing? These are growing extremely uncomfortable."
"Sir Richard's clothing should fit you...if you wouldn't mind wearing them."
"I do not think he will need them. However, it would be just for tonight. My things should arrive tomorrow. If you will take care of my room and the change of garments, I will wait here by the fire." Doyle nodded and left. Bodie spent the time investigating the room. It was sparse, austere. The only bit of color was a small painting of a woman hanging by the bed. She had the same green eyes as Ray Doyle. His mother, Bodie decided. On a tiny table, stood a crucifix. Except for its largeness, this room was like a monk's cell.
When Doyle returned to say that everything was ready, Bodie said, baffled, "You have very little clothing."
"I have no requirement for more. What I own suffices."
"I too have little clothing but that was because I traveled around so much, carrying more than a change proved impossible, but I would think Sir Richard would want his son to dress better."
"He paid very little attention to things like that."
Bodie inquired in curiosity, "How can you stand this room?"
Mystified, Doyle looked around. "It serves its purpose."
"I cannot see the room when I sleep. Your bath will grow cold in this chill, Sir William."
"There's no color in here."
"There is enough outside. When I have need to see them, I simply go out. Please? Do you know how hard it is lug hot water up those stairs?"
"You could stand a few extra muscles." The small grin and the twinkle in his blue eyes betryesd the harshness of the words. Doyle gave a slight upturning of his own lips and went out into the hall. "I shall bathe downstairs from now on."
"That is very kind of you. Sir Richard had a special room set aside. It has two fireplaces. Fiona volunteers to help you in your bath."
"She sees to the wash."
As they walked down the hall, Bodie asked, "What does she look like?"
"Her hair is long and curly and deep auburn. Her eyes are blue, like yours."
"Is she pretty?" Bodie prompted when the other man finished speaking. They entered his apartment.
Doyle shrugged. "I guess she is."
"I have heard the others speak of her in that manner. They like the way she looks. Do I undress you or do you do that?"
"I can undress myself but if I am to be a duke, then I should let you have that honor, shouldn't I?"
"Sir Clarence had his valet do it." Awkwardly at first, then with more assurance, Doyle removed Bodie's clothing, the leather jerkin, the doublet, the undertunic. Yet, when he reached the codpiece, the last barrier between covering and total nudity, Doyle blushed bright red. He averted his head from the nakedness that stood before him as he unfastened the ornate covering.
"You act as though you have never seen a naked man before." Bodie stepped into the bath.
"Of course I have." His voice shook just a little.
"Have you?" His tone was sharper than he had intended.
"One of Sir Richard's lover mistook my room for my adopted father's."
"Did he now?"
"Yes. He was...without clothing." He flushed again.
Somehow, Bodie doubted that it was an accident, and that uncomfortable look on Doyle's face told him that he doubted it too. "Are you a virgin, Raymond Doyle?" he asked softly, gently.
"I want to join the church. I want to be a monk so of course I kept myself pure."
"Why didn't you join? Why are you still here? You are most definitely old enough. How old are you?"
"I have seen my twenty-fifth year."
"Then why are you still here?" He handed the young man the wash cloth and soap.
"Sir Richard refused to let me go. He wanted someone here to inherit his land."
"It is a poor land to give to someone." He sighed. "You may start on my back first."
"Yes, Sir William."
Moments later, Bodie asked, "Have you ever wanted anyone?"
There were too many seconds between the question and the reply. "Nay." The wet, soapy bit of material moved up and down the Bodie's chest. Bodie's paps hardened. His hands tightened on the edges of the metal tub. Suddenly, without warning, the cloth was jerked from Doyle's hand. "I shall finish on my own. Go downstairs and make sure the food will be ready. I'm ravenous."
Puzzled at the harsh tone, Doyle replied, "Yes, Sir William."
"And stop calling me that! Call me Will or just plain Bodie."
A merry gleam came into the green eyes. "Saying Sir William is a lot faster than saying just plain Bodie." He ducked the cloth thrown by the laughing man.
"God! A virgin! How did he get so old without loosing it?" Bodie's eyes narrowed. "I wonder who it was he wanted?" His hands circled his cock. "A virgin...." His fingers moved. His shaft thickened, grew longer. "A virgin...." He pictured Doyle naked, laying on his stomach, his buttocks raised on a pillow, high up in the air, waiting. His mind's eyes saw the untouched hole waiting to be claimed. His imagination pictured that hot, tightness encircling his penis, those muscles griping him. He envisioned himself plunging into the pure body. Milky, wet fluid shot into the bath water, and Bodie cried out as he came, "Ray!"
Bodie rode out over his land. Doyle rode beside him. He made notes of what the new owner wanted to do, the repairs, the changes.
"This will cost a great deal," Doyle pointed out hesitantly.
"It will cost even more later on if it is not done now. Look at that home! The bloody roof is collapsing. I would not be surprised to find the wood has rotted around the section."
The inhabitants, an old man and an old woman, came out. They stared sullenly at William Bodie. "He plans on fixing this cottage," Doyle told them. Some of their animosity vanished but their suspicion remained.
"It would be safer to build them a new one but I doubt I'll have the funds to rebuild every old building." Both he and Doyle dismounted, handed their reins to the old man. "Madam, may I enter your home?"
"Tis your place," she said morosely. "Door's open."
"Nay, I'll not be entering it without your permission, not while you live here. I might own the building and the land but it is your home and I would not do that."
"Let the man enter, Prudence." Her husband turned his head and spat into the grass. He rubbed the bristle on his chin. "So, ye be the new lord?"
"Yes. I am Sir William."
The old man scowled fiercely. "Ye be like that Sir Richard, him and his fancy men parading around naked, their gewgaws stuck out like corncobs?"
It was difficult not to laugh but Bodie did not. The man was serious, somber, and the new owner of the land would react in the same manner. "You'll neither catch me nor my friends without clothing."
"Know how many times I could've chopped 'em off?"
"Nay." Bodie stifled a smile.
"Many times. Would've done it too but Prudence would not let me. Said it was wrong, she did. Wrong? I'll tell you what's wrong; That Sir Richard trying to get my son up there in that devil's house of his. Promised my Sean a job, he did. Job? What kind of job, I ask you? What kind of position is it where he lies on his stomach all day his bums in the air and open to any and everything? That kind of work he did not need. Sir Richard was a duke, yes, but he wasn't so royal inside. Sent my son away, I did. Told him not to come back until it was safe. Didn't like that, he didn't, but he's a good son and he obeyed." He spat again. "My son wasn't going ta be one of them fancy men of Sir Richard's, not if I could help it."
"You can safely bring him back now, if you choose."
"Guess I could. Guess there's work he can do around here. His mum and me miss him. Wasn't right, it wasn't, having to send him of to keep him safe. That Sir Richard should have been the one to go off and hide, him and those fancy men of his with their bullocks hanging out like a ungelded horse. Yes, guess I could bring him back now that wicked man has gone. Inviting my son to work for him! Wasn't right, it wasn't. You going in then?"
Bodie caught his breath and nodded. "Yes, I would like to see how much damage nature has done to this building."
"My son kept the place repaired when he was here." The woman sighed sadly.
"Is your son good at repairing buildings?" Bodie inquired.
"There was little my Sean could not do," the woman said proudly.
"Yes, he was good with his hands, he was." The old man was just as self-satisfied as his wife. "There was naught he couldn't do once he settled his mind on it. Course, now, that wasn't to say he could do everything. Sean was good but there was a lot he still had to learn. I sent him to Beckett to learn brick making. Thought he could have a good living by doing that."
"Is he good at it?"
"Oh, yes, that he is." The old man pride shone through unequivocal and unclouded.
"I had planned on having a house built. The castle is uncomfortable. Is he able to follow plans?"
"He can learn!" the woman said in love.
"Do you think he'd be willing to take charge of the building?"
"Yes." Bodie listened politely to the man expound on his son's intelligence, his son's ability, how well he was doing where he was.
An hour later, on their way back to the castle, Bodie inquired, "Does he always talk like that?"
"I do not know, Sir...Will...?"
"Will," Bodie said firmly. "Why?" He waited but the other man did not answer. "Well?" Doyle's muscles tensed. "Didn't you want to?"
"Then why didn't you?"
There was a moment's hesitation, then Doyle replied, "It wasn't possible."
"It.... It just wasn't, that's all."
"Sir Richard again?" the tall, dark haired man guessed quietly.
"...Yes...." He seemed disconcerted, almost embarrassed.
"He kept that tight of a reins on you?"
"He was afraid I'd run off to the church."
"Would you have done that?"
"I gave you an out when I first came, yet you styesd with me. Why?"
Troubled, Doyle halted his horse. Bodie brought his own animal to a standstill as well. He searched the other man's face. Green eyes revealed Doyle's inner emotions, his distress. "I don't know," he admitted reluctantly.
"You're free to go now, you know. I'd not stop you."
"I know." Yet, the idea obviously did not appeal to him. His disturbed feelings grew.
"You're staying then?" Bodie's tone was low and impassive.
"Good." Bodie nudged his horse back into motion. A few seconds later, Doyle followed.
It was that very day that Bodie began to bath himself. He told Doyle it was because he felt foolish in having him do it when he himself was perfectly capable of washing his own body but the real reason was based on the fact that the effect Doyle's touch was having on him was getting harder and harder to hide. Bodie's fantasies of making love to that tall, slim, chestnut haired man grew ever increasingly more vivid. When Fiona made her move, Bodie took her up on her offer. He never made her any promises nor asked more from her than she was willing to give. He felt guilty using her but she seemed wise enough to know the score.
Within days, Sean came open. He was tall and husky, long blond hair that curled in feathery delicateness. Bodie put him to work immediately, him and several other men Sean recommended, to mending buildings on the estate. When those were well under way, Bodie called him in and asked, "Why you ever helped build a brick house?"
"Yes. It takes a while and a wooden under-structure must be put up first. Why you something in mind?"
"I've drawn up some plans. I'm not much of an artist. Doyle, bring the sketches here." He reached out for the folded sheets of paper Doyle was holding. When the other man hesitated, Bodie said, "Well?"
Doyle came forward, unfolded them, and began to point out several flaws in Bodie's hand draft.
"I see you have a hidden talent."
"I like art."
"Like it?" Sean asked as Doyle watched in fascination. The small chest was still raw wood, not totally carved with the curlicues and embellishments Sean had planned on using. It was work he did on his own free time.
"Its beautiful. Does it take long to learn to do that?" He sat down at the table.
"Everyone is different. Some learn fast, others don't. Would you like to try?"
Doyle did. He'd tried making paints, creating images he had seen in his mind. They were poor and did little justice to the beauty inside him, and Richard the Hunter refused to spend money on good art supplies. There was something about this beauty Sean was creating that touched that sequestered part of his soul. "I've never done it before."
"Watch me for a moment. When you think you can do it, let me know." Sean worked in silence for a moment then remarked in a relaxed, friendly manner, "Sir Richard kept you well hidden. I only caught glimpses of you now and then."
"You were in the castle?"
