Odalisque

Angyl and Rina

July 2003

Disclaimers: The names belong to Alliance, but they did evil, bad, nasty stuff to the boys (blowing them to smithereens no less!) so we decided it was our turn!!!

Baranski family Dacha, Odessa, Russia (located near the captured Turkish fortress of Azov, of which Prince Nikolai Baranski is now Governor)
Late Spring, 1720

"Viktor Nicolaievitch Baranski, Papa will be furious if he comes home from hunting those mongrels and finds you gone!" Alizka informed her brother from her spot on the window seat of his room. She calmly worked on her embroidery as she watched Viktor pull on his riding boots and jacket, a matronly smile on her face; after all, boys would be boys.

"Marauders, Ptichka, Papa is hunting marauders not dogs. Why Misha gets to go and I have to stay and mind the dacha, Iíll never know. Well, other than the fact that heís a captain in the Imperial Army and Iím not," Viktor chuckled. "And Iím not going riding. Iím... checking to see that the gates are still closed," he continued merrily, pinching Alizkaís nose playfully. "Now go back to your embroidery, and donít worry your pretty little head about anything," he teased, bussing her cheek and grabbing his musket and sword as he headed out to the stables, calling his Borzois to his side.

Once out the door, however, the dogs began to growl menacingly, their hackles up and teeth bared. Then it struck Viktor. The woods surrounding the house were silent. Racing back inside, he bellowed for his sister, and when Alizka came sedately down the stairs, he grabbed her, tossed her over his shoulder, and ran to the cellar.

"Niky, whateverís gotten into you?" Alizka shouted, upset at her brother for messing up her perfectly arranged hair. Now her maid would have to redo...

"I think the marauders are near. The Borzois are upset, and the woods are silent. Now be a good girl and stay in the hidden room until I come back to get you... or Papa and Misha find you," Viktor murmured, putting his sister down and shoving the shelf out of the way of the hidden door.

"Niky, no! Stay with me, we can hide together," Alizka panicked.

Viktor gently shoved his sister inside with a kiss to her forehead. "You know I canít, Ptichka. Someone must cover the door again so that itís invisible, and only the family can know about this room, so no servant may do it. I love you, Milaya," Viktor whispered, shutting his sister s inside before returning the shelf to its rightful place and adding a few more barrels just for more camouflage.

"Viktor!" he heard his sister wail as he bounded up the stairs and shut the cellar door behind him.

Grabbing his musket once more, Viktor resolutely set his shoulders and pulled the doors of the dacha closed behind him. At lease Alizka was now safe. May God protect him now from these barbarians.

~Ten months later~

"Jade, hurry and put on your finest clothing, the shayke himself is here," Pearl cried, bursting into his room excitedly.

Rolling over from where heíd lain sprawled on his stomach, writing in his journal, Viktor cocked an eyebrow questioningly. "And just who is this shayke, Li Yan? I can never keep them all apart," he asked his friend, using her real name, not the harem name by which she was known. He was the only one allowed to call her this, as she was the only one who could call him Viktor. A sign of trust and friendship. Li Yan was his only friend now, and she had been a kind and gentle teacher, the one who had taken him under her wing upon his capture and induction into the pirate queenís harem.

He had resisted at first, tried to escape, starve himself and finally kill himself in order to circumvent this fate, but the Red Lady had been a cruel but gentle mistress. She had wanted her ĎJadeí the moment she saw him trying to defend his home from her band of marauders and himself from rape. She had ordered him bound gently and treated like the finest of Cathay silks. Under no circumstances was he to be harmed - nor were the men to slake their desires on him. Anyone caught attempting this would be put to death immediately and painfully. Then she had handed him over to the master of the harem and ordered him trained in the arts of giving pleasure.

Viktor had resisted, tried numerous times to get away, refused food and drink, but he had been gently but firmly taught his place. It was Li Yan who had at last taught him that the most resilient bamboo bends with the wind and sometimes the strongest gets snapped in half by the gale. It was her way of saying that it was better to live to fight at a later day. But the lessons had been humiliating, no matter how gently they had been taught.

Viktor had been instructed on the art of giving pleasure to both women and men, had in fact done so on the other inhabitants of the harem, his teachers. He had learned the pleasure of pain and the discipline it took to be a good houri. Viktor had been given lesson after lesson on the places to touch, the positions most enjoyable, the manners most pleasing.

Heíd been perfumed and costumed and his body denuded of all hair, save for that on his head, which was kept short. He had been pierced too. His left ear had three stones in it, a silver-filigreed jade stone for his new name, a tigerís eye, for what he did not know, and a ruby for the Red Lady. So too had his right nipple been pierced with a silver ring adorned with jade and tigerís eye beads. All in the name of preparing him for his summons to the Red Ladyís bedchamber, an event that had yet to happen.

"Viktor, you Russians are so ignorant," Li Yan chuckled as she sorted through his clothing, seeking an outfit that would be most appealing. "The Shayke is the Red Ladyís overlord. It is he who rules this land." Looking around furtively, Li Yan moved closer. "It is said that the shayke is displeased with our mistressís raids and has come to be soothed. It is also said that he is part outlander, that his mother was of another nation," the harem girl from Cathay continued, missing the despair that darkened Viktorís eyes as he was once more reminded of all he had lost. Family, home and freedom, all of which were very far away from the life he now had inside a pirateís harem in a remote area of the Ottoman Empire, bordering on the sea.

"Ah ha! The perfect outfit for the Red Ladyís prized possession, Jade!" Li Yan crowed triumphantly, pulling out a pair of black silk pants with a matching vest embroidered with silver and green threads. "Hmmm - the silver slave collar, kohl under your eyes, the jade beauty patch under the corner of one of them, your silver cuffs and all your earrings and the ring on your chest. Yes, most impressive indeed. Your feet will be bare, of course. Now go, jump in the hot pool and bathe; I will send one of the servants to oil and perfume you and to apply your kohl and your mark," Li Yan demanded. She slammed the journal shut and marched him out to the common bathing area where the other members of the harem were already busily getting ready.

"Pearl, must I do this?" he asked, his voice rough with fear. Heíd never been Ďpresentedí before.

Placing a gentle hand on his cheek, she smiled up at him. "Remember the parable of the bamboo, Jade. You will survive this as you have survived everything else. The steel that survives the hottest flames tempers the greatest swords."

"My harem, my lord shayke," the Red Lady boasted as they came out from behind the screen, led by the master of the harem.

Viktor swallowed painfully and followed Li Yanís lead. The Red Lady motioned for both Li Yan and him to be brought forward along with another woman and man. "The treasures of my harem, Diamond, Topaz, Pearl, and my newest treasure, from the land of the Russian Empire, Jade."

Shayke Makarii Jevgeny knew the Red Lady was worried. Her recent excursions had drawn increasing attention from outside sources to the point that the situation had necessitated his intervention. She had erred, and it was time she knew it. While occasional raids were acceptable, the continuous looting of ships off the coast was cause for too much attention from both other countries and the sultanís court.

For all the womanís piratical inclinations, she knew her place the majority of the time and provided an influx of quality goods and slaves to the island, so the shayke had been content to let her run with a loose rein. Apparently, a harsher bit was required.

The offer of his choice of her pleasure slaves came as no surprise to the young shayke. The Red Lady had already plied him with gifts of jewels, silks and foreign delicacies; of course the lure of the flesh would come next. At this point, however, Makarii had no interest in adding to his harem. The slaves he currently owned pleased him greatly, and he was of the opinion that keeping too many led to discontent and plotting among all of them.

Turning from the red-haired woman beside him, Makarii glanced at the quartet standing before them, the flatness in his amber brown eyes the only indication of his disinterest. A curvy blonde who looked to be from the British Isles, a golden skinned youth whose dark eyes promised everything yet revealed nothing, an delicate beauty from the Orient and finally, the Ďnewest treasureí, a dark-haired, green-eyed beauty who appeared to be poised on the edge of fight or flight.

"Pleasing to the eye," the shayke murmured, rubbing a hand over his short beard, his gaze roving over the small grouping. "What other skills do they possess?"

"Ahh, their skills are many and varied, my lord - and yours for the sampling," the Red Lady purred, reaching out a taloned and lacquered finger to stroke the firm abdomen of her latest prize.

Unable to help himself, Viktor shied away. He had been a prince in his own world and was reduced to an object of pleasure for an unscrupulous bitch; it was still impossible to fathom. A dangerous look came into the Marauder Queenís eyes, and Pearl hissed at him to behave, but he could not. "Poshol k chortu, suka," he growled softly, shying away from the touch once more.

The Red Ladyís eyes narrowed ominously; she was not used to such defiance, no matter how pleasing the source. "And some are more spirited than others. This one is still more than a little wild. Forgive my impatience to display him," she informed the shayke, the ice in her eyes showing her anger. "I shall have him taken back to the seraglio and out of your exalted presence."

"Viktor, please," Li Yan begged softly, "Donít anger her; your life will be untenable."

"I was a prince of Russia, Li Yan. A prince! And to be reduced to... this. I would rather she had killed me; at least that way I would not have been so dishonored," Viktor hissed back. "And now to be paraded in front of this barbarski Sukin syn as if I were nothing more than a brood mare? No! Iíd rather be tortured. Iíd rather die," Viktor raged softly, retreating farther and farther away, determined to either win his freedom this time or force one of the guards to kill him. Either scenario would mean release from his enslavement.

"Viktor, no!"

Makarii held up a hand, halting the members of his personal guard who had taken a step forward, preparing to deal with the disrespectful slave. This half-wild Russian amused and intrigued him - both emotions that the shayke hadnít felt in much too long a time.

"My lord?" the captain questioned, his hand on his scimitar, ready to defend his liege from the other manís attack.

"Hold," the young ruler responded, his full, mobile lips firming into a thin line as the Red Ladyís guards grabbed the rebellious houri, chaining his wrists together and beginning to manhandle him out of the reception room. Another of the guards shoved the Oriental girl out of the way when she tried to plead her friendís case, and she lay on the tiled floor in a tangled pile of silk veils, not daring to move.

"My apologies, Shayke," the Red Lady began, her husky voice tight with fury at her slaves. There would be punishments aplenty in the harem this evening!

"Release him," Makarii commanded, stooping to examine the young woman huddled on the floor before straightening and striding toward the pair of guards who were holding the struggling Russian. When one of the bearded, muscled men moved too slowly, the shayke backhanded him across the face, sending him stumbling aside.

Stopping in front of the infuriated older man, Makarii caught his chin in an iron grip and tilted his head up so that he could look into his flashing green eyes. There was anger there and defiance as well as more pride than was healthy given his circumstances. All in all a beautifully packaged challenge - and Makarii had never been known to resist a challenge.

"This one," he said, looking toward his host and then back at the man before him, "will do."

Viktor tried to yank his head out of the barbarianís grasp, infuriated that his attempt to escape had once more been thwarted this time by...what the hell did the barbarian mean heíd do? Do for... "No - oh no..." he whispered, his eyes widening in sudden understanding and fear.

Heíd been chosen by the shayke as tribute... he had a new Ďmasterí. "No," he whispered once more, the fight suddenly going out of him. To resist the bitch had been easy; heíd never really wanted women to begin with; he just pretended to because it was expected of one of his class. But men - especially those who defined masculine beauty, raw power and, in this case, exotic looks - he had always been drawn to such men. Men like this barbarian lord that now claimed ownership of him.

When Viktor saw the guards that had restrained him move towards his friend though, he didnít think; he simply acted. Wrenching away from the young lord, Viktor placed himself between the guards and Li Yan. "You go near her, and I will kill you," he growled very menacingly in Russian. "So help me God, I will find a way to do it!"

"Touch him and it will be your last act in life," Makarii barked out when one of the guards moved to strike the slave with the hilt of his sword. The shayke stared coolly at the other men until they backed down, then shifted his gaze to the two pleasure slaves. Simply friends or is it more? From his early years, Makarii knew that life in the harem forged close friendships and equally bitter rivalries, but in the cased of a mixed group such as this, there might be more.

