“The Raquelle Christmas”
Ties in with Winter’s Knight
Strength bellied by slenderness and perfect manicuring slid around Shea’s wrist and held him in place more effectively than shackles. Shea Ollivander bowed his head.
“All right,” Shea whispered. “I’ll stay, Luke.”
Shea turned toward the rival, companion, protector, and eventually the friend of Shea’s life. Prince Luke had terrified everyone they’d known, either through the reputation of his corrupt father, Mayor Hendrick Gray, or through his own determined quest for power.
But not a shred of that perilous, imperious beauty remained in the man huddled between crisp thousand-count sheets, in a palatial apartment crowning the Northern Spire of Magellan Circle: an unthinking gift from an unloving father for a son who wanted nothing to do with him. Magnificent, richly appointed, and enormous, the living space was perfect for a single man who entertained for political reasons.
And lonely. Compared to the warm chaos of his parents’ farmhouse and a family who loved their gay son, this place, for all its wealth, seemed so lonely to Shea. Sighing, Shea sat on the edge of acres of bed, running his free hand through his crew-cut hair.
“Lie down, Luke,” he commanded gently, and was all the more surprised when Lucian, who ordered everyone else around, did as told. Lucian’s midnight hair spilled over white pillows, exhaustion-bruised eyes flickered, and Lucian’s features were cold, sharp enough to be chiseled from ice.
Longing rose in Shea to touch Lucian, but habit stayed the impulse. Shea had loved Lucian since fourth grade, but hiding it was second nature after watching Lucian successfully seduce prom queens, beauty pageant participants, and bad girls. The garbled story of the dramatic death of a
cross-dressing prostitute who called himself Raquelle seemed unreal. Perhaps a beautiful boy who acted like a girl could capture Lucian’s heart. Shea had no illusions about being the kind of beauty Lucian wanted, even on Christmas, such a gift seemed impossible.
Gently, Shea tucked Lucian in. Shea took his watch and glasses off one-handed, setting them on the nightstand, before toeing his shoes off onto the Persian rug. Lifting the covers, Shea swung in, expecting warmth, but found Lucian trembling with cold.
“Luke, sweetheart.” Shea slid against cool cloth, and, without thinking, embraced Lucian.
To his shock and dismay, Lucian started to cry.
In all the twenty-some years they had known each other, Shea had never known Lucian to cry: not broken relationships, not a snapped femur, nor batterings by his father had ever squeezed a single tear from Lucian Gray. A warm trickle tickled Shea’s throat, and he pulled Lucian closer, smelling cheap whiskey, the sourness of consequence, stale sweat, but underlying it all was
the rich pure scent of Lucian.
“I… f-failed… Shea…” Lucian stammered between sobs. “He died, and I c-couldn’t do a-anything…”
Firmly reminding his body that he was comforting a friend, Shea cradled the grieving Lucian and held the one man he truly loved through the long night.