Sean smiled faintly. "Now and then."
"I never saw you here."
"I had no cause to make myself known."
"My father did not want me here."
Doyle could understand that. Sean was blond and husky and beautiful, and Sir Richard would have eaten him alive if he could have gotten a hold of him.
"Would you like to try now?"
Nodding, Doyle took the ultra thin knife the other man was using. After a moment, frustrated, he said, "I'm making a disorder out of this. Maybe you should take it back."
Sean smiled. "Nay, let me show you." His huge, calloused hands covered the slimmer, longer ones. "Do it like this."
"I think I see."
There was silence in the room for a moment, then Sean casually said, "You know, my father sent me away to save me from Sir Richard, but I'd already tasted him, more than once, and I liked it a lot." He looked up and saw the uncomfortable look on the other man's face. "I've been to his room upstairs. Have you tried the whip yet?" His eyes searched the other man's.
"The whip?" Doyle felt ill. He had known what his adopted father did up there. There were times he could hear the sound of lashes and screams coming from his room.
"Yes. I wanted to know what it felt like. Sir Richard seemed to enjoy it greatly when I used it on him. I allowed him to fasten me down on my stomach. When he wielded it on me...." Sean wiggled in ecstasy. The tall blond gripped the other man's hand in expectant flirting. He rubbed the backs against the bristle on his ecstatic face. "And when he entered me...." Sean shivered. Appalled, Doyle just sat there. A change came over the carpenter's face. The ecstatic look disappeared and was replaced by one of hopeful inquiry. As he slipped his fingers gently down Doyle's cheeks, he asked softly, "Did he ever use it on you?"
The illness rose up into Doyle's throat. He rose quickly, jerking his hand free as he did. "Nay." He left the room.
The word echoed silently in the room....
Nay...but it was Bodie in his dreams, Bodie who had tied him down and was using the whip on him, thrusting...plunging. It was not pain Doyle felt in his dreams, it was delicious abandon, rapture. His own ejaculation woke him. Doyle spent the rest of the night on his knees, in silent supplication.
The rain vanished, replaced by snow and colder weather.
In the servants' section, Fiona was conceited and vain. Because Bodie had taken her offer of a night time visitor more than once, she thought to place herself over the others but Doyle refused to bow down to her. Infuriated, she went to Bodie and suggested it was time for Richard's adopted son to be sent away.
"Why?" His hands cupped her bosom through her blouse, kneaded them, clasped the huge globes with firm hands.
"You don't need him."
"He's my valet." He undid her blouse.
"You can get another one." She moved backwards. Her own hands massaged her dusky nipples. They grew hard. "Send him away, William."
"You don't need him and I don't like him!"
"I said no. Come here." He began to undo his breeches.
"He makes fun of me."
"He calls me Queen Anne." She pouted.
Bodie did not like that look. It irritated him. "Why would he do that?"
"He's jealous of me!" She licked her lips.
"Why would he feel that way toward you?"
"I don't know!" She swyesd toward him. "You don't need him, William. I can take care of you. I can take good care of you."
He pushed her down to her knees. "The take care of me." He finished undoing his clothes. His shaft sprang out and upward.
"Take me into your mouth."
"I have never done that way." She tried pouting again but it did not work on him. Annoyed, she did so.
It was while she was working on Bodie that Doyle came in. The young man stared at them for a moment, then left, shaken. In his room, he cupped his own organ through his rough, dark clothing. Thousands of tiny sprinkles spurted upward from his organ. Alarmed, he dropped in front of his crucifix and began to pray.
"I'm not like Sir Richard! I'm not! Please!" he mumbled.
In Bodie's room, Fiona whispered seductively, "Tell Doyle to stop teasing me."
"I will speak with him." For some reason, he was tired of her. She had grown too confident. He would not be surprised to find she had plans to be his wife. Bodie wondered if he had made a mistake accepting her into his bed. He wouldn't have given her so much attention but each time he was with Ray Doyle, his body reacted violently he needed release...desperately. When he spoke to Doyle, the other man was still in his room, on the floor, kneeling before his cross.
Bodie stared at him for a moment then said, "Fiona says you call her Queen Anne."
"I do." He gripped his hands...his knuckles turned white. His groin began to react to Bodie's voice. Alarmed, stricken, he drew closer to the roughly made, wooden, unpolished crucifix.
Bodie watched the movement of that backside and swallowed deeply. "I don't like it." Doyle bent his head. "I'm sorry to be bothering you while you are praying but I've come to ask you to stop." Bodie waited...nothing but a further tightening of those slim buttocks. His shaft responded. "Did you hear me?" His tone was sharper than he had intended.
When no further words came forth, "No one's perfect, Ray Doyle, no one! Everyone has a secret they hide, even you I'm sure though you appear pure enough."
Secret? If Bodie knew.... If anyone knew.... Torment sliced into Doyle's soul. He is right...I have no right to taunt her when the imperfection in my body is so strong. I am like Sir Richard, God help me, I am.
"Well?" Bodie demanded, impatient.
"I will cease calling her Queen Anne."
Bodie stared at the other man's back for a moment. Had he heard anguish in that voice? Surely not. A simple request would not have caused that. Yet, his reply was uncertain as he said, "Thank you."
Weeks later, as he left his room, Bodie was by Robert de Grippe. "There is much dissension downstairs," Robert told him a low, worried voice.
"There are two problems. You want the big one first, or the small one?"
"The small one," came the glum reply.
"Did you know Sean the Carpenter was a regular visitor here when Sir Richard ruled?"
"Sean...? You mean he and Sir Richard...?"
"He and Sir Richard and anyone else who was willing."
"But his father said.... Are you certain?"
"I have only the talk from those who have served here for so long. They do not like his presence here in the castle. It reminds them of Sir Richard and it makes them wonder about you."
An odd look flickered briefly across Bodie's handsome face. "Have the Mompphreys left yet?"
"Yes, this morning. Good riddance too. Lazy baggage, every last one of them."
"He is too old to have to live at home. Let him have that cottage then. I don't need dissension in my own house."
"I'll have it done today. What should I give him for a reason?"
"Tell him I want him to concentrate on the village houses now and it will be easier for him to travel from his own home. And the big problem?"
"Fiona? Is Doyle teasing her again?"
"Nay, it is not Doyle, it is the lack of Doyle that's doing it."
"I don't understand." Bodie stopped at the front of the stairs, turned questioning eyes at his friend and fellow warrior.
"He has stopped teasing her like you had asked him to, but he's gone further. It seems that he goes out of his way to make up for his earlier actions. The other servants have noticed this and have assumed it is because she is to become your wife. They wait on her hand and foot, treat her as though she were already wed to you. They don't like doing that. She has grown too conceited, too demanding. She has begun to treat them like dirt. She has even begun to treat your men as though they should serve her. They have flatly refused. William, it has grown worse over the last few days for she has forced the servants to be lack in their care of the men. The food they are served is cold and sometimes burned. Their rooms are not as clean as they could be."
"I will put a stop to her."
"It seems I shall have to send her away as well."
"Perhaps, in the future, you should concentrate on many women and not just one."
"Yes, that is good advice," Bodie agreed glumly. There was only one thing wrong with it...it was not women he wanted...it was Ray Doyle.
It was early spring and King Henry the VIII had sent a emissary to Bodie. It was tax time and the good king, hungry for gold, had no intentions of letting this estate go free from taxation simply because it was still struggling to rise above the poverty level it had nearly drowned in. He had come without warning, that agent, as they often did.
"Where is Sir William?" Doyle asked the other servants. If anyone knew, they would. Robert de Grippe was away on business and Doyle was the obvious choice to seek out Bodie.
"He is probably at Sean's cottage," one of the cook's servants said and snickered into the soup he was stirring. The cook whacked his back, made the young man stumble. "You old fool! I almost fell into the fire, I did!"
"Serve ye right, ye young jacknappe. Yes, Ray Doyle, Sir William is probably at Sean's, but mayhap someone else should fetch him and not ye. Let this fool do it before he allows the soup to burn." When the assistant mumbled, the old cook demanded, "What? What?"
"I said naught," the subordinate grumbled.
"I thought not." The cook turned his attention back to Doyle. "Yes, let this one go for ye."
"Nay, I know where it is. You need Jack here."
"I really think it would be best..." the cook protested.
"He's right," the butler agreed solemnly as he polished old, ornate silverware. His black eyes were troubled, grave.
Doyle, however, did not understand their reluctance at his going and said firmly, "I know the way and I am not busy elsewhere. There's no reason why I should not go."
There was, and when Doyle got to Sean's cottage, he found out why everyone was so reluctant for him to seek Bodie. At the dwelling's door, he heard moaning inside. Thinking someone was injured, he burst into the cottage and froze in shock. Sean was bent over his bed, naked, his backside shining white in the sunlight. Bodie was thrusting violently within him. Sean was moaning, begging the man to do it harder. Their attention was so taken with what was happening within their bodies, neither was aware of Doyle's stunned, dismyesd presence. Frozen to the spot, Doyle was unable to move. He slumped against the doorway. It was only when Bodie came, loudly proclaiming his release that Doyle was able to stumble out. His whole mind and body were pure ice, not only for what he had seen, but because his own body had reacted to the actions and sounds inside that tiny cottage.
When Doyle came to himself, he was in front of Whiteford Monastery. He dismounted, and with his body still frozen, he knocked at the huge doors.
Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned, he thought over and over.
The words echoed in his soul....
I have sinned...I have sinned...forgive me....
May God have mercy on my soul.
1533...King Henry VIII, angered because the Church would not grant him absolution to his marriage to Katherine of Argon, abolished the monasteries. He then proceeded to replace the current religious system with his own idea of what it should be...and divorced Katherine.
Bodie knew where Doyle had gone. He had searched for the Hunter's son when he had not returned home over a year before. At first, he had thought bandits had waylaid him and then the servants admitted the truth and that was when Bodie had realized he and Sean had not only been seen but their affair was known to the servants. Bodie had actually ridden to the Monastery but had not gone in, had not even asked to see Ray Doyle. If this was Doyle's way of finding peace, then so be it. In the days and weeks that passed, Bodie was forced to face yet another truth: He loved Ray Doyle. He had never truly loved anyone before. It was always touch and depart, spend a little time with them and break off the association, hopefully with good will between them both. Love, he found, hurt. It hurt like hell. He was positive he didn't like that.
When the monasteries were discontinued, Bodie went back to Whiteford Church to let Doyle know he had a home to go back to...if he wanted to.
Ray Doyle had already gone, months before.
"But where did he go? Why did he leave?" Bodie asked. And...why didn't he come back to me? No one knew.
"Why does finding him mean so much?" Mystified, Robert de Grippe inquired when their search, temporarily aborted, was still kept alive by Bodie. "You do not owe him anything, not really. If anyone does, it would be the king, and I cannot see him doing anything for him, can you?"
"Nay. Let us ride to Beckett. He might have taken a post in the boy's school there."
"William, why do you continue this search? What is it about this man that brings this out of you?"
"There is something about me you do not know, Robert."