Unwilling to let the others know that he understood the male slaveís language, Makarii moved in front of him once again, forcing him backward step by step until he was behind the fallen woman. Bending down, he lifted the girl to her knees, studying her pale face with the same intensity he had looked at her friend. "This one as well, they make a pleasing set."

The Red Lady gritted her teeth in obvious frustration and pasted a fake smile on her face. "Of course, my lord, they are yours. If you will permit, I will have them escorted back to the seraglio so that they may gather their wardrobe and such for their journey to the capital." She may not be able to do anything to them in front of her outlander lord, but once in the seraglio - well, perhaps the Russian would try to escape again, and, well...

Viktor clenched and unclenched his hands. Heíd been spared, and by some miracle so too had Li Yan, but they were still subject to the whims of this new masterís pleasure. He could see the bruise beginning to show on his friend where sheíd been shoved to the ground. "Pearl," he husked softly, his voice betraying his concern.

"I... Iím fine Jade," she managed shakily before kowtowing to her new lord gracefully. "I live to serve my lord the shayke," she murmured. Viktor simply held his ground. He... couldnít bow to this man... it would mean giving in.

"Basir," the shayke called his captain, "send two men with them; I have no desire for my new toys to attempt to escape or to be damaged in the process." The guards joined the Red Ladyís men in escorting the slaves out of the room, and Makarii watched them go, his eyes reflexively falling to the smooth glide of the silk over both the slavesí hips.

"I trust there will be no inconvenience because of this?" he asked of the marauder queen who looked as if her very gaze would freeze salt water.

"No, my lord," she murmured, her eyes downcast to hide the fury that snapped in them. Oh yes, my lord, a great inconvenience, but I shall bide my time.

Viktor wrapped an arm around Li Yan protectively once they were away from the audience chamber. "Li Yan?" he questioned worriedly.

"Oh Viktor, you musnít anger him. Heís her overlord; heís the shayke of this island and the most powerful person on Cyprus. If you anger him... please, Viktor," she begged softly.

"I... will try. For you. But, I cannot forget who I am, my friend, who..."

"Who you were Viktor. You are Jade now. You are a harem slave. You are a member of the seraglio of the Lord of Cyprus. This is your life, your fate. You must accept that, my friend," the young woman from Cathay quietly lectured her friend.

"But I remember, Li Yan. I remember."

They were given hooded dark cloaks to cover them from head to foot, Viktorís a dark green velvet and Li Yanís a pearl gray. They were quickly escorted through the Black Eunuchís hallway and out the haremís entrance to the carriage house, where their lord waited impatiently for his new treasures.

Viktor looked up at the young shayke, astride his horse, and shivered.

It was nightfall by the time the group cleared the gates of the city of Nicosia and entered the palace proper. The whitewashed buildings were low and simple, designed to reflect the harsh sun while allowing the cooling sea breezes to circulate through the many rooms inside. Makarii pulled his horse to a stop, tossing the reins to a groom and swinging down from the saddle.

"Bring me Doban," he ordered, the words sending one of the underlings racing for the seraglio in search of the chief eunuch.

The tall, dark-skinned man strode out of the buildingís ornate gate, bowing when he reached the group. "My lord, you wished to see me?"

"I have two new charges for you, Doban. Gifts from the Red Lady. See to their care and introduction into the harem, and send me Tatiana in one hourís time."

"Of course, my lord." The bald man bowed again, remaining bent over until the shayke and his men moved into the main building. The moment they were gone, he straightened and pulled open the carriage door, his dark eyes piercing the gloom to study the new slaves. "Heed me well," he said seriously, "there is one rule in the shaykeís harem, that his word is law. Follow it and your lives will be ones of ease. Disobey him and you shall think your last owner one of the Christian angels. Now come."

Turning, he motioned for two of the remaining guards to escort the new slaves out of the carriage and into the seraglio. They would be bathed and cleansed, and only then would he seek to interview each, to learn their skills and think of a new name for them.

Viktor followed the chief eunuch, Doban, silently, casting surreptitious glances at the passing rooms and corridors. It was a rabbit warren; how would he ever find his way out of here? Li Yan clung to him until she was separated from him and taken to womanís entrance; Doban continued down another corridor. "You are the only male in residence here, slave. As such, you will be given quarters apart from the women, and you will sleep alone at night, unless the master sends for you. You will not engage with the women, for only the master may have that pleasure. You will have access to the harem gardens and the pool and other amenities the seraglio offers, but any sexual congress, unless permitted by the shayke himself, will be immediately punished."

Opening a door, he escorted Viktor into a set of rooms done in dark greens and blues, with obviously masculine overtones. "These are your living quarter. A word of caution, slave. Sleep with one eye open. Those who have occupied these suites before have always... left them quickly. There are but two ways out of the seraglio. Freedom and death, and the master has yet to free a slave." With that the eunuch turned and left Viktor to the care of the silent attendants who had seemingly sprung up out of the mosaic work.

Viktor let himself be bathed and perfumed by his new servants and was seated on a low divan covered in pillows in a reception area. Silks and satins and the finest of cottons in various colors were brought before him, but he had no idea of what to choose; Li Yan had always made these selections. In the end he managed to convey his desire to have another opinion and settled for a set of clothing in simple black silk. He was given a sleep shirt of the finest lawn and shown to his bedchamber. The bed was a mass of pillows and silken sheets, and the netting over it hung like a tent. There were braziers lit to provide sweet smelling incense and candles for illumination.

After dismissing the attendants, Viktor took out his journal and began to write.

I have a new owner now, the Shayke of Cyprus. I think his name is Makarii something or other. He sounds a cruel man by what his chief eunuch says, and yet he was so gentle with Li Yan. At least I am now away from that bitch who stole me from my home. But what shall be my fate now?

Viktor Nicolaivitch.

Blowing out the candles, Viktor crawled between cool sheets and watched the stars from the window of his new prison.

"What would you have me do with him, liubimi?"

Makarii rested his head against the window casement, his eyes closed. "Talk to him, earn his confidence, find out what you can from him."

"Spy for you."

"Tatiana..." the shayke growled, opening one eye to glare at the older woman.

"Jevgeny..." she answered, looking at him calmly, her dark blue eyes holding a hint of laughter. "Of course I will do it. If all is as you said, he will need a friend aside from his companion. We do not want a repetition of..."

"Enough, Mother," Makarii said, cutting off her words sharply, switching to his motherís birth language to keep the conversation private. "There will be no more accidents of that kind. That is why I brought them here. If they had remained with her, they would not have lasted the month."

Light footfalls heralded her approach, and Tatiana ran her head over her sonís short, dark hair. "She will not stop, I fear. There is only one sure way of dealing with her."

"I know," he said quietly, his jaw tightening with determination. "And if it comes to that, I shall deal with it."

The woman smiled gently and leaned in to kiss Makariiís cheek. He looked so like his father at times like these; if only Sabahattin were still alive, how proud he would be of their son. "I know you will, my love. You should rest now though. Would you like for me to have Doban send one of the girls to you?"

"Have him send Fadile. Jacqueline will not be pleased, but she also needs to be reminded of her place." Makarii smiled at the look of disdain that flickered across Tatianaís face at the other womanís name. "Go and rest, Mother, and thank you."

"Thank me after I speak to your new boy, ĎGeny, not before."

"I am the shayke; I can thank you whenever I please."

"I am your mother; I can tell the harem stories of your youth that would have them giggling every time they were summoned to you."

Makarii laughed aloud at that. "Good night, Tatiana."

"Good night, my lord."

The morningís first light had barely touched the horizon when Tatiana descended on the new slaveís quarters, flanked by two servants, each laden with trays of food and drink for their breakfast "Spokoyne utrom," she called out, flipping the sheet back off the sleeping man to wake him, heading back out to the apartmentís main room to supervise the meal set up before he could even react.

Viktor came awake with a start. Russian, he had heard a woman speak his beloved tongue! Could it be? But no, this was not his room. This was... his gilded cage.

"Well, are you coming out, or do I have to fetch you?" the soft, lilting voice called to him once more in Russian.

Scrambling out of bed, Viktor pulled on the robe that had miraculously appeared at the foot of his bed. Coming out of the bedchamber with some trepidation, he saw a beautiful, pale-skinned woman with cornflower blue eyes and sable hair, now shot with silver. Her face was lined with laughter and even more beautiful with her years than she would have been in her youth. She had the bearing of a queen, and Viktor was reminded of his mother, which brought a melancholy smile to his face.

"My lady? You are Russian, da?"

"Da," she replied, "though I have not seen the land of my birth in more years then you have been alive. This is my home now, and I have found that it is not so bad a life. You may call me Tatiana, and you are?"

As she spoke, the shaykeís mother mentally catalogued the young man before her. From his looks, he appeared to be in his mid- twenties, though his haunting green eyes held more pain and secrets than by right they should. It was easy to see why Makarii had chosen this one; less clear was his reason for choosing the girl as well. She was beautiful but not particularly his type.

This one though... A son had few secrets from his mother, and Tatiana was well aware of her ĎGenyís attraction to both sexes. It was a fortunate circumstance that their island home was infrequently visited by outsiders and then they generally only stayed a short time. This man with his kohl-dark hair, lush eyelashes and beautifully formed body, he was quite to Makariiís tastes.

"Prince Viktor Nickolaivitch Baranski of the house of the Romanovs, at your service, madam," Viktor replied automatically with a courteous bow, kissing the lovely womanís hand. His mother would have boxed his ears for anything less. "I am from the province of Kiev, my fath..." he swallowed painfully. "My father administers the province for the Tsar and Tsarina. I... forgive me, " he choked out. "It is painful to speak of what I have lost."

Wheeling away from the woman called Tatiana, he stood before the open balcony doors and looked out at the Mediterranean. This was not the Black Sea of his youth, and there was Turkish coffee, not the tea his mother preferred. This was not home.

Young and very new to this life, Tatiana sighed to herself, rising and crossing to where the dark-haired man stood, lost in his own misery. And one of the Romanovs. Oh, ĎGeny, what has the Red Lady gotten you into? If they find out where he has been taken, I fear for us all. "It is not the same as the land of our birth, but one can find happiness here, ditya."

"You do not need to speak of it if it pains you so, but at times talking to someone who understands can help heal the wound." She placed a fine-boned hand on the young manís shoulder and squeezed gently, hoping to convey her sympathy for his plight. "And even if you do not want to talk about it, you still must eat, Viktor. Come, sit with me, please?"

Viktor allowed himself to be guided back inside and let the gentle woman ply him with food and drink. "I will never get to see my sister married now, will I? Or my brother take over our fatherís legacy - or be able to tell my parents that I love them. I will never know when they leave this earth and never have a chance to say goodbye. My borzois will have a new master, and I will never take my place in the court of the Tsar as I was meant to. How can I be happy here, Lady Tatiana?" he asked softly.

"I am a slave, one meant to be used for the shaykeís pleasure! I do not even have the right to control my own body, let alone my destiny. I was a prince, and now... I am a toy in a barbarianís seraglio. Forgive me. I do not mean..." he hastened when he saw the lady Tatianaís eyeís darken.

"My manners are not what they once were. If Mama could see me, sheíd box my ears. I can almost here her at night sometimes, singing me to sleep. I want to go home, lady," he replied plaintively. "But as Li Yan constantly reminds me, I no longer have a home other than the one my Ďmasterí," Viktor all but spat the word, "gives me. I am Jade now; Viktor Baranski died on the shores of the Black Sea, and maybe it would have been better if I had too."

Tatiana eyed Viktor with compassion, though there was still a bit of anger in her gaze at hearing her son called a barbarian. "If that was the case, I do not believe that you would be here now. The shayke does not normally take human tribute from his liegemen, so there must have been something about you that caught his eye. Iím inclined to believe it was the fact that the Red Lady had not entirely broken you yet."

