Nothing has ever excited Tylen Merodine more than being invited by the Regent himself to celebrate the first solar eclipse in his planet’s recorded history. It’s the party of the millennium, and if he has to restrain his normal exuberant instincts to fit in, that’s what he’ll do to be a part of it. His good intentions vanish, however, the moment he’s presented to the Regent. Because there, in a gilded cage, playing music unlike anything Tylen’s ever heard, is the most beautiful alien he could imagine.
For more than twenty years, Dek has lived in captivity, performing at the whim of those who see him as an animal. The Regent is just the latest in a long line of owners, and while he’s kind, he’s still blind to Dek’s sentient nature. Only music gives Dek a voice, until Tylen breaks the rules and sneaks in to see and speak to him alone.
The time they have together is stolen and precious, the minutes ticking away until the eclipse is past and they have to go back to the way their lives were before. But when the Regent shows an unexpected interest in Tylen’s future, they begin to wonder if their worlds need to remain so separate...
Genres: Gay/Science Fiction/Futuristic/Interracial/Multicultural/The Arts
Heat Level: 3
Length: Extended Novella (35k words)
Read a short excerpt...
...My attempt to try to defuse my embarrassment was met with a frown and a shake of his head. “I wouldn’t do that. You cannot help your circumstances. You are what you are.”
I snorted. “You need to tell that to Dourack. All he’s done is lecture me since we left home. He especially wasn’t thrilled with our presentation.”
“Because you broke protocol?”
“Even you noticed?” I sighed. “Damn.”
Dek edged off the bench he sat on and crept forward until he knelt as close as he could to me with the bars still between us. “It’s only bad if it harms your time here. If you had behaved as every other notable Johaf presented today, I would not now have the pleasure to call you friend.” He held out my scrambler. “I hope I do have that pleasure.”
“Of course you do,” I rushed to say. But when I took my scrambler back, I couldn’t look away from his hands. The filaments laid flat against the inside of his fingers, tucked away so tight I wondered if it was deliberate.
I must’ve stared too long because he reached farther, turning his wrist so his palm was up, the fingertips grazing the edges of the bar. Slowly, he splayed his hand, and the strands unfurled in finespun splendor.
“On my planet,” he started, his voice soft and hypnotic, “we do not have the advanced technologies you do. Our homes have no walls. We look to the sky as our creator, the water our mistress. These…” He bent his thumb inward, allowing the longest tendril to emit a single, soft note. “The music is secondary, a consequence for their main purpose.”
“Which is?” My query was a whisper, reverence paid due to the honor of learning something I knew few people understood.
“They help us travel on the wind. We can coast across the water’s surface without fear, then.”
I finally looked up. Dek wasn’t looking at his hand, but at me, his nose only inches away, his gaze fathomless. I’d been wrong about the blackness. The same gray marking his skin flecked his eyes, affording them a light that took away the melancholy I don’t think he realized he wore. Part of me understood the Regent’s pride in showing Dek off. He truly was the most magnificent creature I’d ever seen, more than his peerless music could ever be.
“They’re your wings.”
I hadn’t even realized I’d said it out loud until he smiled. “I suppose that’s one way to look at them.”
“But you can control them.”
“Yes.” To prove it, they folded back against his skin, without his flexing a single muscle.
My scrambler seemed so unsophisticated compared to his physiology. As I slipped it back in my pocket, though, Dek touched the back of my hand.
“Can you use that whenever you wish?” he asked.
I don’t know which shocked me more—the fact that he’d reached through the bars or how hot his fingertips were compared to my skin. I felt the slight tickle for long seconds after he withdrew and had to fight the compulsion to rub it deeper into my hand. “As long as I don’t get caught.”
“Perhaps…if there isn’t another event for you to attend…you might come back later tonight? It gets…lonely.”
The words cost him. Pride, or fear, or embarrassment. Maybe all of the above. Even if I did have a party to get to, I couldn’t allow that to count for nothing.
“No might about it. I’ll be here.” I grinned. “I could even sneak down to the cellars and borrow some of the Regent’s wine. We could have our own event.”
“That won’t be necessary. Your company is more than I could ever ask for.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d been kidding. He seemed so grateful for what was essentially a huge honor to me. What person in their right mind wouldn’t embrace a chance like this? To get to know someone like Dek? To give him a few hours of reprieve from a life he’d resigned himself to? I wasn’t passing this up, even if it meant this would remain my secret for the rest of my life.
I met his eyes. The gray was brighter than before. It was probably just a trick of the light, but I decided to believe it was because of me, because of this budding friendship bonding between us.
“I promise you,” I said. “It’ll be a night we’ll never forget...”