"I doubt it," the other man said dryly. "We've traveled side by side for fifteen years."
"I have more in common with Sir Richard than you think."
"I know you like making love with men, William." Bodie stared at him, stupefied. "I cannot claim I understand it nor you, for I do not, but I am aware of it. I have been for over ten years."
"You are who you are. You have saved my life more than once. I trust you. That is all that matters." An impish grin appeared on his lined, craggy face. "That and the fact that you have never propositioned me."
"Why haven't you?" He pretended to be offended but the sparkle of mirth in his gray eyes belyesd his tone.
Bodie coughed back a laugh. "I know you like a plump woman's breast and not a plump backside, dolt. How many times have you told me that?"
"I wanted to make sure you did not forget."
"I have not, and I guarantee you I will not." They laughed together, clasped each other's arms in true friendship.
"I have seen you love and leave many, William. What makes this one so special you seek him? I know you never slept with him. He was so clearly untouched. Sometimes I wondered if he were real."
"You are right, no one has ever aroused him, neither male nor female."
"Is that why you want him?" de Grippe demanded bluntly.
"I love him, Robert." The words, plain ones and unadorned, were spoken simply
"I realize it is difficult to understand how one man can love another, but that is what I feel for Ray Doyle."
"Nay, I do not fathom love between the same sexes though I know it occurs, but if this is the case, why did you let him remain in this place? Why did you not come for him the day you discovered his attendance here?"
"If he found peace within these walls, what right had I to take it from him?"
"If it were a woman I loved and craved, and I assume you do crave him?"
"If it were a woman I loved and craved, I would not allow her to remain in here without a fight."
"It is not the same."
Robert de Grippe scowled fiercely. "One minute you state it is the same and the next you say it is. It cannot be both, William, not even for you."
"It can, and you know it. No one would be shocked to see you ride up and demand to speak to her, yet if I had done that with Ray, I would have offended many."
"Oh, yes, that you would. So now we ride to Beckett and seek him?"
"And if you find him, what?"
"I will ask him to come back."
"If he says no?"
"I will trouble him no further."
"And you call me dolt? All right, then, if he agrees to come back home with you, then what?"
"And then nothing."
"Nothing? Nothing!? You are going to stare at him night and day, wanting him, loving him, and not say anything?"
"He would not understand, Robert. Doyle is pure, untouched."
"You have taken virginities before," de Grippe remarked crudely. "Surely his is not sacrosanct." He watched the dark flush come to his friend and companion's face. "Well, at least you have thought of that."
"Many times," Bodie admitted truthfully. He thought of Doyle's nudity and the flush grew. Robert laughed and rode off.
The only thing Doyle could do was teach. He was lucky that the old abbot had recommended him when Sir Guy Hugh rode in that day. Sir Guy had two children, a boy and a girl, and wanted someone gentle, someone intelligent, someone who could be trusted, to teach and care for them. What better teacher and protector than a monk?
Doyle liked the children well enough though Cedric was constantly asking him about sexual matters. Cedric was eleven and beginning to notice women. The boy seemed fascinated that Doyle knew little more than the barest biological facts, that he seemed embarrassed every time the questions were asked.
Though he was busy, night and day, Doyle was lonely. He wanted to go back home, back to his own room, his own bed, but mostly, he wanted to see Bodie again. He had admitted, finally, that he was attracted to William Bodie. It was a fact of life. All the scourging, all the privation he had forced himself to undergo back at the monastery, all the pryesr and the talks with his confessor, had not erased what he felt. Doyle did not understand why he was the way he was, but pretending it was not a part of his life was lying, an equal sin in his eyes.
"Who is that man?" Mary asked, pointing to a distant glade.
"It is not...." Doyle froze. He felt the blood drain from his face. William Bodie waited silently there on his black horse, watching them. Doyle collected himself and finished, "It is not polite to point, Mary."
"But if I do not point, Brother Raymond, then how will you know which direction to look?"
"Who is it?" Cedric asked, throwing a rock up into the trees.
"That is Sir William."
"Why is he simply sitting there?" Mary asked. "Why doesn't he come down? Is he hurt?"
"Is he a robber?" Cedric inquired. He picked up a large rock. "If he comes close, I shall throw this at him."
"He is not a robber, Sir Cedric. Perhaps he is trying to decide if this is the right place. Come, let us go inform your father he may have a visitor." Doyle tugged at their arms. He needed to get away from those eyes. They made his body tingle.
"How did you know who it was?" Mary quizzed as she skipped by Doyle's side.
"I lived in his castle for a while."
"Why?" She stopped to watch a butterfly.
"We must go in now." Doyle opened the door and ushered them inside. Maybe she would forget her question.
"Why do butterflies have wings and we do not?" she asked.
"Because that is what God chose to do."
Cedric snorted. "Oh, you always say that! If you do not know, just say you do not."
"They have wings so they can fly. They help pollinate flora by transferring pollen from one plant to another. In order to do this, they need to fly."
"Why?" Six year old Mary wanted to know.
"It would take too long if they simply walked or crawled." Doyle's eyes challenged the young boy. Cedric grinned in acknowledgement.
"I wish I could fly." Mary sighed. "I wish I had wings like a butterfly, bright yellow ones I think." Her blue eyes grew dreamy.
"It is close to tea time. Go upstairs and clean up. I need to see your father." When the children left him, Doyle went in search of Sir Guy. He found him in his den, going over accounts. "May I see you a moment?"
"Is it about the children?"
"Nay, Sir. We saw a rider on the hill, a Sir William. I believe it is possible he will be coming to see you and I simply wanted to let you know."
"Thank you." He studied the other man. "Are you happy here Brother Raymond?"
"Yes, Sir Guy." He thought, Sometimes.
"The children like you though Cedric complains that you cannot answer his questions about women." Sir Guy laughed.
"I am able to answer general biological questions but they do not seem to satisfy him."
"I'll see to that part of his education. I have told him to come to me when one of those questions comes to his mind, providing, of course, that they do not interfere in any plans you might have."
Doyle's cheeks turned a mild pink. "Thank you."
"I like the way you handle my children. If anything ever makes you unhappy here, come to me immediately. I have no wish to loose your services."
"Thank you, Sir Guy, I will."
Doyle went upstairs. His emotions were in a upheaval. Bodie had found him. Had he looked for him, or had it been a coincidence? Doyle laughed at himself. Of course it had been a happenstance. Why in the world would William Bodie seek him out? Disappointment pierced Doyle's usual calm being before reality hit and he realized, truthfully, that even if Bodie had deliberately sought him out, nothing would come from it.
Expect pain, Doyle thought as he reached the top of the stairs. Part of him wanted to experience love with William Bodie but his upbringing stood in the way. He yearned to feel Bodie's hands on him as they had been on Sean. Doyle's attention focused on his anus. What would it feel like having Bodie thrusting within him? Would he moan like Sean had? He imagined himself stripping in front of the other man. He imagined Bodie's eyes on him. His shaft began to awaken.
Mary appeared in her doorway. "Are you all right, Brother Raymond? Your face looks strange."
Flushing darkly, Doyle stammered, "Yes."
"Did Papa shout at you?"
"Nay." He took her hand. "Let us see if Bridget has brought in the tea yet."
The dimples appeared in the girl's cheeks. "Oh, she has! Biscuits, ever so large, Brother Raymond, and strawberry jam! I saw her pass with the tray!"
"Has Cedric gone into the school room yet?"
"Oh, yes. He followed Bridget in." She stopped and looked up at the tall, slim man. "Your face was ever so red. Did Papa shout at you?"
"Then why was your cheeks so rosy? Do you have fever?"
Bridget came from the school room baring an empty tray. "Now see you eat well, young Mary," the plump woman said, shaking her finger at the girl.
"I will," the child promised solemnly. She hurried in.
"Brother Raymond, tea is ready below as well. Will you be joining us today?"
"Yes, thank you. I will make sure the children have settled in and then I will come right down." The woman, pleased, nodded and plodded downstairs. Inside the school room, the children were busy munching, sipping tea. "Is everything all right?"
Mary nodded, happy with what she had on her plate. Clearing his throat by taking a huge swallow of tea, Cedric asked, "May we go to the meadow this afternoon for art, Brother Raymond? I would like to finish the painting I began yesterday."
"Yes. If either of you need anything, I will be having tea downstairs with the others." The youngsters nodded and Doyle left.
There was a fire burning in the servants' hall. Even in summer, those stone walls made the room cold. They had accepted Ray Doyle as one of them though none of them teased him as they did each other. Holmes, the butler, set a cup of steaming tea before Doyle as the monk sat down. Bridget set a plate of scones on the huge, rough, wooden table. The talk went on around him, sometimes including him. They all liked him. Doyle grew uncomfortable with Bridget's eyes constantly upon him. She had a crush on him. He was flattered but nothing could come of it. Even if he had not been a monk, there was still his feelings for Bodie. He liked her a lot. Bridget was a sweet, gentle, lovable woman, and he hoped he never hurt her, never embarrassed her.
It was with relief when he was able to escape from the room without causing any hard feelings.
Cedric already had his painting equipment ready. He was impatient. His eyes brightened at the sight of his tutor. Beside him, Mary sang to a rag doll. She smiled cheerfully as Doyle entered the room. Doyle took his own painting box from his tiny, austere room and they went out. His art supplies was the only thing he had ever splurged on. His small salary had given him the one thing he had ever wanted: The chance to create beauty. After handing Mary over to Bridget's tender care, Cedric and Doyle left Sir Guy's home.
The boy glared at his painting. "I cannot get it right! I do not understand why I cannot do it!"
"Let me see." Doyle moved to the boy's canvass. "Which section are you working on?"
"The stables. See?" He motioned toward the real building which was just visible behind the main house. "I can just see it and I want to put it in but it never looks right! What am I doing incorrectly, Brother Doyle?"
"You are using the wrong end of the brush."
Cedric's expression was comical. It clearly revealed his inner thought, Is this monk mad?
Doyle partially smiled. He searched through the boy's brushes, did not find what he wanted, and drew one from his own small bundle. The handle had been reshaped by Doyle into a thin wedge. The point was not quite sharp but as close to it as he could make. "Your bristles are too limber. What can be seen of the stable is so thin, the normal way of painting will not work. Here, try this."
The boy carefully scraped off the incorrect paint he had just put on and used the handle of Doyle's hand made tool and with tongue sticking out from the corner of his mouth, meticulously put in the corner of the barn. When he was finished, Cedric stared at the finished section in awe. "Thank you!" His eyes glowed with happiness. "How did you know?"
"I like painting."
"I am glad Father chose you to be our tutor," Cedric said later on their way home.
Doyle chuckled. "You did not think so the first time you saw me."
"You looked very sad, Brother Raymond."
"May I ask you a personal question? I know it is impolite to do so and if you choose not to answer, I will understand." When Doyle nodded, Cedric asked, a bit hesitantly, "Is it true you've never touched a woman?"
"I do not think I would like to live my life without the softness of a woman beneath me when I lie down at night. What made you choose to enter the monastery?"