Setting her delicate china cup of coffee down on the low mahogany table, Tatiana reached up and smoothed the young manís obsidian hair back, smiling gently. "The shayke is a fair man, ditya; he does not abuse those in his care nor does he allow for others to do so either. There is little choice in your life now; all I can do is suggest that you learn to accept it. Remember, Viktor, where there is life, there is hope."

"You sound like my friend," Viktor managed a shaky smile. "Mama is fond of saying that women are the truly intelligent ones of the species. After all, they rule the home, their husbands and their children. Children who grow up to shape the world. I think perhaps she is right. At least with you and Li Yan. I will try, Lady Tatiana; that is all I can do. But it is not easy to forget what I once was. If perhaps I had been born in captivity, born a slave, it would be easy to accept. But less than a year ago, I was free, and that is something my soul will always cry out for. My freedom. Even if it is here, on this island, never to leave again. To be free would be enough. But I will try."

"Viktor what about this brocade? Viktor?... . Viktor!"

"What, oh sorry, Li, I was...."

"Writing in that journal of yours. What will you do when you run out of paper? Really, Viktor, what is so important about your scribblings? Itís not like anyone but you will read them," Li Yan pointed out pragmatically, looking over the manís shoulder at the strange symbols that made up his language.

"Nobody but me is supposed to read this, Li. Itís... It lets me get my feelings out safely, without angering anyone, and lets me think and understand what is happening to me. Itís the one thing about me that is still free. My mind and my thoughts. No one can read them, so they are my own. Do you understand?"

"Viktor..."

"Iíve been good these past few days, havenít I? Iíve met the other members of the harem - although that Jacqueline is a bitch that makes the Red Lady look kind - and Iíve had all my meals with the Lady Tatiana and kept her company. And Iíve let you pick out my wardrobe and let myself be perfumed and prepared for him on a nightly basis, though he never seems to want me, thank God! Iím trying, Li Yan. I am."

"I know ,Viktor, and I am proud of you. The Lady Tatiana is a good lady and one who likes you, I think. You have made a powerful ally in the head of the seraglio. But does your heart accept, my friend?" she questioned softly.

"I donít know, Li. Perhaps I will not know until I am truly forced to face what I am. Until I am summoned before him," he murmured, leaning his head back against the lovely woman from Cathayís breast and just letting himself be at peace for a brief moment.

"My lord, you did not have to do this."

"We have this discussion every time, Basir," Makarii snapped at the captain of his guards. "I pass the sentence of execution; it is only right that I am the one to put the criminal to death. Do not bring up the subject again. I will not have it said that I am too weak to carry out the punishment that I deem fit."

"Yes, my shayke." The stocky Janissary bowed, stepping back out of Makariiís way as the younger man strode past him, his hastily cleaned scimitar clasped tightly in his hand.

Once in his rooms, Makarii threw himself onto the low divan, meticulously cleaning the rest of the blood from the blade, then oiling the metal before finally placing the blade in its scabbard. That task complete, the shayke removed his turban, setting it on the cushions beside him before running a hand through his dark brown hair.

Executions were the least favorite of his duties, and his staff knew to stay out of Makariiís way after one had taken place. The piteous pleading of the condemned man, the meaty smack of the blade sinking into the prisonerís exposed neck, the dull thud of the severed head dropping into the basket below it, all these would stalk the shaykeís dreams until the sharp edges were worn away by the passage of time.

There was one way to relieve some of the frustration and anger caused by the dayís events, and that was to lose himself in a haze of lust, In the past, Makarii had hesitated to call for one of the women in his harem for fear of hurting one of them due to his state of mind, but now there was another option available.

"Inform Doban that I wish for Jade to attend me this evening," he told one of the servants who were busy stripping him out of his blood-splattered garments. "And burn these, I do not want to see them again."

"Jade, liubimi, it is time, you have been summoned." Tatiana spoke the words quietly, aware of how they would effect the head-strong young man and not wanting him to react harshly while in the middle of the common room. There was also the fact that Jacqueline was watching them, a calculating expression on her beautiful face, her sky blue eyes narrowed to thin slits.

Viktor instinctively clutched at Tatianaís hand. "But why now?" he whispered, his face gone pale save for the two blooms of color in his cheeks. He thought heíd managed to find peace with his situation, but those quietly spoken words had torn his fragile lies asunder. The shayke had summoned him for his pleasure.

"You knew this would happen, Milaya, it was bound to sooner or later. I wish, however, it had not been..." like this, she stopped herself from saying. Viktor did not need to have his fears fed at the moment, nor did he need to know what sort of a mood Makarii was in. At least not in front of Jacqueline. "Come. Li Yan and I will help you get ready and keep you company until Doban comes to escort you to his bedchamber."

Viktorís afternoon passed in a fugue. He allowed himself to be led back to his rooms and for the attendants to see to his personal grooming. He watched, as if from a great distance, as Tatiana and Li Yan chose his wardrobe for him. He tried to eat but ended up picking at the food that they placed before him.

Li Yan watched her friend with worried eyes. "He has never..." she whispered to the older lady, trying to convey her worry.

"Never?"

"Only by his teachers in the Red Ladyís seraglio, and he trusted them. And one lover in his homeland. The first time she ever summoned him was when the Shayke came to call," the young woman continued to whisper, worriedly.

"There is no way for one of us to be here when he returns? He will need someone desperately then," Li Yan, whispered, remembering her own devastation the first time she had been summoned by the Red Lady.

"No, the shayke is very firm in his rules, and the eunuchs guard them fiercely. But perhaps..." the elder lady left off, already plotting. Standing, she moved to a nearby table with a carafe of wine on it. Opening the secret compartment in her ring, she emptied the white powder into the glass then poured the heady red wine in, stirring until nothing remained. Carrying this over to Viktor, she handed it to him. "Drink, Milaya. It will help calm you."

Viktor followed the black eunuch, feeling oddly as if he were floating. His muscles were lethargic, and no matter how much he thought about what was to happen, he couldnít seem to work up the fear, nor would did he tighten up in dread. He was just so... it was if it was a dream and one he couldnít really feel.

"Jade, my lord," Doban announced, escorting the slave in.

"Leave us," Makarii commanded, rising from the cushions he had been lounging on and beginning to prowl around his acquisition in an ever-tightening circle, his movements as powerful and graceful as a jungle catís. The Russian was dressed completely in black as he had been the first time the shayke saw him. Loose gauzy trousers were gathered below his knees, leaving his lower legs bare, the ebony half vest barely covering the silver ring dangling from the slaveís right nipple. A trio of tiger-eyes graced the piercings in the slaveís ear, and an inch wide silver collar circled his throat, creating the perfect image of a toy made for bedding.

"You are a vision, my lovely," Makarii purred, running a hand up the older manís lightly oiled chest, then sliding his hand around the back of Jadeís neck, pulling him closer. "I am sure you will be as pleasing to my body as you are to my eyes."

Viktor shook his head in vague denial, a modicum of his fears breaking through the fugue he was in. "No," he moaned softly. "Not... not right." But his body was aflame, aching with need. The slave could feel his erection throb in time with his heart, which was racing a mile a minute. What was wrong with him?

Turning his head away, the frightened Russian tried to avoid the lush lips that descended towards him, but that darkling sensuous voice continued to wrap around him, seducing away his fears and concerns. How could he possibly want to escape from this... want?

"No... please."

His eyes narrowing to thin slits at the slaveís futile attempt at defiance, Makarii closed his fingers around the shorter manís neck, turning his head until they were face to face once more. "No?" he asked, his lips brushing across Jadeís smooth skin as he spoke. "I have not heard that word spoken in my presence in longer then you can imagine. Can you understand how that feels? To have your every whim catered to, people begging to fulfill your least desire?" The shaykeís tongue joined in the exploration of his new toyís mouth, learning and cataloguing the other manís taste. Wine, a hint of lamb and curry, but most of all a heady taste that was all his own.

"Do you realize how much hearing your defiance arouses me? I am a patient man though; soon, my gem, you will beg for me to do whatever I please with you, and I promise, I have many pleasing ideas." Jade moaned quietly at this, and Makarii was pleased to see that the other manís eyes had darkened until only a small sliver of green rimmed the black expanse of his pupils. Leaning in once more, he tipped the slaveís head back and claimed his lips, using a gentle but firm force to cause Jade to open to him, allowing a thorough and minute exploration of the warm haven of his mouth even as the shaykeís free hand explored the bare parts of the other manís body.

Viktor shook like a leaf in a gale wind. Everything was racing, spinning, whirling at a dizzying rate. His body throbbed and his mind desperately tried to make him see reason. Panting softly he stared up at the shayke, watching the predatory gleam as a mouse would watch a hawk, knowing he was about to be devoured.

"No..." He trembled, trying to push away from the taller man, trying to deny what his body so desperately craved. "Not me... not," this is not me! he tried to get out, but his tongue was as slow as his reflexes, and his cries were swallowed by a ravaging mouth, seeking to conquer his will.

The desire combined with the drug finally did what months in the Red Ladyís seraglio had not. For a brief, shattering moment, Viktor gave in. Succumbed to whatever this darkling prince of the Ottomans demanded of him.

The sudden sag of the other manís body against his was undeniable, and Makarii smiled thinly, angling Jade toward the bed while continuing to plunder the slaveís mouth, taking him that way as he soon intended to do in an entirely different manner. The shaykeís loose pants and lightweight kaftan did nothing to hide his arousal, and he slid his hands down Jadeís back to cup his ass for a moment, squeezing appreciatively then letting the other man go. "Strip," he ordered, his dark eyes following the line down the center of his slaveís chest to the telltale bulge in his gauzy pants. "First yourself, then me."

Blinking confusedly for a moment, heat bloomed in Viktorís ivory skin, turning his cheeks ruddy as the words finally registered. Strip for him but... yes. Strip for this exquisite, seductive, dark, powerful man who made his blood run molten in his veins and his body thrum with need. Wrong, this is wrong! a tiny, still drug free part of his mind screamed.

The vest was shrugged off with a graceful hitch of a shoulder, and it slipped unheeded to the floor. Next came the drawstring on the pants, but this was harder. His hands hesitated, a lifetimeís worth of modesty doing battle with a few months of training and an overwhelming and unnatural desire raging through him. "I...I canít."

"Canít?" The single word was spoken with all the warmth of an ice flow. "Canít is a word for the weak, Jade, and you do not strike me as such. Perhaps Ďwonítí would be more precise, though it will not earn you any more leniency then Ďcanítí." Makariiís eyes slid over the now bared expanse of his toyís chest, noting with pleasure the broad shoulders, well-defined pectorals and washboard abdomen. Jade was a prize worth keeping, but only if he learned who was the master here.

In a series of fluid motions, the shayke unsheathed a dagger, grasped the shorter manís pants, and sliced through the black silk, sending the lightweight fabric sliding to the tiled floor to pool around Jadeís ankles. "I do not repeat commands twice, my gem; you would be wise to remember that." Raking a long look over the now unclothed expanse of the other manís body, Makarii allowed himself a nod of approval, then resheathed his dagger, leaving it on the table nearby, almost as if inviting the other man to attempt to take it and attack him. "Now, finish your duties."

Stunned immobile, Viktor stood there for long moments, his sluggish thoughts trying to process all this new information. Words tore at his fevered brain, like talons. You are Jade now. You have no choice but to serve. Your purpose is to please. Slave, toy, owned. His gem.

Trembling hands reached for the kaftan and began to slowly unbutton his masterís garment. A single tear tracked down his cheek unheeded, crystalline in its purity. Viktor was no more. Tonight he became Jade.

One by one the buttons came loose until he was able to push the robe over strong shoulders and off. Next his hands drifted to the drawstring of the gauzy Egyptian cotton trousers and tugged until it came free. Kneeling beside the bed, he pulled them off, and waited, trembling and vulnerable.

Totally unmoved by the other manís silent pain, Makarii watched in stony silence as Jade hesitantly removed the clothing from his body, then knelt, his head bowed in submission. While he should have been pleased with the slaveís sudden capitulation to his fate, Makarii instead found himself angered by Jadeís lack of defiance. This was not what he needed tonight, and as arousing as the other man was, it was not what he wanted.

