Excerpt At the end of the hall, Talbot leaned against the stone wall. He teetered to one side as he down the last of the amber liquid in his bottle. Maxime frowned. He wanted his friend sober for their conversation. His friend’s head swiveled and Maxime stared into Talbot’s icy blue eyes.
The oppressive heat of the upper level accented by the high sun had Maxime sucking in a deep breath. He tried to rationalize that the thick air left him short of breath and not the way Talbot’s shirt lay open. Beads of sweat glistened on his bare chest.
“You cannot marry her, Maxime.” The bottle slipped from Talbot’s fingers. It clanked on the floor but did not shatter. He stumbled along the wall.
“I have no choice.” He tensed as the smell of alcohol hit his nose.
“There is always a choice.” Talbot came inches from his face.
Maxime pressed against the wall, his gaze never leaving Talbot’s. “Non, my friend. I must marry. It will not lessen our friendship. I will always welcome you under my roof.”
“Even if a rake like me invades your bedchamber?”
Maxime let out a nervous laugh, the heat of Talbot’s skin searing his flesh. “I trust you, mon ami. You have been in many beds but none were married women.”
“It is not your future wife that should be cautious.” Talbot claimed his mouth and Maxime groaned against the invasion.
The taste of the cognac mixed with the sweet elixir of Talbot, and Maxime deepened the kiss. It was a maddening urge, one Maxime wanted to resist, but he couldn’t deny the intense desire his longtime friend sparked within him. All the women they pillaged together as they toured the countryside, the gentle camaraderie slaps of congratulation at every plucked maiden, nothing compared to the need Talbot drew out of him. Maxime jerked away, gasping for air.
“This is not the way of it, Talbot. We are heavy with drink.”
“You are not drunk, mon ami. You never were.” Talbot’s hand slipped down the front of Maxime’s pants. “The wine was always for me so that I could love you as you wanted to love me.”
Maxime, his member thickened from their sinful kiss, responded to his friend’s intimate touch. He palmed Talbot’s hand to urge his friend on. All the women he had entered to prove his manhood to his father and friends, in the presence of Talbot his thoughts wandered into more decadent flesh. When he thrust into the mewing offerings of the willing daughters of men, he never saw the wondrous glow of pale fleshy orbs but the soft downy hairs gracing Talbot’s chiseled chest.
“Do not deny me again, Maxime. Your cock will always tell the truth.” Talbot breathed into his ear and flicked his tongue along the lobe.
Maxime reared up and shoved Talbot away at the sound of Marcel’s voice. His father had come home before the ink even dried on his letter. Shame bore into Maxime’s flesh as he adjusted his clothing. “I must go greet him.” His gaze stayed to the cold stone floor, unwilling to peer into Talbot’s eyes. His footfalls echoed off the walls. At the bottom of the stairs, Maxime forced a smile at the sight of his father. Beside him stood two stocky men—both bearing the mark of the magistrate from Paris. Maxime’s father started forward but halted in his tracks.
The light step of Talbot sounded behind Maxime and his father’s demeanor changed.
“What is he doing here?” He pointed a frail finger toward Talbot, venom spewing from his lips.
“He is my guest, Father, as he is most summers.”
“I should have come home at once when I heard this whore disappeared in Paris.” His father hacked and wheezed. The physical signs of his failing health were etched in the lines cut deep in his face. Even so, the old man bore an angry red glow on his cheeks. “This man is wanted in Paris for sodomy. I hope you did not let the lecherous fool get you cup sodden so he could to defile you as if you were a woman.”
“He has done no such thing, I—”
“Enough!” Another bout of lung-jarring coughing rasped from his father’s chest. “I will hear no more. At dawn, you will defend the honor of this house against this fornicator in a duel.” He gestured to the two men beside him. “Take him upstairs in chains and lock him in his room for now. The guillotine is too clean of a death for him. I will have a word with my son alone.”
Maxime’s heart lodged in his throat, threatening to constrict what precious air he could suck in. If Maxime had the choice of his friend’s death, Talbot would be whisked away back to Paris to face the guillotine rather than die at the hands of his new lover. Instead, his father demanded his son gun down his dearest friend. The long buried longing for his best friend throughout his childhood thundered in his chest. He had to find a way to save his friend from his fate.