"I have always wanted to become a monk."
"Yes." They entered the boy's home.
"Is it true you lived in a castle?"
"I would like to live in a castle."
"It is very cold, very drafty."
"Was your castle haunted?"
"Nay." Not by ghosts at least. The things Sir Richard did, the way he lived, that was what plagued it.
"Brother Raymond, were you ever attracted to a woman?"
"Nay." That was honest enough: Bodie was not a female.
"I do not understand it."
"Many people find it difficult to grasp."
Doyle had a free afternoon the next day. Sir Guy had taken his children to a neighbor's birthday party. The young monk, taking advantage of a warm day, had gone into the woods to paint. He was engrossed with catching the way the sunlight struck the periwinkles and did not hear the footsteps behind him, or perhaps, Bodie's talent for not being heard had not vanished. When Doyle took a step backwards to gaze at what he had done with judicious eyes, Bodie said, "I think it is quite beautiful." Doyle whirled, mildly alarmed. His brush dropped. Bodie bent to retrieve it. "I did not mean to frighten you, Ray. Or should I call you Brother Raymond now?"
"Brother Raymond," came the reply. Doyle's voice was a little breathless.
"You are quite good. I can actually see the sunlight. How did you do that?"
"I made a special media. It holds whatever color I add to it but remains clear." He flushed at Bodie's look of pride. He recalled, quite vividly, how Bodie looked with Sean, and grew uncomfortable.
"You have lost weight," Bodie said. There was worry in his tone.
"I am healthy."
Bodie waited but the other man remained mute. "I know you saw me with Sean," he said in a strained voice. He paused but again, Doyle said nothing. The only sign he gave that he had heard was the tightening of his back muscles. "I would not have you hate me. I like copulating with men, but I am not...unique. There are many men such as I am. I will not apologize for being this way. I am who I am. Ray...Brother Raymond...?" When he touched the other man's arm, Doyle flinched as though he had been burned. Pain twisted Bodie's features. "I see," he managed to say in an odd voice. He took three steps away, hesitated, and then turned. The expression he saw on Doyle's face tore at his heart. "Do you find me that repulsive then?"
Doyle's countenance altered, changed to uncertainty then to yearning. Bodie's features showed his sudden understanding. They softened, grew tender, loving. "Ray?" He moved back to the other man, cupped his face. Doyle grew taut, strained. "God, you are so beautiful." He brushed his fingers lightly over the confused, disconcerted face. He touched his mouth lightly, briefly against the other man's lips. "Ray," he murmured in love. He placed his hand behind the other's head, held him close and allowed his lips to linger against Doyle's startled ones. They grew hard, demanding. For one brief moment, Doyle responded willingly, then, choking back a sob, he broke away. Leaving his things there in the glade, he hurried toward Sir Guy's home.
"You cannot run from the truth...Brother Raymond. Did not the church teach you that?" Bodie called after the other man.
Doyle spent the whole evening, the entire night, prostrate, praying. There was no comfort in his entreaty.
"Are you ill, Brother Doyle?" Cedric inquired a week later as they returned back to Sir Guy's home after another afternoon of painting.
"You have not done any painting this week. You stare at your easel and there is a sad look on your face."
"I am all right. I thank you for your concern."
"I wish you were coming to London with us tomorrow. It will not be the same without you."
"You will be so busy having fun you will not notice I am not there."
"I do not think so. Have you ever been to London?"
"Where will you go while the house is closed?"
"I have already made arrangements to stay at the inn in town." They entered the house. Holmes was waiting for them.
"Sir Guy wishes to see you in his study," he told Doyle. The monk nodded and hurried upstairs to place his painting equipment and the landscape he was working on, in his room.
Robert de Grippe was inside the study with Sir Guy. Doyle hesitated in the doorway. "You know Sir Robert?" It was more of a statement than a question.
"He has come with a request from William Bodie."
Doyle felt his facial muscles grow tense. "Yes?"
"He needs a temporary secretary. Since you will be free the next three weeks and since I had heard Sir William's man had left him, I suggested his temporary use of you until he could replace him."
Doyle felt the blood drain from his face. He battled to regain control of his features. "I have already made arrangements to stay at the inn." How did he keep his voice so normal?
"I have stayed in that inn, Brother Doyle. It is hardly the place for a priest to stay."
"It is an unpleasant tavern though Givens and his wife are nice enough. The things that go on in there would not be fit for you to be around."
"Sir William offers a good salary," Sir Robert said quietly. Something in his eyes made Doyle flush lightly. "It is not as though you would be working with a stranger. You know how kind he is to those who serve him, how compassionate and patient."
"Yes," Doyle agreed.
"You served as his secretary before you left for the monastery. You do know what is required by him. Nothing has changed." He smiled in sympathy at Doyle's uncomfortable expression. "You would not be expected to do anything extra. What you did then would be what you would do now." Doyle shook his head. "Sir William said to tell you he would give you plenty of free time to paint."
The monk felt strange emotions flood through him. "Did he?"
"You cannot expect that from any other employer," Sir Guy said, pleasantly surprised.
"Nay," Doyle agreed.
"It is settled then." Sir Guy beamed at the monk as though he had created a miracle for the priest. "You can leave with Sir Robert tomorrow morning."
"I would rather stay at the inn."
Sir Guy was puzzled. "Why?"
Robert de Grippe added his own voice, soft and passive though there was a gleam of knowledge in his grey eyes that told Doyle he was not as much in the dark as he pretended. He said, "Yes, why?"
Because, Doyle thought in anguish, if he touches me again, I would not have the strength to turn away.
"You are being foolish, if I may say so," Sir Guy said. "It is the perfect opportunity. Surely you would not allow jealousy to interfere in the ideal situation.
"He was given your father's estate by King Henry."
"It is not jealousy!" Doyle protested. "I never considered Sir Richard's land as my own."
"Then why do you insist on doing something so senseless?"
Doyle bent his head in defeat. "I will go."
Bodie's eyes glowed with pleasure. It was difficult for him to keep his hands at his side. He wanted to caress that impassive face, watch it bloom with color and desire. It was neither the time nor the place. "Do you like the new house?"
"It seems well made."
Bodie laughed. "But elaborate?"
"I am sure it is more comfortable than the castle."
"A great deal more. The real test will come this winter when the snow surrounds us and the cold tries to invade. I am having thick glass inserted into each pane. The old hornpane is not fit to use in cold weather." The silence that filled the room made them awkward and self-conscious.
"May I go to my room now? I'd like to put my equipment away."
"I put you on the third floor."
"I would like to have my old room in the castle."
"The castle is closed completely. It would not be fair to the servants to want them to take care of both places."
"You will like your room." His eyes lingered on the other man's lips.
"I will go up now."
Bodie sighed and turned toward the glowing flames in the fireplace. "I would like you to start tomorrow. If you are willing to work each morning, you may have the afternoons free to paint."
"Do I come here?"
"Yes. We will be touring the estate for the next few days. I would like you to see how much change there has been." He turned back to the monk. "I am glad you accepted my offer."
"I had very little choice," came the honest reply. He went to the door but hesitated. "Why did you ask me to come back?"
"It was Sir Guy's offer."
"You did not have to accept it."
"Need you ask?"
Inhaling sharply, Doyle hurried from the room.
"Where is Brother Raymond?" Bodie asked as he looked up from his plate.
"I believe he is involved with morning pryesrs, Sir William."
"I see. You may serve breakfast now, Holmes."
"Very good, Sir."
Doyle met Bodie in his study right after breakfast. There was a hint of tiredness in the monk's face. "You do not appear as though you slept well."
"I am all right. I am ready to do my job, Sir William."
"You called me Will before."
"I prefer Sir William."
"So cold, so distant. Does what you feel frighten you that much?" How gentle he sounded, how understanding and compassionate. He watched the other man grow tense. "I felt the same way, back at the beginning."
"Perhaps we should leave now."
"I no longer feel frightened."
"Have you done a lot of work on the estate?" Why was that hint of fear in his voice? Why was it so hot in here? Why was he having trouble breathing?
"Let us bring this out in the open."
"It would serve no purpose!" Doyle's heart thumped uncontrollably in his chest.
"Then admit the truth."
"The truth? I should not be here! That is the truth! The king should not have closed the monasteries! That is also the truth!"
"That is not the truth I meant and you know it."
"Please!" Heat deluged through him.
"Please? Please? Shall I tell you what would please me?"
"Sir William, you must not do this! It is not right?"
"Right? Yes, the church says it is wrong, but it does not feel wrong within my soul, my mind. The church also states that lying is evil, but if I denied what I am, who I am, would that not be lying?" He watched the battle rage within Doyle. "I want to make love to you. That is the truth. I want to strip you of your clothing and...." He reached out without warning and took firm hold of the monk who had turned to flee. "I want to lie you down and be the first to claim you. I want to hear you moan with desire and pleasure as my hands and my tongue caress you. That is the honesty the priests both demand and denounce!"
"Stop!" He struggled but the ex-mercenary was stronger and he could not break free.
"Which is worse, Brother Raymond, lying or admitting a reality the Church claims as wrong?
"I cannot!" The anguish he felt rang out loud and clear.
Bodie released him. "You are not only a coward, you are a liar." He watched the multitude of changes pass quickly over Doyle's features but his own did not soften. "Let us tour the estate. I need you to make notes on further improvements."
Bodie was not aware that he touched Doyle as often as he did. Sometimes it was only a brief grazing. He needed that contact. It served to put ease in his heart. The expression of love Doyle saw in the other man's blue eyes was real enough and strong enough that it was unmistakable. These things proved chaotic to Doyle. It made him feel restless and awoke emotions in him that turned his sleep into disoriented dreams. On the day he was to leave to return to Sir Guy's home, Bodie said, "You need not go." Joy filled his heart when he saw the indecision in the monk. "I love you." His words were spoken softly, so low only Doyle could hear. Still, the man of God turned, left him.
Doyle's days were filled with loneliness. Despite the demands on his attention the children gave, his thoughts often turned to Bodie. Doyle's nights were worse. The things he fought so often in his conscious state were played out in his dreams. His emotions grew until they overwhelmed him. Conquered, he borrowed a horse on his next day off and rode to Bodie. It seemed to Doyle that the ex-mercenary was waiting for him outside the castle. Sir Robert, who stood speaking with Bodie, left without a word.
"You win." His words were hushed, wooden. His head was lowered in defeat.
"Do I?" Bodie inquired in a detached tone.
"Yes." Doyle dismounted, stood watching the other man.
"I do not think so. Return to Sir Guy, Brother Raymond. I do not want you here if you look upon it as a punishment."
"I cannot live like this!"
Bodie could feel people watching them. "Let us go into the castle. We will have our privacy there."
"I will be going against everything the Church teaches us."
"Yes, but will you be going against your heart?"
There was only a moment's hesitation. "Nay."
Bodie took pity on the other man. He understood that fear, that uncertainty. Doyle was not only a virgin in his body, but in his mind as well. "Let us go in. We will not do anything that you do not wish to do."