Stroking a hand through the soft silk of Jadeís hair and down the long, strong line of his back, Makarii took a brief moment to assure himself that the slave had well and truly prepared for him, then sprang into action. His fingers curled around the loose silver collar, yanking the older man up to the bed beside him, then holding him in place while the shayke covered his toy with his body. "You know why I summoned you here, little houri," Makarii growled, pressing up on his elbows to stare down at the startled man beneath him. "It is what you were trained for, so show me your tricks now or be sent back from whence you came."

Viktorís head cleared momentarily as adrenaline rushed through his veins. Dammit, no, this wasnít him. "No," he growled softly, trying to buck the shayke off him. "No!" his voice came out stronger, as fury burned away the drugged haze in his blood.

Managing to somehow to get out from under the shayke, Viktor rolled off the cushioned bed in a crouch and began to back away, eyes darting for any possible exit. "I will show no tricks; I am not a trained animal, dammit. Send me back; Iíll be dead inside a week, and then I will not have to suffer dishonor!"

"You misunderstand me, my gem," the younger man purred, sliding off the bed to land lightly on the floor, his weight balanced on the balls of his feet as he stalked toward his suddenly recalcitrant slave. This was more of what he wanted - the challenge of the hunt, the overwhelming emotion of capturing and bringing down the prey. "I would not send you back to your former mistress, merely to the seraglio until you have learned better manners, though by the time we are through here tonight, I feel I will have heard you beg quite prettily."

Unconcerned with his own nudity and visibly appreciative of his slaveís similar state of undress, Makarii moved closer, shifting from side to side to block any of Jadeís attempts to get past him, until he had the shorter man backed into a corner. "Animal you may not be," he murmured, catching Jade by the back of the neck again and forcing his head back until he could look into the older manís wide eyes with the whites showing all around them. "But trained you are, and I will reap the benefit of those teachings before the night is done." Using his greater height to an advantage, the shayke crowded his captive forward, pressing him against the wall, then leaning into him, rubbing their bare skin together and feeling Jadeís uncontrollable shudder at the contact.

"No!" Viktor whimpered in ever weakening defiance, turning his head aside. "Send me back the seraglio. I swear, youíll never break me, you ubliodok," he bit out, trying to buck the taller man away from him but only succeeding in rubbing his aroused flesh against the cool golden flesh of his tormentor.

"I have no desire to break you, TatlIm. To do so would be a heinous crime. I merely wish to avail myself of this beauty that is mine." Reaching down, Makarii circled Jadeís wrists with his hands, then brought them over his head, holding him totally captive before him.

"Why, why are you doing this to me, why couldnít you have let me die, you..." Words failed the Russian as he started to struggle madly, trying desperately to break out of the shaykeís hold. "No, God in heaven, I wonít do this!"

"But you will, my gem. Is it the pleasure you fear or the loss of control?" The shayke tilted his head back to study his captive, his gaze centering on the nervous swipe of the other manís tongue over his lips. The thought of how that velvety flesh would feel moving over his aching cock sent a blaze of need through the younger man, and he ground his erection into the hollow of his slaveís hip. His control was nearing the breaking point, the events of the day and Jadeís attempt at defiance having worn through the tight restraints Makarii usually kept himself under.

Viktor knew the bastard was right; it was the shaykeís right to claim his body, by the laws of this Godforsaken country and the witch whoíd taken him as a slave. By the laws of this man and others like him, Viktor had no rights. "Just get it over with, damn you," the Russian sighed wearily, the fight gone out of him.

Youíre fooling yourself, prince of Russia, his conscience mocked him, you want this, and youíve wanted him since seeing him. Itís the fact that he owns you, that you want to submit, that makes you fight. Integral honesty made him whisper harshly. "You can feel my bodyís reaction, that I want you, so why toy with me? Just take what is yours by rights; I canít deny you," Viktorís voice lowered to a bare whisper "nor do I want to, damn your black soul."

Makariiís eyelids closed halfway, and he watched the older man from beneath them, maintaining his silence as he absorbed and catalogued Jadeís words. Releasing the slaveís wrists, the shayke moved back until his body was no longer touching Jadeís. "I feel this," he said, his tone low and verging on a growl as he placed his hand over the throbbing heat of his toyís erection. "But what I see in your eyes is a direct contrast to what your cock tells me. I will have you, my proud beauty, but I am not a rapist, and I have no desire to fuck a bedmate who lays there like a day old fish out of some misguided notion of bravery or honor."

Rubbing his callused palm lightly over the other manís most sensitive flesh, Makarii leaned back in, breathing his next words out against Jadeís bejeweled ear. "It is time to decide, my gem. Stay and participate willingly and fully, or go and live with the consequences."

Moaning softly, eyes closing, Viktor arched into the touch. So good, and it had been so long since heíd been taken, really taken in passion, not just as part of a duty or to teach. His cock quivered and hardened even more even as his body convulsed in needy pleasure. "Please," he moaned before he could stop himself.

Viktorís eyes opened to stare into the obsidian depths of the shaykeís. "What kind of a sorcerer are you?" he moaned. "Take me, please, " he managed to choke out.

"Finally, the body and the mind agree," the shayke murmured. He had no doubt in his mind that this situation would change once again after the lust had cleared from the slaveís brain, but for now he would enjoy the other manís avid participation and lose himself in the delights to be found in a new bedmateís body.

Ignoring the question as meaningless, Makarii swooped in, claiming Jadeís lips in a harsh kiss, the hand that cupped the other manís penis squeezing lightly as his other fingers found and toyed with the silver loop dangling from his nipple. Jadeís fervent moan caused a smile to curve the corners of the shaykeís mouth upward, and he repeated the actions, pulling lightly to urge the older man out of the corner and toward the bed.

Viktor felt every tug on his nipple go straight to his groin, making him harder and harder yet. The slight pain was seductive, and so like the darker lessons of pleasure he had been taught, the ones heíd enjoyed with shameful abandon. Even now he struggled with his inner demons, the ones that mocked his fake surrender. This was what heíd been waiting for his entire life, another, stronger will to subjugate and lay claim to him, someone to be in control, to Ďowní him, mind body and soul.

The teasing touch on his penis was a goad, a cruel tease of promised ecstasy and the devouring mouth sucked his very soul from his body. He followed blindly, willingly, wanting - no needing - to submit.

"I intend to take you, my gem, and thoroughly too; I have been ready to feel your body under mine for..." Unwilling to admit to the fact that the thought had preyed on him since his first glimpse of the handsome slave, Makarii stopped speaking and kissed his slave again. "Come, my gem, soon we shall both have what we desire." Laying the other man back on the bed, the shayke followed him down without their bodies losing contact, kissing and fondling him the moment they settled into the soft cotton sheets.

Viktor lost himself in the heady feel of a hard body over him, pressing him into the mattress. Writhing beneath the shaykeís muscular frame, he groaned in delight. "Kak khorosho..." the Russian muttered, falling back into the language he was most comfortable with. Breathy moans and pleas escaped, and he begged shamelessly for his master to do everything that had been promised to him.

His hands reached up tentatively and began to glide over strong shoulders, down powerful arms and across a chest dusted lightly in mahogany curls. Heíd never touched a body quite so haired before. The men in the seraglio had been kept denuded of all body hair, and his only male lover had been as sparsely covered as he normally was so this was a sensory delight. And feeling the harsh/soft hair caress his own denuded body set sparks dancing behind his closed eyes.

A soft groan, a harsh, guttural order, and Viktorís hands continued their exploration more confidently. He was bringing his master pleasure. Opening eyes gone black with need, Viktor stared up into the burning gaze of the shayke and was lost.

Only when Makarii rolled onto his back was the spell broken; pulling the slave over with him, the shayke growled his desire softly. "Pleasure me." Whimpering softly, Viktor did as he was bade. His hands reached for and found sweet oil kept next to the bed, and warming it in his hands, he began to run light fingers over the masterís chest. Down his fingers slipped, across a rippling abdomen and powerful thighs, further still Viktor slithered, so that no part of Makariiís body from collarbone to ankle was left untouched.

Surging upwards, he felt strong fingers latch on to his neck and guide him to where he was wanted. The powerful length of cock rose before his eyes, and Viktor swallowed convulsively, wetting his lips. This was something heíd never willingly performed on anotheróand yet now he couldnít wait to take the heavy length into his mouth so that he might pleasure his lord.

A soft sigh escaped the shaykeís lips, and he leaned back into the mound of pillows at the head of the bed, his fingers lightly circling over the soft skin at the nape of his Jadeís neck. The other manís touch had been both seductive and maddening, the light, feathery skim of his fingertips over Makariiís tense muscles a seductive tease - one the shayke doubted his gem even knew he was performing.

Long, firm muscles bunched in Makariiís thighs as the shayke resisted the urge to surge upward into the older manís touch. Now that Jade had succumbed to his desire this far, he was not going to frighten the Russian off again. "The sight of you poised over my cock like that," he murmured, sliding his other hand through the slaveís short, silky hair, then over his cheek, "it makes me wish to have you drawn that way, preserved for all time with that look of anticipation and desire on your face."

At the sweep of Jadeís tongue over his lips, then the first touch of that damp flesh on the heated skin of his erection, the shaykeís words dissolved into a throaty purr, and he leaned his head back against the pillows, watching the older man through half-lidded eyes. Keeping his grip on the back of Jadeís neck loose, Makarii urged the other manís head downward again, wanting to feel more of that agile tongue and those perfectly sculpted lips on him, knowing that this was only the beginning of their night together. "Take me into your mouth, my gem," he whispered, spreading his legs slightly to allow the older man a more comfortable position between them. "Show me the delights which you are capable of."

Viktor groaned softly, the shaykeís words like liquid fire pouring over him, his lordís touch so arousing. The sight of the younger manís erection filling him with a foreign excitement and need, his hooded eyes mapped every curve and nuance of the proud column of flesh before him, and he found his mouth suddenly wanting to taste the flesh.

Fingers reached out tentatively, soft butterfly strokes along Makariiís cock as Viktor learned his shape by touch. Nothing was left uncharted or unexplored. The flared glans, the sensitive under ridge, the masterís foreskin drawn back so that the sensitive tip of his cock was exposed to Viktorís avaricious gaze.

Then his tongue darted out, gently lapping at a pearlescent drop of liquid that gathered at the tip of the shaykeís erection, and Viktor slowly drew it back into his mouth, savoring the feel and taste of it as it slipped down his throat. More. He wanted more.

With that incentive, Viktorís bee stung lips closed over the crown of Makariiís cock, and drawing on the up till now hated lessons, he began to bob his head so that more and more of the shaykeís flesh was engulfed in his mouth.

His hands were not idle either. They combed through the dark dusting of hair and gently rolled and circled his lordís balls between nimble fingers. One finger traced lightly down the ultra sensitive perineum and back up to tickle the base of the younger manís shaft once more.

Viktorís tongue was constantly moving, flitting around Makariiís flesh, gently caressing and arousing it, even as he took more and more into his mouth. Finally, unable to take anymore, Viktor began to retreat upwards, then once more return. Over and over, his tongue and hands adding to the stimulation as he lost himself in the taste and feel and scent of this suddenly new and erotic pleasure.

A shuddering wave of pleasure passed through the shaykeís body at the exquisite stimulation of the older manís mouth and hands on his needy flesh. As talented as he is beautiful, Makarii sighed to himself, as enflamed by Jadeís sensual yet somehow innocent actions as he was by the wet heat of the other manís mouth.

Yet somehow even this bliss wasnít enough. Makarii wanted, needed the forceful pleasure of pounding into another strong body, of knowing that his partner wouldnít bruise or break at his assault. He needed to feel the spastic clenching of a hot, oiled sheath around his cock as the other man found his release at his masterís command.