Mice scattered as they slipped inside, went to the huge fireplace. They stood staring at each other and then Bodie rested his hand on Doyle's neck. The monk began to tremble. He stepped away, sank down to the floor, huddled there in confusion.
"Shall I leave you alone then?" He fought the pain in his heart.
"Bodie, please!" It meant, no! It meant, help me! It meant...please.... Doyle turned his back, bent his head.
Again, Bodie understood. In love, in tenderness, he went to the other man, knelt down beside him, held the quivering monk.
"Your hands are cold," the soldier of fortune said. He did not attempt to keep the love from his voice. Soothing a path up and down Doyle's back, he murmured, "I know, how terrifying it is, this thing you are feeling. It is new and strong and it is overwhelming you with its intensity." Doyle's arms went around the other man. He buried his face against the other's chest. They sat like that for almost an hour with Bodie stroking the shivering back, murmuring words of encouragement and love and then he lifted the other man's head. Doyle's green eyes held trust but they also contained confusion. They kissed. It was a gentle touching at first. Bodie did not want to scare Doyle. It was the monk who changed the kiss. When Doyle broke the touching, Bodie allowed him the time he needed to come to grips with what he was feeling. he simply held him tightly. Indeed, he had to master his own emotions as well. If he moved too fast, Doyle would become too frightened and run. Bodie did not want that.
His chin touched the bald spot the church had given to Doyle when he took his first vows. "It is a shame they've damaged your hair, Ray. The rest is so soft, so silky, it is a pity they had to had cut it."
The vows he had taken came rushing back to Ray Doyle, and along with that memory came guilt and the feeling of dishonor. He broke loose and ran to the door. Though Bodie wanted to go after him, he knew it would not look right to those who worked outside. Sadness touched his own soul.
Outside, Doyle jumped on the horse he had borrowed from his employer, and rode off.
Bodie too left the castle. Robert walked slowly to him but he said nothing of what he was thinking when he saw the ex-soldier-of-fortune's face. Instead he asked, "Shall we ride into town and check on the delivery of the glass?"
"He might not be able to give in," Robert said in a low, compassionate voice.
That had occurred to William Bodie. "I know," he agreed in desolation. He was almost forty years old. Why in God's good name did he have the bad luck to fall in love with a monk?
Doyle desperately tried to stay away from Bodie. As the weeks passed swiftly, joining summer to fall in a sweeping swirl of color and autumn smells, the monk came to accept that he was physically attracted to the ex-mercenary. The hunger to be held, to be kissed again, continued to multiply within Ray Doyle until he could no longer stay away. His upbringing, the tenets he had been taught, that had been drilled inside him his whole life, fought with what he craved. It was tearing him apart, that vast contradiction between desire and belief.
He rode out to Bodie. When he saw the other man ride out, he followed him. William Bodie went to an old, stone cottage. It was deserted. No one had lived in it for over ten years. Doyle dismounted, went into the cottage. Bodie turned, stared at him in shock and then in cool detachment.
"Why are you here?"
"I want...." He began to shiver violently. Wrapping his arms about his cold body, he whispered, "I need...." His eyes said what his lips could not.
"I am a man," Bodie said roughly. "I know you are innocent, but you cannot play with another's emotions like this, especially when it involves sexual involvement." He watched the embarrassed flush overcome the pale features of Ray Doyle. "There comes a point when a man cannot turn back. I came close to reaching that point the last time you were near me. I am unable to guarantee that this time I will be able to control myself. Perhaps you should go."
Uncertain, a little apprehensive, Doyle murmured, "Nay."
"I am unable to guarantee that this time I will be able to control myself if you stay. I do not want to cause you distress, but I am human and I desire you very much. Do you understand what I am saying?"
"Do you understand the implications?"
"What about your faith?"
"I do not understand why I feel these things, but I do. I have prayed for years but the feeling inside me grows...it does not lessen. I have not stopped believing in God."
"There is no need to give up your faith."
"I love my Lord."
"I know. Perhaps God wants you to be who you are, just as you are."
"I do not know."
"Are you staying?"
"Then you must make the first move."
"I do not know what you want of me."
"What is it you want?"
"I want...I want you to hold me. I want you to kiss me. I want...to feel what you and Sean felt when you were...." He flushed dark red. "...In his cottage. I saw you...I heard...."
"I could go to you, hold you, kiss you, but I want to make sure you want to stay. You are so innocent, you cannot possibly comprehend how difficult it is for a man to pull back when he's fully aroused and I am nearly there already."
Doyle searched the other man's face for a brief moment, then turned, pulled the latch closed on the door. He hesitated, his back turned and then he pulled off his robe. He stood there even then, shivering, listening to the sharp intake of Bodie's breath. Doyle turned slowly. His shaft was beginning to harden.
"You are beautiful, Ray Doyle." He struggled to remain where he was. The monk must come to him.
Doyle walked slowly to Bodie, listed his hand. he caressed the soldier's face. Bodie groaned, closing his eyes, tightening his hands into fists. "Do I do this to you?"
"That and more," Bodie admitted in a strained voice. "Ray!" His eyes were darkened with what he was feeling.
"Touch me," Doyle begged.
"Let me undress first." Bodie stepped back, removed his clothing. They dropped without care to the dirt and stone floor. His penis was already engorged with passion. Doyle, suddenly shy, unsure again, turned his head. Bodie tilted it back. "Nay, look at me." The monk did. Thought it was a dark pink, Bodie watched in gladness as the change flowed over Doyle's face, moving rapidly from timorous to desire. "Take my hand, place it on your body. Show me where you want me to touch you."
Doyle did. At first, he kept those fingers on his chest but as awakening continued, the movements went lower until Bodie's hand was caressing Doyle's shaft. Doyle's breath was ragged. A sound issued from his throat. It was almost a whimper. His cock rose, hard and burning, reddened. The veins became prominent. Unable to control his reactions, Doyle began to shake badly. Bodie bent down, took the throbbing penis into his mouth. Doyle cried out and came instantly. Collapsing against the other man, the monk battled to keep his sobs silent, under restraint. Bodie held him. The love he felt for the slimmer man surged upward, nearly over powered him.
"I love you."
Doyle looked into gentle, blue eyes. His own were wet with moisture. "Will...." The words were too many, too full of emotions to speak aloud. He didn't have to. Bodie understood every single thing the other man did not say.
Guilt ate away at Doyle. He had trouble looking at the children when he sat in their school room teaching them about King Arthur. He dreamed at night of Bodie, their lovemaking. At times, he awoke, his bed with his ejaculation. He desperately wanted to go back but contrition was a heavy blanket around him. The battle began to show itself on his face. Sir Guy called him in.
"The children are concerned about you," Sir Guy said.
"I do not understand."
"Cedric said you are growing exhausted and Mary claims you are sad. Is something wrong? Do you need time away from us?"
"Nothing is wrong. I have not been sleeping as I should but I hope I am doing my toil in a satisfactory manner."
"You are. The children love you. Is there anything I can do?"
"I am sorry I have given you cause for concern."
"I want you to take the next two days off, rest. I will have Bridget watch the children." He held up his hand when Doyle began to protest. "Nay! I insist. I forget you are a human being, the same as I am. You are with the children constantly. You rarely take your days off, and that is one thing I demand must cease."
"I like being with the children." They are my guard against going to him.
"I know you do, but you can do them little good if you have collapsed from exhaustion."
Sighing in a tiredness that sprang from his soul, Doyle gave in.
Sir Guy gave him the next Monday afternoon off. Doyle spent the time in front of his crucifix, praying. His body cried out for the touch of Bodie. His penis woke, engorged rapidly as Doyle recalled every single second of his hour of love with Bodie. Even his anus seemed alive. There in the privacy of his room, he reached up beneath his robe, caressed the tiny, crinkled bit of flesh. It throbbed beneath his touched, like his penis did. Without realizing why he did so, his finger went in. His breathing sharpened. The emotions nearly overcame him. Shocked, he threw himself prone on the floor. He prayed feverously but the heat within him became a torment. Doyle felt the burden of his soul, sore and grievous, massive in its tribulation...but he went to Bodie. The fever had won.
Bodie was having a hard time on his own. He had had a very small taste of Ray Doyle and wanted more. He wanted to lie beside him at night, wake up each morning. He needed to kiss the other man awake each and every day. How wonderful it would be to share breakfast, lunch, dinner, to tell the world that they were lovers. It became an obsession with him.
"All the servants wonder who it is," Robert said beneath his voice one day as they went over plans to increase wheat output.
"Who what is?"
"The one who has claimed your mind and heart. They never see you with anyone and cannot tell who it is."
"I pay them. I see that their cottages are kept repaired. I see to it that medical care is given to them. Those should be the only things that should concern them."
"They like you. It disturbs them to see you so sad. Good God, man, if he means that much to you, go after him!" The look Bodie threw at him did not faze him. "Then find another lover. I know from the gossips that Sean is willing to take you on again."
"It is not the same thing."
"Robert...." A noise from the doorway drew their attention. Bodie's butler stood there.
"I beg your pardon, Sir, but Brother Raymond is here to see you."
Bodie stifled the joy that sprang up. He was able to say in a normal tone, "Please show him in." He turned to de Grippe.
"I know, Robert, will you please allow us to be alone."
"Yes, I will, but may I offer a small suggestion?"
"And that is...?"
"Do not allow him to leave."
"I cannot hold him captive."
Bodie made a strangled noise beneath his breath. Doyle entered the room and the ex-soldier-of-fortune forgot to breathe.
He stood up, held out his hand. "Brother Raymond."
Robert de Grippe shut the door firmly behind as he left.
"I did not think you would come back."
It was that expression of disheartened acceptance that tore the blinders from Doyle's heart and soul. The love he felt for Bodie flooded him with joy. His face glowed like sunshine for the incandescence of his soul shone through. It was a radiance only God could give. It vanquished all guilt. How could such love be wrong?
Bodie saw it, recognized it, and stared in wonder. He felt the tension leave his body. He felt the aloneness, the loneliness that had become a part of him so very long ago, relinquish its hold. He went to the monk. They did not touch for a moment then the ex-mercenary's hand cupped the other's face. Doyle put his arms around the soldier, held him close. Bodie fought back tears. His arms tightened around the monk. "Ray!"
Doyle stirred sleepily. He should rise he knew. It was dawn and time for pryesrs. He stretched and winced. His bruises still hadn't healed from two days ago. Bodie's lovemaking had been...well...exuberant to say the least. Doyle's reaction had been just as wild, just as demanding.
Three months.... Doyle smiled in the dimness of his small room. They had been together for three months. Though he and Bodie had only been able to meet on his days off, the loving they had shared had blossomed. It seemed eternal, that deep set emotion, interminable and limitless. It felt like a miracle. Even now Doyle had trouble believing it was all true.
He had felt blessed, beautiful. Bodie loved him! Doyle had waited for God to strike back but He hadn't! True, there were a couple of the servants at Bodie's house that were offended and despised them for the type of love they shared. One, right before he quit, had said Bodie was evil for corrupting a man of the Church. It was, that person had said, like raping a nun! For the most part, though, they all looked the other way. At first, Doyle told Sir Guy he was helping Bodie get his library in order, and he did work on that, for a little while each time he went. Now, he told Sir Guy that he was doing secretarial work for the ex-mercenary. Sir Guy had questioned Doyle's working on his day off but soon dropped that when he saw how relaxed being with Bodie made the monk and said nothing further.
There were times, even now, when fear rose upward in Ray Doyle. Surely such happiness was not right. Surely, breaking God's command for celibacy was immoral. Surely God would strike back. That fear tingled in his stomach now. The sun continued to rise. Doyle continued to live.
A cock crowed. Sighing, Doyle rose, made his absolutions, and then knelt to pray.
Thank you, God....
Her eyes were like a ferret, Doyle decided and then grew ashamed at his unchristian thought. May God forgive me but they are. Her eyes moved up and down him and she smiled faintly in salaciousness. She seems to be devouring me, stripping me. I cannot possibly be seeing what I am seeing. Yet, her eyes made him feel dirty.
"This is Edith, my wife," Sir Guy said as he introduced his newly acquired wife to the servants. One by one, he introduced those who worked for him to his new bride. She stood tall, ultra-slim, regal. Her pure black hair was worn bundled securely in her snood. Her eyes gleamed in disdain as she met each one.
"Are you sure you want a monk working here?" she asked softly. "King Henry seems so set against the Church."
"He has not banned Catholicism yet, and the children love Brother Raymond." He took his wife's hand. "Come on, I would like you to meet the children."
"I do not like her," Mary said a week later as she scowled into her cup of milk. "Her eyes are bad."
Doyle did not like her either. Pardon me, my dear Lord, but I do not! Still it would not due to ease the transition for Mary. "It will take a while for you to adjust to her."
"She calls my painting pointless. She says only a witless fool would waste time doing that."
Doyle had heard her arguing with Sir Guy over that very thing. "Your father has not said anything, Cedric."
"He will," the boy said darkly. "He gives over to her on everything."
"Why is it wrong for you to teach me, Brother Raymond?" Mary asked.
"It is not wrong," Doyle answered, puzzled.
"She says it is. She says I should have a woman taking care of me. She says it does not look right. Even though you are a monk, you are a man. Are you a man?"
"Of course he is a man!" Cedric said scornfully.
Doyle did not smile. He treated her question with respect. "I am a man."
"Is it wrong for you to teach me?"
"I do not think so."
"Nor I!" the boy exclaimed angrily.
Mary's lower lip trembled. "You will not leave me, will you?"
"As long as your father wants me to teach you, I shall."
"I do not like her," Mary said sorrowfully. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She met his eyes with her own forlorn ones.
"Nay, little one, do not weep so." Doyle picked her up, sat down. He settled her on his lap, wiped her tears gently away. She cuddled against him.
"Oh, I do love you, Brother Raymond," she murmured softly.
He stroked her golden curls. "And I love you, Mary."
"How sweet," Edith said from the doorway. "Brother Raymond, may I see you out here in the hallway?"
"Yes, Mrs. Hugh." Doyle settled Mary in the chair and went out into the hallway with his employer's wife.
Edith shut the door firmly. "You seem to like the children."
"I love the children. They are very dear to me." He felt tense, awkward. All week long, from the moment Sir Guy had left on emergency business in London, she had found moments to talk to him, alone, and each time, the woman had touched him, either patting his shoulder or touching his hand. It was clearly sexual. Of that, Doyle had no doubt what-so-ever. When Bodie had done it, it had awakened feelings of desire. When this woman did it, it made him feel soiled.
She fingered his cowl. "What would you do if you had to leave here?"
"I do not know. I would probably seek employment elsewhere."
Her hand rested on his shoulder. "You are very handsome."
"Thank you." He inserted his hands into his sleeves, gripped his arms. She reminded him of the men who had visited his adopted father.
"Is it true a man must take a vow of celibacy when he enters the priesthood?"
"Is it true a man must be pure when he goes in?"
"Nay, but many are."
"Mrs. Hugh, I do not think we should be speaking thusly." He took a step away but she moved and blocked his exit. He would have to push past her to get away, and since that meant touching her, he hesitated. He did not know how Sir Guy would react to his moving his wife bodily out of the way.
She licked her lips, swept her eyes over his body. The gleam of lust in her ebony eyes became more pronounced. "My husband will be in London for another week. He wanted me to go to him but I told him I wished to remain here. Do you know why?"
"Nay, Mrs. Hugh." Liar! his conscious screamed. You know what she means! Sickness welled up inside him.
Her hand moved across his chest. Doyle stepped backwards, shocked, disturbed. "I want you."
"Mrs. Hugh, please, you must not do this. It is not right!"
"Many things are done that are not exemplary, Brother Raymond." She plyesd with his hair but he tightened, visibly reacting disfavorably to her touch. Anger flashed in her dark eyes.
"Please, you must not do this!"
"You may be a monk but you are still a man. You cannot possibly think I would believe you have never wanted anyone, that you are not capable of servicing me."
"You must not ask this of me! I cannot do that!"
"Cannot or will not?"
Doyle sighed. The look of anger in her eyes disturbed him. "I must not." I do not like your touch. I do not like your nearness. God help me, I do not like you! Her fingers traced his lower lip. He jerked backward, pale and horrified. "You must not do this!"
"You are very naive if you think this is shocking. I could tell you tales I have seen, from the homes I have been in." Her eyelids lowered until she stared at him through slits. "I have heard tales of your father. I will not believe he kept his affairs concealed from you. You cannot possibly be as innocent as you are pretending to be."
"Madam, whether or not I am untouched is not in question here. You are a married woman. Even if I were not a monk, I would not have physical knowledge of you. The sanctity of marriage should halt this desire within you. It is against everything the Church teaches!" So is what you and Bodie do, his conscious taunted. Guilt, so long ago vanquished, so long ago forgotten, returned to mock him. It was like a darkness that hovered within touching range of him, a shadowy, heavy cloud that slowly grew oppressive.
"I do not enjoy being turned down."
"I must! It is not right." Right? his mind demanded. You stand before her and tell her this thing she wants is wrong yet you have copulation with Bodie. What a hypocrite you are! A man of the Church? What would the Holy Father say if he knew? The guilt grew into shame.
"You will regret telling me no." Suddenly, she smiled. "I will give you two days to change your mind."
"Two days, three weeks, a year, Madam, the answer will remain the same: I will not break this law of God. I will not do that to Sir Guy. He has been very good to me."
"I can make a great deal of trouble for you. How much do want to stay with the children?"
"Very much, but you are already aware of that, yet, I cannot change my mind." His eyes showed the sickness that welled up within him.
"You will regret telling me no." With coldness in her eyes, she left him.
It was another week and a half before Sir Guy returned to his home. It took less than an hour before Doyle and another servant, Jonathan Mort, were called before Sir Guy. The duke's eyes were filled with abhorrence. His jaws were tight. Behind him, Edith stood in triumph.
"My wife tells me she discovered the two of you...." He swallowed his disgust. "She tells me you two are lovers." Sir Guy stood up, walked toward Doyle. "I trusted you with the care of my children! How dare you bring this...this...unnaturalness into my home."
"I am not Jonathan's lover," Doyle said calmly.
"He lies as well, Guy. How can you trust him?" Edith said in silky condemnation. "Think of your son."
"God, my son. If either of you have touched him, I will kill both of you!"
"I am not his lover," Doyle repeated calmly. "And you know I would not harm your children. I love them." His eyes sought the woman's and she lowered hers. There been no remorse in those black eyes, but there had been jubilation.
"I am to wed Sarah!" Jonathan said in shock. "She is going to have my child! I am not...I would not...!" Horror twisted his features. "I would not touch a man!"
Sir Guy did not believe them. The way his wife described what she had seen had been too vivid, too realistic. She could not have made something like that up. His eyes raked Doyle. "I trusted you. I loved you as a brother and you do this to me."
"I have done nothing, Sir Guy."
"Are you saying my wife lied?"
"I am suggesting she misunderstood something she saw." Lie? Yes, she lied. I pity you, sir. You have brought a viper into your home and this woman will destroy you.
"I caught them in the woods, naked, Guy, and the monk was down on his hands and his knees! That filthy man..." and she pointed to Jonathan... "was squealing like a pig as he...." She shuddered delicately. "I came near to fainting. To think that they would do something like that out in the open. What if the children had come upon them?"
Sir Guy closed his eyes as he waited to regain his composure. "Both of you will leave this house this very moment. And you...sir...." He choked on the word. "You will not see Mary and Cedric again! And I swear, if you try to take another post where there are children, I will see that you are fired."
"I did not do what she said, and I would not harm your children."
Sir Guy backhanded him. Doyle stood in silence, wiping the blood from his mouth as the other man harangued him. When the duke had stopped, turned from him, only then did Doyle go up to his room, pack his few belongings and leave the house.
Where would he go? What would he do?
The thought of going to Bodie entered his mind and was briskly pushed aside. It had been wrong, that love he had felt for William Bodie, wrong, immoral. This was God's way of telling him. Doyle had enticed the mercenary, compelled him to sin but that did not mean he should continue to do so. It was a double evil encouraging another to transgress with him. Therefore, he would leave.
The thoughts returned: Where would he go? What would he do?
Bodie waited...and waited. The time came and went for Doyle's usual weekly visit. Three weeks had passed and Doyle did not come, did not contact him. There was a chance that Doyle had reverted back to his feelings of guilt. Bodie sincerely hoped not. He swallowed his pride and went to Sir Guy's home.
"I am sorry," Holmes said stiffly, "Brother Raymond is no longer with us."
"Why? Where did he go?"
"Perhaps you should speak to Sir Guy. Shall I ask him if he will see you?"
Bodie did not like that tightness around the other man's mouth. There was something wrong. "What happened?"
"I am sorry, sir. You shall have to ask Sir Guy that. Shall I ask him if he can see you now?"
"Yes." Bodie stood impatiently in the hall, waiting.
A young girl came running down the stairs. A woman appeared behind her. She was dressed in black. She was old, dour. Standing at the top of the stairway, she ordered, "Mary! You return to the nursery right this minute!"
The girl stopped, turned. Staring in mutiny upwards, she yelled, "I won't!"
Another woman appeared. She was exotic in her darkness. The deep crimson of her gown should have made her look beautiful but there was something about her that made Bodie tensed. "Mary! You obey Mrs. Crimshaw this instant."
"I hate you!" Mary stamped her foot. "I want Brother Raymond back!"
"What an evil, wicked girl you are." The woman in red stepped down, saw Bodie and stopped. "Mrs. Crimshaw, make her return to her room."
"I hate you! You lied about Brother Raymond! You liked!"
The old, dour woman walked briskly toward the girl but Mary finished her escape.
"Did you want something?" the woman in red asked coolly as she descended in cold regalness.
"I am here to see Sir Guy."
Her brow arched upward in question. "I am Sir Guy's wife. May I help you?"