"Very talented indeed, my gem," Makarii husked out, waiting until the Russian was on an up stroke, then tugging on the silver collar until Jade was looking at him once again, his lips wet and shiny with a mixture of his own saliva and Makriiís precum. "But now I am ready to enjoy the other delights of your body, and I am curious as to how you will look when you release your seed while I am deep within you."

Hooking his hands under Jadeís suddenly boneless arms, the shayke rolled them over once again so that he was looming over his toy, grinding his erection into the hollow of the other manís hip and feeling his reflexive arch upward in answer. "Spread your legs for me, little houri; I do not want to hurt you, not at this time. That will come later, when you are ready for it." Makarii felt the small shudder that ran through Jadeís body, but the other man complied with his orders, drawing his knees up as he opened his thighs, offering himself to his master.

Makarii sat back on his knees, his hands tracing slow patterns across the older manís smooth skin, gradually moving lower, in search of their goal. "To cover this body with clothes, even the finest silks, is an injustice," he murmured, rubbing a thumb over the gentle hollow of Jadeís navel then sliding a fingertip across the leaking head of the other manís erection. "When you attend me, you shall do so in the nude; I do not want anything interfering with my ability to view you as you were made." The deftly stroking fingers slid down over the smooth skin at the junction of Jadeís strong thighs, ticking over the wrinkled velvet of his testicles then moving further back to probe at the slick opening of his anus.

"Please," Viktor managed to whisper, arching into the touch. The words the shayke husked out had woven a darkly sensual web of lust around the older man, and he wanted nothing more than to feel the thrill of penetration, the sharp pleasure of a first claiming. He wanted to be taken, and taken hard, to hear the slap of moist skin as Makarii drove him hard.

He hadnít known, hadnít understood what true desire was until now. God in heaven, he hadnít known he could burn as if no amount of water could quench the flames. Feeling the shayke gently press a single digit inside his tight channel was a lightening strike, the second, the inferno it started; the third was what it must feel like to be consumed by the devil himself, and Viktor loved his fall from grace.

Pulling his knees closer to his chest, he spread himself a wide as he could, his head tossing on the silken pillows beneath him. Regret could come later; for now he reveled in his debauchery.

A low growl reverberated through Makariiís chest, and the shayke slowly pulled his fingers from Jadeís tight depths, feeling the drag of clenching muscles as he did so. Fuck, the man was so tight he had to be the next thing to a virgin. Just the thought of that slick, clinging sheath surrounding his cock drew another growl from the younger man, this one of pure, animalistic need.

"Who do you belong to, my gem?" he whispered, settling himself between the slaveís taut thighs, his hands sliding up the older manís chest to tweak and toy with the tiny nubs of his nipples. "Tell me and you shall have what you want."

"Yours, my lord." The words were whispered in such a low tone that Makarii almost missed them, but when they registered, he smiled.

"Very good, my gem. That wasnít so hard, was it?" One hand was continually stroking over the other manís body, testing and sampling each inch of the smooth, pale expanse, distracting the slave while he positioned himself with the other and pressed inward, breeching the tight ring of muscle and discovering the heated depths that lay beyond.

The shayke began a slow, subtle rocking at that, keeping up the measured pace until he felt Jade relax and begin to arch into the motion. The sinuous undulations of the man beneath him caused Makariiís blood to boil, and as he roughly played with Jadeís sensitive nipples, he closed his teeth on the side of the slaveís neck above the collar, branding him in a personal and intimate manner as his property. Each whimper and moan that rasped out of Jadeís throat goaded Makarii on, and his hips pistoned with increasing strength, slamming his cock into the other manís body with increasing ferociousness, growling out guttural phrases of lust and possession as he claimed his new toy in a thorough, visceral manner.

"Oh GOD!" Viktor wailed, his head thrown back, his throat muscles gone rigid, his body a bow ready to snap. The slow burn of being filled was nothing compared to the hellfire that burned through him when the master claimed him. He couldnít remember ever feeling this full or enjoying the sensation this much.

Over and over Makarii thrust into his receptive body, taking him to new heights of need. Hands released his thighs to scrabble at the bed coverings above his head, searching for purchase, for anything to anchor him to reality when all he could truly do was wallow in the sensations of his body.

Dark words, like soft sable, raced along his sensitized nerves, causing bright blooms of lust and need and want to dance behind his eyes, and in the back of his mind dawned the slow realization that this was what he had been born for, to be this manís toy.

"Master," he rasped softly and gave into his bodyís demands, fountaining his seed in a creamy arc over his stomach with a cut off scream.

The fluttering pulses along his engorged cock gave Makarii the warning of his partnerís impending climax, and the shayke reared back, watching Jadeís handsome face closely. The older manís lips were parted, allowing his soft, breathy gasps for air to pass through them; his fair skin was flushed and damp with sweat from their exertions; his verdant eyes were dark and cloudy, hazed with the overwhelming desire that was racing through his veins.

The single word that escaped Jadeís lips as he came drew a slow smile from Makarii, straining his control as the Russianís internal muscles milked his shaft with ecstatic pressure. "You learn well, my gem," the shayke husked, his eyes closing as he fought the desire to follow the older man over - but they were not done for the night, so he would hold on a little longer.

Sliding his knees beneath the older manís outspread thighs, Makarii slowly sat up, being careful not to dislodge his throbbing cock from its sweet home. While rubbing one hand over the still dazed slaveís hip, he ran the fingers of his other hand through the cooling pool of semen on Jadeís stomach. After trailing a few Arabic letters across the other manís smooth, firm skin, the shayke brought his hand up to his mouth, licking and sucking Jadeís liquid offering from his fingers, then repeating the action until the older manís body was almost totally cleaned of his seed.

"Delicious as well, you are a feast to the senses, but I believe you know that already." As he spoke, Makarii began to move again, arching his hips hard into the silky cradle that seemed to be ready made for his body. As he slid his hand around Jadeís now soft penis, the shayke felt the first stirrings of renewed life in the sated covered muscle, and his smile grew wider. "I fully intend on making you come another time before letting myself go," he rasped, stroking the slowly elongating flesh as he slammed home into Jadeís body, the blunt head of his penis raking over the older manís prostate, causing to him whimper and writhe beneath him. "You will not forget this night, my gem, this I promise you."

Viktorís dazed mind wondered how the other man could think heíd ever forget this. He had been... claimed. There was no other word for it. Somehow the shayke had imprinted himself on Viktorís psyche, branding the Russian as his for all time. There would be consequences, of that there was no doubt, but Viktor knew that he had been well and truly enslaved.

Impossibly, his spent body began to rouse once again, and his cock engorged with blood and almost painful arousal. The sensations had been sharp before, but now, it was like being flayed alive with razor sharp pleasure. Each touch of his prostate was extreme bliss, each stroke of his sensitized cock almost too intense to be borne.

Through it all the shayke played his trembling, exhausted body like a savant playing a musical instrument. Each touch set off a note of need, each moan a chorus, each whimper the older man uttered a stanza. Viktor had become the symphony that the shayke conducted, and even now he was once more racing to the apex of the piece, the final, shattering moment when music and emotion collided in a brilliant explosion that left one gasping and breathless.

Gasping, begging for release or relief of the indescribable pleasure, Viktor writhed against the sheets and scrabbled at anything he could catch hold of. At one point he tasted blood from where heíd bitten his lip to keep from screaming, at another moment he heard a soft rending of material by his ear as at last the silk gave in to his almost inhuman grip and tore. Through it all he wallowed in the dark, predatory gaze of the man who now owned him, body and soul, as Makarii watched his toy plead for mercy from this incredibly erotic torment.

A thin smile curved the shaykeís lips upward as his gaze devoured each frenzied movement, each flex and bend of Jadeís sweat-soaked body. The man was almost too beautiful to believe as he reached for his second climax, the lust welling up inside him consuming him from the inside, stripping away all vestiges of civilization. Seeing the bright bloom of blood on his toyís lips, Makarii leaned in once more, continuing to pump the older manís cock as he took his lower lip into his mouth, sucking and licking the damaged flesh, savoring the coppery liquid that stained it as a way of taking a part of the other man into him.

"Come for me, my gem," he whispered, balancing his weight on one arm while he continued to stroke the slaveís erection, varying his grip to keep the fire of need coursing through Jadeís blood. Each time he tightened his grip, the older man clamped down on his cock, and each loosening of his palm prompted a shudder through the other manís whole body. "I want to feel you one more time this night, to watch the storm that clouds the jewels of your eyes as it overtakes you. Come for me, Jade, for me alone." Makarii knew he was close to the edge himself, and it was only sheer willpower that kept him from giving into his bodyís demands for relief - that and the desire to feel the bliss of his gemís body contracting around his as he spilled his seed into his warm, giving sheath.

Viktorís eyes closed, a riot of emotions racing behind them. So dominant, so powerful this man who claimed his body and silently demanded his soul. He trembled with the force of the emotions crashing through his frame, but his eyes snapped open on the harshly whispered demand from above him. How could he not obey that voice demanding his sight, his pleasure, his release?

Eyes gone black with need, clouded even more and with a trembling cry, Viktorís body once more reached for the heavens, and he tumbled into an orgasm so powerful that he lost consciousness for long moments.

When he awoke, it was to Makarii moving over him, taking his body with a ferocity that would have rent him apart earlier in the night but now merely made him whimper for more as the pleasure continued to streak through him with near painful intensity. Sweat fell unheeded as the master worked Viktorís tired and sated body to find his own release. Muscles bunched and moved with dangerous grace, and the look in the shaykeís eyes was feral, possessive, wild. Viktor lay back and watched as he let his body become a receptacle for Makariiís lust, giving everything he had to his lord in that moment.

Makarii knew the second that Jade regained consciousness by the way the older manís body arched beneath him even before his smoky emerald eyes opened, full of dazed pleasure and lethargy. That look, more than anything, shattered the last restraints the shayke had, and he lost himself in it, allowing everything else to vanish except the open, trusting gaze of his gem.

Infinity condensed into the moment, then exploded, taking Makarii along with it. One hand tangled in Jadeís short hair, the other clenched on his hip, the shayke froze, every muscle in his body jumping into stark relief as he came, his eyes locked on the older manís, for the moment lost in the moment and the man beneath him. Makarii stayed poised like that, frozen in the instant until his climax waned, then he collapsed, his head resting against Jadeís shoulder, his fingers petting through the other manís hair, trying to come to grips with what had happened here.

Sighing, content for the moment, Viktor purred softly, arching into the stroke. He let his mind wander, let his body do the thinking as it relaxed into lethargy and tired, well-used muscles. He felt as if heíd been put through Cossack training, but he relished each and every ache. It meant he had been claimed.

Waking gently, Viktorís body protested any movement. Eyes snapping open, memory flooded back. Last night... God above, had he truly been so wanton, so... awakened? It was as if by accepting his fate, a door heíd never seen before was opened within him, showing him a side of himself that he didnít know he had, the wanton, the slave... the odalisque.

Turning to look at the man that had set about this transformation, he saw only cold sheets long vacated. A robe was thrown across the bed, and a slight noise made him spin. Doban stood in the doorway, waiting. "The master has no further need of you. You are to return to your rooms until he next chooses to summon you," the chief black eunuch told him coldly, before closing the door behind him to wait.

No further need. Viktor gasped at the pain that knifed through him. Did it mean so little... What was he saying? Of course it meant so little; he was just a body to use for pleasure then to toss away when the pleasure was achieved. Until he next chooses to summon you... "God forgive me, what have I let myself become?"

Tiredly, shoulders slumped with self-recrimination and regret, Viktor slipped on the robe and out of the shaykeís bedchamber to follow the eunuch back to his cage. His cloak was drawn up, his face covered so no one could see that with one night of pleasure the shayke Makarii had managed to do what ten months of imprisonment by the Red Lady had failed to do. He had managed to wound Viktorís spirit.