"I have come to inquire after Brother Raymond."
Edith's features grew taut. "We had to dismiss him."
"Why?" He realized his tone had been too sharp, too demanding. "I apologize."
"What is he to you?" Her own tone was just as sharp. It held a touch of suspicion.
Bodie wondered why his question was so antagonistic to her. "He was acting as my secretary on his days off."
"I see." She probed every inch of his face.
Holmes appeared. "Sir Guy will see you now, Sir William."
"Thank you. Madam...?" She nodded aristocratically and he left her.
Sir Guy looked up from his desk. He stood up. "Sir William...."
"Holmes tells me you wanted to see me about Brother Raymond?"
"Yes, Sir Guy. I understand he has left here?"
"I dismissed him almost three weeks ago." A strange expression passed rapidly over his face.
"Why?!" Sir Guy's features revealed his surprise and then his displeasure over Bodie's brusque voice. Bodie refused to back down but he mellowed his tone. "Do you know where he has gone?"
"Nay. What is he to you?"
"I consider him a good friend." Bodie's eyes grew icy blue. His gaze challenged the other man who looked away. Was Bodie really seeing chagrin on the duke? Why was it there? And...what had he done to Doyle? "May I ask why you dismissed him?"
Sir Guy hesitated and then said, "I thought it was best."
"I would really like to know why you discharged him."
"It is my turn to ask you why."
"As I said, he is my friend and because he is, I cannot see him doing anything that would cause his termination."
"I did it for the children."
"I do not understand. He loved your children."
"I know." Sir Guy closed his eyes briefly, sighed deeply.
"It was brought to my attention that he and another servant were having sexual relations...."
"Brother Raymond?!" Bodie's eyes grew wide. His tone held incredulous overtones. That was one statement the ex-soldier refused to accept.
"I saw them myself," Edith said from the doorway.
"My wife, Sir William."
"We met out in the hall. Madam...."
She entered the room with graceful, flowing motion. She went to her husband, placed her hand on his shoulder. Sir Guy's features altered swiftly, moving rapidly from love to guilt to sadness. She smiled, toyed with his hair. "As I said, I saw them myself." When Bodie said nothing, she glanced at him and her eyes narrowed. "He and the cook's assistant, Jonathan Mort, were engaged in sexual misconduct. I happened upon them. If it had been the children...." Her eyes defied Bodie but again, he said nothing. "And Guy has a son who must be protected."
"Brother Raymond would not touch his son." Bodie's voice was hard, threatening. His mind added silently, And he would not touch Jonathan Mort. He had no doubt about that truth, no doubt at all.
"I dismissed him, Sir William," Sir Guy said in an old, tired voice. "I do not know where he went."
"Thank you. Sir...Madam...." His blue eyes informed the woman that he knew she had lied. She only smiled faintly at him while her black orbs mocked his knowledge.
On his way home, Bodie wondered why Doyle had not gone to him when he was thrust out into the world?
Doyle exhaled wearily as he stared down at his sandal. The strap had broken again.
"I pay you so little you cannot afford to get new ones?" Jacob asked. He popped his pipe back into his mouth and puffed contentedly on it.
"I know I should buy another pair. I do not think these will last through the cold weather."
"Everyone should be so wise." Doyle stifled a smile. "You did not eat breakfast. Is it you do not like my Leah's cooking?" The old man's inflection was one of quiet concern.
"Jacob, you know I love the way she cooks. I did not have time to eat this morning," Doyle told the other. He bent over, lifted the barrel of fish and settled it carefully into the small wagon. It was no longer as hard to lift the heavy cask as it had been five months ago. Doyle wiped the perspiration from his forehead. After loosening his leather jerkin, he grabbed another keg.
He had realized, after having left Sir Guy's house five months ago, that Bodie would search for him. He would be looking for a monk. It disturbed Doyle to do it, but he had removed his robe, replaced it by an inexpensive outfit of wool tunic and short breeches. At the beginning, he often caught himself feeling naked, feeling cold. He was adjusted to his new style of clothing now though. Not seeing Bodie was another matter. His dreams were still filled with loving him, with the feeling of being cherished whenever that ex-mercenary touched him.
"There is a time for everything under the sun. Morning is the time for eating breakfast."
"I was praying."
"Praying will not keep you from collapsing unto the dirt from starvation."
"I will not faint from hunger, Jacob." Doyle smiled when the other man made a disgruntled sound beneath his breath.
"You are so young, you know more than me."
"I have two bits of news for you." Doyle stopped, turned his gaze upon the other man. "I heard from my brother this morning." Doyle's face questioned him. Jacob smiled smugly. "Mordechai liked your design. May God forgive him for stealing my best worker." He watched the huge, pleased smile appear and remain on the other man's face. "It looks like I'll be training a new worker. He wants you to start tomorrow."
"Jacob, I am sorry to leave you without anyone but I do want to work with your brother."
"Oh, yes, your talent is being wasted here. I can give you food for your soul like he can? Nay. Designing jewelry is much better than this. Am I short cousins? Everyone needs a job. Go to Jacob in Liverpool, they are told. He needs workers. Am I so rich I can hire every cousin I have? Ah, but this one that came last is big and husky. He has no brains but who needs them when his body is so strong?"
"Not like mine?" Doyle teased, a twinkle in his beautiful, green eyes.
Jacob chuckled. "You have come a long way."
"You were very patient with me. I thank God for you."
"From your mouth to God's ear."
"Thank you for showing Mordechai my work."
"You deserve it." He puffed on his thin, long, curved pipe again. "'Sides, he was very impressed that I would recognize your talent. Not such a nosh after all."
"You said you have two bits of information for me?"
"This one might be for you and it might not. It depends, you see, on your past."
"My...past?" He could feel his face closing, growing tense. A coldness invaded his stomach. Nay....
"A man was asking around for a monk. His description matched you except for the lack of a robe and the top of your head. You have no bald spot."
"Nay." I let my hair grow back in. I was trying to hide from Bodie, in case he did come looking.
"Are you a monk?" Doyle turned his head, chewed his upper lip. "Are you this Brother Raymond this man has been asking about?"
"Yes, I...." He stopped. How could he say he was when he had shed his outer trappings? How could he claim he was a priest when he had no monastery, when he had no church, when he had broken his vow of chastity? Nay, he had to be honest with himself, with Jacob. "I was...at one time. What did the man look like?" He listed in growing dismay as his employer described William Bodie to perfection. "Jacob, I do not want him to know where I am." He could not keep the pain from his voice, out of his eyes. Why couldn't Bodie have stayed away? Why did he have to follow?
"Ray, I have never asked you for any information about your past, and I will not start now."
Jacob said thoughtfully. "A man has a right to his inner freedom. It was clear to me you were not a murderer, a thief. That was good enough for me." He accepted the look of gratitude with a small smile of fondness for the young man. "I will keep quiet but I have no control over anyone else."
"I know." He closed in eyes in exhaustion. Would it never end?
"When you get that last keg loaded, go into supper."
"So what is wrong? You do not like my Leah's chicken soup?"
"Jacob...." Doyle shook his head.
"Consider it an order, Ray." Doyle nodded reluctantly. "Now, that was not so hard, was it?" he teased.
Doyle laughed lightly. "Nay."
Mordechai watched in thoughtful speculation as Doyle corrected a minor flaw in his design. The young man was a hard worker. In the last two weeks, he had produced compositions, styles, that had caught the eye of more than one prosperous client. His profit had increased 45% in the last two days alone. Mordechai lit another candle and placed in a good spot. Doyle glanced up briefly, smiled faintly as a thank you and then bent back over the intricate drawing.
The jeweler went back out to the front of the shop. A man entered. He was tall, muscular, dark haired. There was an old, tired look about the stranger. "May I help you?"
The man removed a small painting. He held it out toward Mordechai. "Have you seen this man?"
The jeweler took the painting, studied it. He knew who it was instantly. It was Doyle, but a Doyle in the garb of a monk. "Why are you looking for him, if I may ask? Is he a thief?"
The stranger hesitated then said slowly, "He is a friend of mine. He simply disappeared one day and I was worried."
"Why did he vanish from your side if you two are friends?"
"The man who employed him blamed him for something he had not done. Why he did not come to me for help, I do not know. He left without saying anything to anyone."
"I see. Who are you?"
The man exhaled raggedly. "I am Sir William Bodie. Have you seen him?"
"I might have. Where are you staying? If this is who I think it is, I will send word to you." Bodie told him and then left. Mordechai went back in to Doyle and met the younger man on Doyle's way out. "A man was here looking for you." He was unprepared for the shock that Doyle would feel. Doyle turned pure white. The quill in his hand dropped unheeded to the floor. Mordechai grabbed him before he fell. "Are you ill? Or are you afraid of this man?"
"Ray...." Another voice sounded from the doorway, another voice that brought back memories. If it were humanly possible, Doyle turned even whiter. Mordechai scrutinized the stranger from the showroom, the one who had called himself Bodie. He did not feel any danger from him, toward either him or Doyle. He could see the agony in the man's eyes, though, strong hurting that came from the very depths of Bodie's soul. A memory of his own came back to haunt Mordechai. The suffering and the grief he had felt when his beloved wife had died, returned strong and clear. Bodie loved Doyle. Of that, Mordechai had no doubt. Mordechai was not offended or shocked. He had lived to long to feel either of those.
"Why did you leave like that? Why have you been hiding from me? You could have come to me. I would not have turned you away." The pain of rejection, of abandonment, was still fresh in Bodie's mind, his heart. It was jagged and harsh in his voice. "Why did you not come to me?!"
"I will leave you two alone, but if you need me, Ray, call out." Neither of the other two heard him. He hurried out, shutting the door quietly behind him. Rachel! his heart cried out to the memory of the dark haired, laughing woman that had meant so much to him. Oh yes, he understood Bodie's pain all too clearly.
"I did what I thought was best for the both of us," Doyle told his ex-lover in a quiet voice.
"The best?" Bodie ran his hands through his hair. "I was terrified that you had been impressed by the navy or way laid by robbers. I pictured you lying on the side of the road, bleeding to death." The anguish threatened to boil over.
"I did what I thought was the best thing to do."
"Without consulting me? Without asking me what I wanted? Did you think I would not care?!" The torment overflowed. "Damn you! I searched all over the place for you!" He hurried forward, grabbed Doyle's arms with tight, hurting fingers. "You did what you thought was best? Best for whom?" He shook Doyle. "Best for whom, damn you!"
"William, please. We are not alone."
"I do not care what the world hears or thinks, not any longer." He reached up, clutched Doyle's hair, jerked his head backwards. "Do you know what sorrow and agony you caused me? Did you even stop and think what your leaving like that would do to me?"
"William, please...." His mouth opened in silent pain as Bodie's fingers grew tighter.
Bodie moved rapidly away, went to clutch the top of Doyle's stool. "Damn you. I did my best to understand your fear, your reluctance to admit the love that we have for each other. I never pushed you, never forced you to make a stand. I made allowances for your apprehension, for your belief in the church. This leaving of yours...." He whirled rapidly, glared at the slimmer man. "How could you just leave like that?! How could you hurt me like that!?"
"Our love is wrong."
"Wrong? I love you more than anyone I have ever loved. A joy fills me when you are with me. A contentment like I have never known before comes to me when I see you smile, when I hear you speak. Shall I tell you what I feel when we make love?"
"You are a coward." Doyle lowered his head, ashamed. "You have won, Ray Doyle. You wanted me out of your life, and I am leaving." He took two steps toward the door, stopped. Without turning around, he asked in a strangled voice, "When you lie alone at night, do you ever think of me?" There was no reply. "I will never forgive you for this." I will never forget you.... He dropped the painting Cedric had done and vanished rapidly through the door.
He had done the right thing so why did it hurt so much? Doyle stood there, frozen as distress turned rapidly to mental and emotional torment. He had done the right thing. He knew he had...hadn't he?
Months crept by...winter came and went, spring, summer.... The pain grew. It should have lessened but it did not. Doyle prayed for guidance. He pleaded with God for release. He begged for forgiveness. Love to him remained a living, breathing man called Bodie. Doyle did not understand. How many sleepless nights passed? How many times during the day did he stop and stare blankly at his work? His food had no taste. The young man began to loose weight again. Dark circles appeared and remained.
Mordechai stopped him at his work one day and said, "I am going to tell you what I would tell my own son if I had been blessed with one, which I was not." Doyle looked up, listless, hollowed eyed. "Real love is a gift. Not everyone is granted that priceless offering. Do you love him?" Doyle flushed darkly and looked down at his hands. "Everyone must face God in his own way, but can you face him knowing you threw away his gift?"
"I cannot, Jacob."
"It is not right."
"Because a group of men got together and decided it was evil? It was not always looked upon as wrong, but I will not get into religious beliefs. Now is not the time. You should listen to me. I am older and I know what I am saying. Your soul is dying, Ray."
"I pray constantly."
"For what? Do you ask God to destroy that love he has given you? Do you love our Great Creator so much you would shun his path for you?"
"But it is not from him!"
"How do you know? Are you so perfect your mind and God's are the same?"
"The men who lead you are not so flawless. Name me one who is so clean and pure he talks face to face with God."
"You know I cannot do that."
"Yet you listen to them and not the what God has put in your own heart. My son, if he had been given to me, would not have been so stupid, may God be so pleased. You destroy yourself. Is that not a sin?" Doyle rubbed the back of his aching neck. "Thou shall not bear false witness! You are taught that?"
"Denying the truth, is that not bearing false witness?"
It took a moment, but.... "Yes."
"When you are with him, how do you feel?"
"You sit here denying your love and let your soul die when you could be with him and allow your spirit to thrive? I do not understand you. I loved once, like you love this Bodie person. When Rachel died, I wanted to join her. My very being lamented for her. I wanted to shrivel up, blow away like the dust. I loved, but even now, I am only half alive. Your soul mourns but Bodie is still living."
Doyle covered his weary face with his hands. He couldn't think. Why couldn't he think? Why was it so hard to do what was right.
"If you were on your bed this minute, dying, what would be the last thought on your mind?" Doyle only shook his head. "If this Bodie man were dying and sent for you, would you go to him?"
"Yes." There was no hesitation, no feeling of wrongness.
"If the doctor told you Bodie only had one month left to live, would you stay with him?"
"Six months? A year? How do you know how much time you have left? Are you God you can decide the length of time you spend here on Earth?"
Doyle stood up. "I understand what you are trying to tell me."
"Are you able to get another worker?"
"Mordechai, what if he does not want me? He said, when he left...."
"What if? Am I God to know such things? You go. If he closes the door in your face, you come back here. Would I turn down such a worker as you? I should have horns like a goat for being so stupid. Go...go!"
"William...." Robert nodded his head toward the edge of the forest. Bodie looked up, saw Doyle. He felt his heart hardening. Robert de Grippe saw the stony, steel like tightening of the man's jaw. when his employer made no move to go to the ex-monk, de Grippe said softly, "Go to him."
"Tell him to leave, or I will have the sheriff arrest him."
"Tell him yourself."
Bodie glared at him. "You are not indispensable, Robert."
"No," came the agreeable reply. "Neither is love."
"Am I supposed to let him come back and wait until the next time he takes it into his head to leave?"
"You can always lock him in the dungeon." Bodie gave him a sour look. "You can chain him to the bed. We kept Sir Richard's toys."
Robert de Grippe only laughed. He faked a yawn. "I am going in for an early tea." He turned his horse and rode off.
Bodie followed his retreat for a moment before turning his attention back to Doyle. He saw the anguish on the other man's face and for one brief moment, he was glad. His own pain came rushing back. "Damn you!" he muttered. "Why did you come back!?" He rode after de Grippe.
At the edge of the forest, Doyle turned away. He did not blame Bodie for turning from him. The ex-priest turned and began a slow, tired withdrawal. A horse's hooves sounded behind him. He pivoted. Bodie reigned up only a few feet away. His white stallion reared but the ex-solider reined him in with hands of steel.
"Why did you come back?!"
"I had wanted...I had hoped...." Why was it so hard to speak? The words were there in his brain, swirling around. Why couldn't he get them back. He managed to say, "I love you."
"For how long?" Bodie's voice was harsh, demanding. He rode closer. "For how long this time, Ray?"
"I do not blame you for being so angry with me. I deserve it."
"Damn right you do. I held nothing back, nothing. Did I chase you away when my servants found out we were having an affair?"
"Did I make you keep away when several of them became antagonistic toward me?"
Bodie ran his hand through his hair. "I tried to make allowances for you."
"I know you did." Love bloomed in Doyle's features. His face glowed like sunshine. It revealed itself in the melody of his voice.
Bodie felt his heart melting and hardened himself. Not again, he told himself. Not again. His eyes searched the woods, frantically searching for something to catch and keep his eyes away from the beautiful form at his feet...but he scheme failed and his gaze returned to Doyle anyway. His anger returned as well....
"I knew this was not going to be easy for you, but you ran. Damn it! You ran!"
"I thought I was doing the right thing."
"And the next time you decide it would be upright and moral for you to be elsewhere? What happens if you decide it would be the honorable thing to stay away from me? What then?"
"It will not happen again."
"Can you guarantee that?"
"I give my word of honor."
"If you ever leave again, I will not follow. Do you understand that?"
Bodie studied the other man. There was no welcoming on his tanned, rugged face, none in his blue eyes. "Do you need a job?"
"I would like to work for you."
"My secretary is leaving at the end of the week. The job is yours...if you want it. You can sleep with the servants."
Doyle flinched from the look of near contempt in Bodie's stare. "As you will...Sir William."
It didn't take long for the other servants to notice that their lord and master was no longer involved sexually with the monk. That was what Doyle was to them. He may not be wearing the robe but in their minds, in their hearts, he was a priest. The coolness the servants had felt for Bodie began to dissipate.
"You are a miserable bastard," Robert grumbled. He sniffed the bouquet of the brandy he was drinking.
"Just do it," Bodie said coldly. "And I do not like your drinking all my brandy. Do you know how much that costs?"
"I am not drinking 'all your brandy.' And yes, I do know what it costs. I purchased it for your birthday, remember?"
"Yes." Bodie's mind went back to the small painting Doyle had given him, how he had acknowledged it without touching it, without truly looking at it or admiring its form and color. He had seen the hurt look in Doyle's eyes but the thorns Bodie had placed around his heart was such a strong barrier, that that pain did not touch the ex-soldier. The painting had been placed in the storage shed. Cold Bodie might be but he was not stupid. If he were to look at the piece of art day after day, the thorns around his heart would die and the agony he had felt would return. That was something he did not want.
Bodie scowled at de Grippe. "Are you going or do I get a new second in command?"
Robert set the glass down with a gentle bang. "Yes, your Lordship, anything you say, your lordship."
"I can replace you, de Grippe. Do not show your insolent side to me again."
"And I can seek employment elsewhere. Do not treat me like you do Doyle. I am not in love with you."
They glared at each other a moment before Bodie rose, went to stand stiff legged before the window. "Get out."
"Are you deaf?"
"Nay, nor am I blind. You are eating yourself up alive."
Bodie whirled. His blue eyes flashed warning. "Be silent!"
"I will not. We have been with each other too long for me to fear you or your anger. If you keep your heart shrouded too long, it will die and you will never be able to love again." He ignored the rage building up in the other man. "Forgive him! To hold this choler this long is stupid. I have never know you to be this witless."
Bodie growled and hurried from the room. Why he went in search of Doyle, he did not know. His heart did but his brain did not. Doyle glanced up from the huge tome he was copying and froze.
Bodie simply stood there. He could feel the barrier that kept his heart melting away. He tried desperately to keep it there but it rapidly vanished. The fear that Doyle would leave again returned. Doyle saw the terror in the other man's eyes and hurried to him. Bodie took a step backward.
"What is wrong?"
"I want you to leave here, seek employment elsewhere!"
"But why? Is my work unsatisfactory?"
"I cannot bear your presence!"
Doyle sensed Bodie was lying. "Nay?" He stepped backwards, pealed off his shirt. "Nay?"
Doyle ran his hands over his chest, rubbed his fingers across his small, brown paps. He watched Bodie lick his lips. He moved his left hand downward to rub his penis through his breeches. He amazed himself with his lack of modesty. One year ago, this would have shocked him. Yet, if it would win Bodie back. The ex-soldier closed his eyes. His hands clenched into fists by his sides. Doyle walked softly to him, cupped Bodie's shaft. Bodie jerked, groaning.
"Nay...." He did not move. he could not but his eyes showed his panic. The enclosure around his soul was a thin crust, a crumpling, thin crust that had no strength.
Doyle took the rigid body into his arms, kissed the cold, stiff lips. Moaning, Bodie's last reserve broke and he claimed the other's offering with fierce desire.
The flimsy shell turned into dust and blew away. The love returned in full force. It nearly overwhelmed Bodie who clung to Doyle with hungry, fearful arms, shaking uncontrollably.
Doyle held him until the shivering vanished. "I wish I had never hurt you," he whispered into the ex-mercenary's ear. "I wish we could go back and I could undo that senseless act I pulled."
"You hurt me."
"I hurt myself. Do you think it was easy living, dreaming of you at night, wanting you near, seeing you in the daytime in every tall, dark haired man that came near me? Sometimes the pain choked me so badly, I could not eat. Sometimes the sadness surrounded me in such a thick curtain of darkness, I could not sleep."
"Oh, God...." Bodie buried his face in Doyle's neck.
Doyle felt wetness and sighed in tired acceptance. He had done what he had thought was right but it had only caused misery and sorrow. He could not undo the past but he could do his best to make it up to William Bodie. "Do we have time to go to your room and make love?" he whispered.
Bodie lifted his head. His eyes, already bright with unshed tears, grew brighter with desire. They went up to Bodie's room.
Downstairs, Robert de Grippe smiled in relief. Whistling, he went about his business.
-- THE END --