Tatiana frowned as she watched from behind the latticework as Viktor was led to his apartments. There was something terribly wrong with the young man; even as shrouded as he was in the cloak and hood, she could tell that. When he had left to attend Makarii the night before, Viktor had been nervous but only slightly so due to the tincture of opium she had slipped into his wine. Even so, his carriage had been erect, and he had carried himself with assurance. Now the young man looked as if all the fight had been beaten out of him.

"Oh ĎGeny, what happened?" she whispered, covering her lips with her fingers and watching the door until Doban left once again. She couldnít go to see Viktor just yet, but hopefully the gift she had left earlier that morning would console him, and she could speak to the chief eunuch.

"Lady Tatiana." Doban bowed as he greeted her, then waited expectantly.

"How is Jade this morning?" she asked, keeping the question impersonal, though the chief eunuch knew of her friendship with the young slave.

"He seemed well enough when I woke him, but there was something amiss. He seemed to be less himself then usual. I was going to have the physician look in on him after he bathed."

"And what does my son say of this?"

"The shayke was not present when I woke Jade; there was a dispute among several of the guardsmen, and his presence was requested to help mediate it. I was of the understanding that he was going to be so engaged for most of the day, so I took it upon myself to remove Jade from Lord Makariiís rooms. The shayke left him a most handsome gift, which I am sure he will find when he looks in the pocket of his robe."

"Duraki," Tatiana muttered, not sure if she was cursing her son or Doban. She was sure Viktor needed a gentle touch this morning, not the chief eunuchís brusque handling. Makarii was the product of his upbringing, but she had hoped that her influence would allow him to see the members of his harem as more then objects for his entertainment, especially in this case. "What he needed was not a gift, it was... Feh," she waved her hand at the tall man, sending him on his way. "I am going to speak with him now. Send a breakfast tray, but otherwise I do not wish for us to be disturbed."

"As you wish, my lady." Doban bowed deeply, then disappeared into the heart of the seraglio, issuing orders when he passed a servant girl.

"I love you, ĎGeny," the valide odalisque sighed to herself as she stepped out from behind the lattice wall and crossed to the archway leading to Viktorís rooms, "but this is one situation that I feel you mishandled horribly." Noting the silence that hung in the rooms, Tatiana waited until the servant arrived with the tray, then sent her away.

"Come and eat, Milaya," she called gently. "I happen to know that even if you are not hungry, your companion should be, and there is food here for her as well."

"With all due respect, milady Tatiana, I would prefer not to," Viktor replied quietly, curling up onto the bed, the kitten heíd found cuddled to his chest. He was still wearing the robe as his clothes had been - wincing at the memory, Viktor held the kitten closer - had been shredded and removed by the shaykeís dagger in a most effective manner.

"Why does my heart hurt, little one?" he murmured to the kitten, grimacing slightly as he shifted his well-used body on the bed. "I knew what I was, what I am, so why do I feel devastated? Itís not like I actually care for that barbarian, is it?" Shifting once more, something sharp dug into his hip, making him jump and the kitten mew with displeasure.

"What in the name of..." Reaching into the robeís pocket, he extricated an emerald and diamond choker, awed by its beauty. "Mother of God, this is," words failed him. He was confused. Why would this be in his pocket?

Picking up the kitten, he made his way to the outer rooms where Tatiana was patiently waiting with hot Russian tea and a concerned look. Glancing down at the kitten in his arms, he offered his first smile of the morning. "From you? Thank you, Lady Tatiana. I have... missed having a pet."

Settling himself on the floor by her feet, Viktor leaned back against the couch, trying to sort out his jumbled mind. At last he simply held up the choker and turned to her, a miserable, puzzled look on his face. "Why, Lady?" he asked softly.

"Why slake his lust on me, only to have me removed without so much as a word and then leave this in my pocket. Should I be flattered by this? Why does it make me feel... cheapened somehow?" he asked, eyes full of pain and confusion. "Please, Lady Tatiana, I am trying to understand this new life and my less than worthless place in it, but I cannot." Resting his head against the valide odalisqueís leg, Viktor finally let go of the pain heíd been holding inside for months and quietly wept.

More concerned with the shattered man leaning against her leg, Tatiana hugged Viktor as well as she could, then stroked his head, murmuring nonsensical phrases in Russian in a hope to calm the young man. The kitten squirmed out of Viktorís arms and leapt up to the sofa where she could stretch out and groom her ruffled fur, and it was only then that Tatiana began to try to explain.

"You are not less then worthless, Viktor, far from it in fact. Never, never think of yourself that way, no matter what happens here." Reaching down, she tilted his head until he was looking up at her, then gently dried his tear-stained cheeks. "Things in the seraglio are not always as they seem, and this," she nodded at the heavy choker, automatically calculating its worth and arching an eyebrow in surprise, "this means that the shayke holds you in higher regard then you would care to believe. It was not meant to make you feel like a whore; the tradition of gifts is a long and honored one in the harem. Lord Makariiís father gifted me with these pearls when I was first called to his bed, and I have treasured them ever since." The valide odalisque touched a long strand of perfectly matched pearls, her eyes misting at the memory, then sharpening as she returned to the present.

"I do not know why the shayke chose to behave as he did, and it is not our place to question his actions, but I do believe that he would not knowingly have hurt you this way if there was a choice. I would hope that was the case last night also?"

Viktor blushed a deep crimson and turned his head away. "Lady, please," he mumbled, embarrassed. "One does not discuss such things with a lady, especially things that take place between two men. Itís more often than not considered sinful, an abomination against God for two men to...do what I did last night," but it felt so good, and it had been so long since I felt a strong, but gentle touch, Viktor thought to himself.

It had been good; that was the problem. It had been near to perfect in the end, and Viktor was afraid heíd handed the shayke some very powerful weapons to use against him. Eyes closing as the heat of the night consumed him, Viktor remembered how it felt - every thrust, every touch incandescent. Involuntarily his hand crept up to the mark Makarii had placed on his neck, declaring his possession for all to see, and he shuddered at the heat of it.

"Lady, last night," he cleared his throat, "I felt so strange on the way there, like I was not myself. It was hazy, as if a dream, as if I were merely floating instead of moving. It was the strangest sensation..."

Sinking into the heated waters of the bathing pool, Viktorís mind swam even as his body thanked him for his kindness. Drugged. Heíd been drugged. He could understand why the Lady Tatiana and Li Yan had connived to do that, but it still bothered him. It also made him wonder just how much of the previous night had truly been him. Viktor had heard opium increased certain appetites even as it invoked lethargy and a dream-like state. Could last night have been nothing but the drug?

Dangling the choker for the kitten to bat at, Viktor pondered the problem. "What do you think, Alizka? Youíve always been the pragmatic one. Was it me? Was it the drug? Should I be offended or grateful they did this? Most of all, why am I terrified that heíll summon me again and I wonít be as I was - that Iíll disappoint him? Silly of me, isnít it?" The kitten just mewed and continued to bat at her sparkly toy with glee.

Viktor chuckled softly, watching this. "Care to change lives with me, lyubvonitsa? I think I would prefer yours to mine at the moment."

"I have missed you, Makarii." The softly spoken words were accompanied by the glide of Jacquelineís hands over the shaykeís shoulders and chest as she leaned closer to him. "I had begun to wonder if you had forgotten about me - and about our daughter." She glanced toward the fringed tapestry that was currently being used as a rug by the chubby, dark haired two-year-old. "Mirimah missed you horribly, as do I."

Makarii chuckled quietly, then twisted to bring the young Frenchwoman into his laugh where he idly twined one of her long blonde curls around his finger. "I know what youíve missed, my dove, and somehow I do not believe it was my company." The woman had a mercenary streak in her that was a mile wide; Makarii understood and accepted it. He took her at face value and expected nothing more of her, though the fact that she had borne him a child had lent a warmer air to their dealings over the past years.

"Makarii... Jacqueline pouted, gazing soulfully up at him, her blue eyes brimming with unshed tears. "I have missed you! Ever since you returned with him, you have not spent much time with any of us!"

"And you are suddenly so concerned for your sisters?" the shayke chuckled, arching his eyebrows at the young woman. "Perhaps I should neglect you more often."

"Perhaps I should remind you of just why you asked me to come back here with you from France," Jacqueline purred, sliding her arms around Makariiís neck and pressing her voluptuous curves against him.

"As I recall, you asked to be brought back here," he answered mildly. "And if you intend on continuing that, we should have Mirimah sent back with her nanny."

"Kosem!" Jacqueline called sharply. "Take Mirimah to bed; it is past her bedtime."

The sturdy servant did as ordered, scooping up the toddler and bringing her over to her parents for goodnight kisses, then carrying her out of the room.

"You were saying, my lord?" Jacqueline smiled, moving to divest Makarii of his kaftan even as she spoke.

"Always practical," the shayke chuckled, leaning back on the divan and closing his eyes to appreciate the feel of her soft hands moving over his shin.

A knock at the door disrupted the scene, and the shayke growled out a query that was answered by a timid looking servant who dropped to the floor the second she entered the room, terrified of angering her lord. "Forgive me, Shayke, but I was told to bring this to you right away, and I could not refuse." In her upturned palm, she held a velvet bag, which she thrust in the direction of Makarii.

Curious, Jacqueline slid from the shaykeís lap and knelt down to retrieve the bag. Opening the ties, she tipped it up, spilling the jewel-encrusted choker out into her palm. "Makarii, this is..." Her tone changed from awestruck to shocked when Makarii grabbed the piece of jewelry from her, his face set in a furious frown. "Makarii?"

"Leave me." The command plainly encompassed both women, but Jacqueline was the only one to put up an argument, and even she realized that it was a futile one after seeing the rage in the shaykeís eyes.

Once he was alone, Makarii stared down at the brilliant emeralds and diamonds in his palm, angry and confused at once. How dare Jade return his gift, and in this fashion? Closing his fingers around the silver setting, the shayke stalked out of his rooms, heading toward the seraglio and the confrontation that awaited. What he did not see was the furious looking woman watching him from behind the latticework as he entered Jadeís section of the harem.

Without bothering to knock or announce his presence in any way, Makarii stormed into the odalisqueís quarters, standing in the doorway, his very posture radiating displeasure. "If my gift displeased you, I would have thought that you would have informed me much sooner than a week after its giving," he growled, watching the older man through narrowed eyes.

Viktor sat on his customary seat by the window, looking out at the ocean, trying to hold on to the memories of home, of family and love. In his lap Alizka curled, content to be stroked by a deft hand, purring in contentment.

He had heard Makarii coming, heard the hastily murmured words of the eunuchs, listened to the scurrying of feet as slaves scattered out of the shaykeís path, and he knew why the lord was in a temper. Because Viktor couldnít keep that Ďthingí he had been gifted with and still be true to the man he knew himself to be in all the opulence and decadence of his gilded cage.

"I find that I cannot accept something similar to payment of a whore. I am a whore for no one - not even my so-called master. I may not be able to deny you when you send for me, for according to the laws of this hellish place I have no rights. I can never forget the fact that I am enslaved against my will, that I was stolen against my will from my home and my life and brought to this place," the last word all but spat out.

"But I can at least be true to the man I was born to be. I cannot be bought, barbarski." Viktor finished in a harsh whisper, never once turning to face his master, eyes devouring what tiny glimpse of freedom he was granted.

Viktor knew he was probably wrong about the gift, remembered what Tatiana had told him about her pearls - but there was love in her voice when she spoke of the old shayke. Perhaps time had mellowed her memories, as well as a lifetime lived in the harem. Viktor did not have the luxury of love or of faded memories. Everything was a painted in stark relief on the landscape of his mind. For twenty-five years he had been Viktor Baranski - Jade was forced into being not even a year ago. His heart and his mind and his soul were still Viktor, and it was they that reminded him of the man he used to be.

Still not looking at the younger man, Viktor continued, this time more flippantly to hide his regret at his harsh words and childish actions. "Besides, Alizka doesnít like diamonds - they blend in with her coat," he shrugged lackadaisically, petting the purring ball of white fluff in his lap.

Makariiís eyes turned cold and dark, and he canted a look down at the jeweled choker in his hand, refusing to let any of his anger or hurt show. Jade was his, and it was time he learned that fact and accepted it.

"If that is the case," the shayke said, stalking toward the window and the man sitting beside it, "then you obviously have no need of this." Clenching his fist around the choker until the edges cut into his palm, Makarii threw the heavy piece of jewelry into the sea then turned to stare down at his slave. "It is a shame you cannot accept a gift as it was intended, but have no fear, there will be no more where that came from."

Spinning on his heel, Makarii started out of the room then turned back, his expression dismissive. "Stare at the ocean and long for your freedom all you wish, my gem. It will not change the fact that everything on and around you belongs to me, as do you. It also will not erase the fact that you were begging and pleading for me to take you the other night; think on that when you consider yourself despoiled and me your rapist."

Before he gave into his urges to destroy something, Makarii turned once again and exited the lushly appointed rooms, ignoring Jadeís look of sick shock. The shayke stormed through the seraglio, ignoring the whispered comments and half-voiced queries until he was finally stopped by his motherís presence before him.

"Come and sit with me, ĎGeny," Tatiana murmured in Russian, resting her hand on Makariiís arm and urging him toward the tiny private garden off her rooms. "What has happened?"

"But I didnít think of you like that," Viktor whispered brokenly, watching the young man storm out. "I think I may have made a mistake, Alizka, a horrible one," he sighed, stroking the kitten, who merely purred and curled closer to his stomach.

Hours later and Viktor still couldnít get the image of the irate shayke from his mind. Heíd come so close to walking out onto the balcony and just stepping off, but he refused to take the cowardís way out of this. As Li Yan once told him, sometimes the bamboo that survives the longest is the one that has learned to bend in a hurricane, and Makarii was definitely that. But it didnít mean that heíd make it easy for the shayke.

So what was it that he really wanted if he found the choker such an insult? What had really caused the twisting in his guts? "That we shared something so intense that I thought I had died and been reborn and he treated it as a casual thing," he told his kitten and confidante quietly. "Iíve never been able to think of sex as just that, a bodily function... and he didnít even say goodbye; he could have woken me, but he just left me as if I were... not important enough to merit the consideration."

So that was what had set him off - being treated like what he was - a slave. "But I am a slave, and he has others like me that he uses as well; God above, Li Yan is part of his harem too. I am one of many though I may be the only male. So, it is as Tatiana and Li Yan say, I must come to terms with the fact that this is my lot in life until..." until he died, because he was beginning to see that there truly was no escape from his cage.

Waving away the dinner that the servants brought, Viktor couldnít bear the thought of food in his stomach the way it was roiling and churning. He had to... accept, but it was hard, so very hard. Night came and went, and still he sat, locked deep in his thoughts. Morning came and a bowl of cream was poured for Alizka, but the food remained untouched. As did lunch.

Wandering around his rooms, he touched the opulent furniture and baubles that defined his new home. Going out to the balcony, he watched the ships pass far away from Cyprus, destinations unknown, maybe even going as far as the Bosphorous and home. But no, this was his home now - until the shayke grew tired of him and gave him to another master, if such was his fate.

The gardens held little joy for him, though the exotic blooms smelled divine and the trees and fountains and fishponds invited peace and tranquility. He was restless, but oddly lethargic. He drank some lemonade, but the tray of sweets sent to tempt him remained untouched, as did his dinner. He just couldnít stomach food.

At last sleep overtook him, but even his dreams were less than peaceful, images flashing in rapid succession, his being presented, the fight and the heat and the need and finally the surrender - oh, how he had reveled in it. He had begged in the end, and oh, how sweet it had been. Then silence, Doban looming, cold words, icy fear around his heart, despondency and at last anger to melt the ice and fuel his cruel actions. And pain - both in his heart and for a brief second in the shaykeís eyes. He had hurt the younger man. The one who had saved him from that she-devil, the one he should thank and fall in obeisance before. But instead he had lashed out and wounded.

Waking was a torment; he was in fact more tired than he had been prior to sleep and still the thought of food caused him to gag. What was wrong with him? Was he sick or was it just guilt flaying him alive? If only he could apologize - but no, there was only chilly indifference from everyone save Li Yan. Was this what his life was to be like from now on? He deserved it.

"But how can I apologize when he treats me like Iím a pariah?" he sighed, once more on his window seat staring listlessly at the ocean, once more ignoring the meal laid out for him.

"Thank you, Doban, that will be all for now," Tatiana murmured as the chief black eunuch let her into Jadeís rooms. The valide odalisque was worried about her young friend and almost as concerned about her son. Makarii had been in a foul mood for the past few days, thundering around the palace, ignoring the servants or biting their heads off if they ventured near. "Men," she sighed to herself, wondering just when her ĎGeny would realize why he was so angry and when Viktor would come to understand the reason for his distress. Ah well, no time better then the present to try to work on one of them.

"Viktor, daragoy, how kind of you to have waited for me to join you before eating," she said brightly, intent on doing whatever it took to get the young man to eat. "And you have candied dates too; those are my favorites." Keeping her smile firmly in place, Tatiana crossed the room and took the manís arm, coaxing him from his seat with a combination of will and taking advantage of his good manners. Once they were settled on the sumptuous cushions around the low table, she began talking again, smiling at the little white kitten who even now was nibbling at one of the dates. "Iím surprised that Alizka isnít as round as a butterball considering how much sheís had to eat the past few days." ĎBecause you didnít eat it,í remained unsaid though she looked at Viktor pointedly as she spoke.

"Iím sorry, Tania, but I have not been very hungry," Viktor replied with a slight shrug of his shoulders, unaware of how visible his lack of interest in food had become in the hollow cheeks and haunted look in his eyes. "For you I will try though," he continued with a courtly smile. For Tania, as for Li Yan, he would do anything to bring a smile to her face. Sheíd become... important to him.

Reaching for the plate of candied dates, he offered one to Tatiana, then took one himself. "You know, for as long as Iíve been here, Iíve never tried these, but Alizka seems to... Alizka?!" Viktor stared down in horror at his kitten, now convulsing on the cushion beside him. But sheíd never reacted like that to a date before? She couldnít be allergic, then what... poison! "Lady NO!" he cried, reaching over and slapping the date out of her hand and throwing the plate against the far wall with a resounding crash.

"Viktor, what?!" Tatiana exclaimed, her body frozen with her hand halfway to her mouth, startled by the sudden show of violence. Never had she expected... Her gaze suddenly rested on the spasming kitten, and realizing what had happened, her expression changed to one of disgust and horror. Who would... Even as she asked the question, Tatiana knew the answer.

"The dates were poisoned," he whispered brokenly, picking up the tiny kitten and tearfully snapping her neck quickly to end Alizkaís suffering. "Someone was trying to poison one of us, but why? He asked sorrowfully, holding the now dead kitten in his hands, unable to fathom that anyone would want such a wonderful lady as Tatiana dead.

"I was the one meant to die, wasnít I?" he whispered, not even seeing Doban come flying into the room and order a lesser eunuch to seek the shayke as he heard Viktorís harsh words.

Tears filled Tatianaís blue eyes, and she waved Doban back as she moved to wrap her arms around the distraught young man. "Someone was trying to poison you, I believe. They would not have known that I was going to dine with you today," she added sadly as she stroked his hair. "If Alizka hadnít eaten the date, one or both of us would have been in the same situation, Iím afraid." While the situation frightened her, it wasnít the bone deep fear that she might have felt years before; Tatiana had lived in the harem long enough to know that intrigue was the way of life there.

"Am I that despised for the way I acted?" Viktor replied, completely misunderstanding just why someone had attempted to kill him, not knowing of one womanís bitter hatred of the effect he seemed to have on the shayke. "Iíve wanted to apologize, make amends for acting childish and cruel, but he ignores me. Maybe he was the one who decided he was tired of me causing problems," Viktor thought out loud with a fatalistic shrug. "It would be his right, would it not?" Strangely enough he wasnít scared of dying or of being poisoned. In fact he was..."Numb, I feel like I did when you gave me the opium, like this is all a dream and I am not really here. Strange, isnít it?"

"No, no, liubimi, that is not the case at all!" The fact that Viktor could even think such a thing horrified Tatiana, and she was quiet for a moment, trying to find a way to explain the situation to the young man.

Before she could speak, however, the door slammed open, and the enraged shayke entered, followed by what seemed to be half of the palaceís eunuchs. "What has happened here?" Makarii roared, his hooded gaze sweeping the room, pinning Doban in its ferocity before alighting on the pair huddled over the kittenís broken form. "Matí, what has happened?" he asked, sick shock entering his voice and driving the anger out. The fact that he spoke in Russian didnít even enter Makariiís mind, nor did he realize that he addressed her as Ďmotherí for the first time in almost ten years.

Viktor looked from the shayke to his friend and back again. "Mother? Youíre his mother?" He began to laugh, an eerily hysterical sound. "Oh, of course youíre his mother, and you both speak Russian, and I... am the greatest fool on Earth." Burying his face into his dead kitten, Viktor finally began to shut down after days of self-denial and lack of sleep.

Makarii spit out a steam of curses, combining words in Turkish, Russian, French and English, then quieted long enough to hear Dobanís low voiced explanation of all he knew. Visibly reining in his temper, the shayke issued terse orders to the eunuchs, then placed his hand on his motherís arm, leading her away from Jade despite her protests. "I know you have your suspicions as to who did this; tell me."

Tatiana flicked a look back at Viktor, hating that she had had to deceive him but knowing it had been for the best at the time. "I am sure you are quite aware of who I believe ordered this, my lion," she said quietly.

Makarii frowned at the form of address, knowing it was one she used only when she was furious at him. "Jacqueline. If it can be proven, I will deal with her," he promised. "And there will be no repeats of this incident, I promise you."

"How can you be sure?" The valide odalisqueís tone was still polite, but it also held a chill that was normally not present. "You know what has happened here before, and you know it can happen again."

"It is simple," the shayke stated. "Jade will not be here; he will be in my rooms." Ignoring Tatianaís gasp of shock, Makarii snapped out a string of orders, and the eunuchs flew into motion, gathering up clothing and toiletries, carrying them out of the rooms and down the hallway.

Viktor looked up, not quite understanding what was going on. "Tania?" he whispered, looking at the older woman as if she held all the answers. "What... I donít... care, I donít care any more. As the fates will it and all those pretty phrases," he suddenly decided, lowering his eyes and falling silent.

The shayke cast an unreadable look at the older man, then swept out of the rooms, unmindful of his motherís sorrowful glance.

Shaking her head slightly, Tatiana moved back to Viktorís side, stroking his face as she knelt down beside him. "I am sorry I did not tell you that ĎGeny was my son, but you so needed a friend who was familiar with things here, and I admit I was selfish in wanting to speak with someone from the homeland. I did not mean to hurt you."

"I thank you for your kindness to me, lady - it gave me great comfort, and I will admit to enjoying our debates. You too must follow the rules of the shayke, whether he is your son or not. I understand this. I think... you are the valide; I think I must have known but chose to ignore the fact," he replied, finally putting the kitten down with a last touch. "What will become of me now? Truly, lady, please - tell me what to expect from him. I donít think I could face his anger again, not now. I would do something rash. I know it."

"He is not angry with you but at what happened or, more precisely, what might have happened," she explained, casting a sorrowful look at the kittenís still body before continuing. "He has commanded that you be moved to his rooms for your protection. I was not the target in this matter, you were, and he is trying to prevent any harm from coming to you. All I ask is that you try to remember that and to keep in mind that he is but the result of his upbringing, as are we all. He is a good, kind man, but it is hard for him to show it at times."

Viktor nodded slowly, digesting this information. "I shall try, Tania - truly this time. Will you be allowed to come visit me? And Li Yan? I would go crazy with no one to talk to all day and only my own mind to keep me company - it has proven to be a rather frightening and insidious place of late," Looking up Viktor saw Doban hovering in the door, a frown on his face.

"Iím to leave now, I suppose. I hope to see you tomorrow," he said with a small smile and a squeeze of the valideís hands as he stood and followed the Black Eunuch down the same halls he had traveled only twice before.

Of course there had been no evidence; of course the cooks knew nothing; of course the servant who had delivered the food was found dead, strangled with a silken scarf. If was as if the very fates were conspiring against him, and Makarii fumed in silence as he stalked the hallways leading back to his rooms.

Once in his rooms, the shayke pulled the turban from his head and exhaled, then looked up sharply, remembering that he had ordered Jade brought here. At once his expression lost the youthful, open look that had suffused it, becoming cold and hard in a split second. "I trust you have everything you need here," he stated, looking from the other man to the new additions to the room.

"Yes, thank you, Lord," Viktor replied softly from where he sat on a divan, watching with shadowed eyes at the brief glimpse of someone he... felt compassion for, before that person disappeared behind the visage of the shayke once more. Knowing that he had a duty to perform, he rid himself of his anxieties and spoke softly. "May I assist you in any way?"

Aware that the offer was grudgingly made, Makarii shook his head. "That will not be necessary, Jade. I know that todayís events must have upset you, so I will not require assistance from you tonight. If you would care to rest or bathe, you may avail yourself of the bath or the extra room."

"As my lord wishes," Viktor replied with a wistful look at the man who invaded his dreams. Heading to the room he was consigned to, he stopped short of the door and whispered without turning to look at the other man, "I would apologize for my behavior. It was childish and cruel, and you did not deserve for me to treat a gift as such. For what it is worth, I never saw you as my rapist, merely saw myself as weak." And with that he walked into the room he was to stay in indefinitely, not looking back, his spine ramrod straight.

"Your apologies do not matter to me, my gem," Makarii said, knowing that the words would carry into the next room, "nor does what you think of me concern me." Suddenly, the shayke was tired. Tired of the intrigue, tired of the other manís silent defiance, tired of the subtle demands placed on him by his mother and the other members of the harem. With each revelation, another strand in Makariiís closely held temper frayed, worn away under the emotional and personal stress.

"All that concerns me is that you remember your place and your station. And that you are mine."

How was it possible that he could go from almost caring for this man to a towering rage in less than minutes? Viktor didnít know; he just saw red. Here heíd tried to do the right thing, tried to make amends, only to be coldly and succinctly reminded of his Ďplaceí as if he were a cur to be brought to heel.

"Eb tvoyu mat, nadmenni ubliodok," he ground out and, without a thought to the man in the next room, threw a beautifully designed glass vase covered in semi-precious jewels against the wall by the door, then wheeled and stalked out to the balcony in attempt to re-exert his control.

So much had happened today Viktor felt as if he were going mad. Someone was trying to kill him, the woman he considered friend was his masterís (even in his mind this was hissed out with disgust) mother, and heíd had to kill his pet today, the one named after his beloved sister. "I miss you all so much, Mother, Father, Alizka, even you, Mikhail. I will find a way to get home. God be my witness, I will find away to get out of this prison."

"There is only one way off of Cyprus for one such as yourself." Makariiís voice was flat and totally devoid of emotion though his dark eyes glittered with barely restrained fury. A line of crimson blood ran down his forehead and another dripped from his chin, the result of having been in the doorway when Jade threw his missile at the wall.

"And until you understand your place here and what it means, there will be some changes." Striding forward with catlike grace and speed, Makarii grabbed the older man by the wrists with one hand and sliced his garments from his body with the dagger held in the other. It was a mockery of their first time together, but the shayke did not even seem to recall that evening as he continued, dragging the older man back inside and throwing him bodily on the divan.

"Arrogant bastard I may be," he growled, looming over the smaller man, his body tense with frustration and anger, "but I am the person who controls your life, and until you accept that, it is just what I plan to do. You will not eat anything that does not come from my hand. You will not drink anything unless I offer you refreshment from my own lips. You will wear no clothing until such a time as you learn to please me with your manner as well as your actions, and you will receive no visitors until I will it. Is this understood?"

Viktorís eyes became ice, and his chin went up defiantly. "I would rather starve than accept food from you," he spat softly. "Die of thirst than take drink from your lips and have my soul shrivel from loneliness than please one such as yourself!" he hissed, eyes tracking the ribbon of blood flowing down the younger manís cheek with an almost unholy satisfaction. So the great Shayke Makarii bled red like any slave, did he? Viktor scrambled backwards, eluding the man towering over him, giving himself bolt space.

No longer content to be the silent victim, Viktor began to plan. His eyes darted about, watching Makarii, learning the roomsí layout, cataloguing and processing all he saw. If there was escape, he would find it. Whatever it took, whomever he had to pander to or, God above protect him, sleep with to escape from this hellish island and its overlord, he would do - if it meant finding a way home.

Viktor would not back down, not this time. Heíd tried to do the right thing, be humble and pleasing only to have his worst fears confirmed by the man before him. Less than nothing, not even my apologies mean anything, well, to hell with him. For Tania I tried, but the devil take him, Iíll try no more. Viktor thought angrily. I am a prince of Russia, my bloodline is even purer than this oneís, and I am kin to the Romanovs. I will not be made to bow and scrape like that whore Jacqueline, bend over just to win a bauble or favor. To hell with him!

Makarii stood silently, watching Jadeís every move, knowing the time ahead of them would not be an easy one. He would triumph though. However long it took, Jade would come to understand his place on Cyprus and that it was one he was going to hold for the rest of his life.

"It would be a pity to watch so beautiful a specimen wither away because of your willful nature, my gem," the shayke murmured, casually tracking the older man around the spacious outer room, easing around the low tables and pillows, keeping himself between Viktor and the balcony. "And I can assure you that it will not happen. I value you too much for that. If you prove too foolhardy, it is a simple matter to have you drugged into complacency then give you sustenance."

The mutinous jut of Jadeís chin told Makarii that he had hit a nerve, and he gave voice to a short, mirthless chuckle. "And I would do that, my gem; do not think that I will not. I would much prefer to have your cooperation in this matter, but I will do what is necessary, and you will not leave these rooms until I am satisfied that you have learned the lessons I seek to teach."

The shayke turned from his slave then, presenting Viktor with a perfect target if he chose to attempt an attack. Makarii trusted his instincts, however, and he was sure that the older man wouldnít attempt such a thing when there was no hope of escape. If they were outside the palace, perhaps it would be another story, but not here. Opening an ornately inlaid box, he removed a thick silver chain, weighing the heavy links between his hands before turning back to the other man.

"Come here, Jade," Makarii commanded quietly. When the slave held his ground, the shayke strode forward, whipping the collar up and over the older manís head, securing the locking clasp around Viktorís neck as the other man struggled to beat him off.

Viktor struggled futilely. Despite the fact that he was heavier set than the shayke, heíd fallen out of practice at defending himself due to his captivity and lack of a training partner. Soon the collar was secure, and he was leashed to Makarii by the heavy silver that rested like a yoke about his neck.

He had no choice but to follow as he was tugged across the room, and he felt the unrelieved pressure about his neck until he was made to sit at the shaykeís feet. Chained like an animal, a pet to be led around, how had his life come to this? he wondered, silently railing at the stars and at God Himself for letting this happen to him.

"Why? Why me?" he ground out at last, no longer able to stay quiet. "I was a gift, nothing more. Besides we both know Iíll just end up like the others eventually - your propensity for keeping male slaves isnít that high after all," Viktor replied bitterly. "Why not save yourself the trouble and let me die now instead?"

Viktorís laugh was sarcastic and unforgiving. Li Yan had heard the whispers when theyíd first come to the Seraglio and had passed on the tales of the mysterious deaths to Viktor. The Russian had thought nothing of it until his own life had been threatened, and only now had he managed to connect the past incidents to the present. "It would seem that you are right, my lord," he spat hatefully. "I will die here. One way or another - but most likely before even you can have that pleasure."

"You are wrong regarding that matter," Makarii said quietly, his temper firmly under control once again though his grip on Jadeís collar not relaxing in the least. "I will have pleasure from you, and many times. There will be no more repetitions of todayís unfortunate incidents."

At Viktorís snorted out laugh, the shayke gripped the older manís chin, his fingers tightening painfully until Jade turned his head to look up at him. "It is my will, and on Cyprus my will is law. You may not understand this now, but you will in time." As he spoke, Makarii brushed his thumb over the lush curve of Jadeís lower lip, then smiled mirthlessly when his gem attempted to bite his flesh.

"In time, my gem, in time." After giving the other manís face a final caress, Makarii released Jade to stand, looking down at the older man. "You may go to your bed now, unless you are hungry or thirsty?" At Jadeís vehemently negative answer, the shayke smiled thinly. "Perhaps you will reconsider come morning. Until then, sleep well, my gem." Without a further look at Jade, Makarii swept from the outer room, retiring to his bedroom for the evening.

Fragrant steam wafted from the delicate bone china cup held loosely in the shaykeís hands. A platter holding a wide array of breakfast foods rested on the low table next to the pile of cushions where Makarii reclined, sipping his tea, waiting for Jade to emerge from his room.

The hour was late, but the shayke was determined to out-stubborn his beautiful Russian, and so he waited, sampling the various delights that made up his morning meal, for the older manís hunger and thirst to get the best of him. Finally, reluctantly, Jade appeared at the doorway to the outer room, looking every inch as defiant as he had the night before.

"Spokoyne utrom," Makarii offered, taking the tactic of greeting the other man in his own language. "I hope you slept well." Jadeís cold-eyed stare was all the answer the shayke received, and he took a deliberate sip of his tea before continuing. "Would you care for refreshment?"

Viktor was confused beyond belief. Why in the name of God was Makarii doing this? He could not fathom the young potentate no matter how hard he tried. The shayke followed no rules that Viktor had grown up learning - and he had been bred to survive and thrive in the court of Peter the Great, Tsar of Russia. Makarii delivered justice by his own hand, was a fair and equitable overlord, from what Tatiana had told him - yet kept slaves for both pleasure and to run his estates and forced them to bend to his will. How could Viktor ever hope to understand this man?

Ignoring the shayke and his offer, Viktor moved to the latticed window and stared longingly at the sea. So much distance, so far away. It would be winter now, and everything would be blanketed in pristine white. The fires would be roaring, and there would be hot ciders and other treats.

Yule would be approaching, and with it the family would be gathered in St. Petersburg. Mamma and Alizka would be shopping up a storm and organizing the house so that it was festooned and smelling of cinnamon, nutmeg and the smells of Christmas. Papa would be regaling friends and cronies who came visiting with stories, and Mikhail would be attending all the balls, searching for a suitable wife.

If he had been there, he probably would have been accompanying Alizka, as he was considered a suitable chaperone for his lovely sister - and he would be fighting off the gaggle of mammas who wanted to display their little darlings. When he wasnít doing that, heíd have been hunting with his friends and companions, letting his borshois run loose and generally enjoying himself, his friends and his family. Then there would have been all the court functions to attend.

A melancholy smile spread over Viktorís lush lips, and his eyes shone with pent up emotions. So much lost and out of reach. So many regrets at things heíd never said and such heartache at facing the fact that now heíd never have the chance to say them. "Mne strashno ne khvatalo vas," he whispered softly, never realizing he spoke out loud.

The sound of silk moving against silk snapped Viktor out of his reverie, and his spine straightened to rigidity once more. No. He would not give in, not this time, not ever again.

Bone china teacup still in hand, Makarii stood and crossed the expanse of carpeted floor that separated him from Jade. His eyes swept down over the strong expanse of the older manís back to the rounded globes of his ass, and the shayke felt the coiling of desire stir deep within him at the memory of being sheathed within that living heat. Stopping alongside Jade at the window, Makarii made no move to touch the other man and didnít comment on the slaveís soft-spoken comment.

Getting this one to trust would be a challenge indeed. The Russian was too proud for his own good, but it was that very spirit that intrigued the shayke. It would take time, but the night before Makarii had come up with a plan he thought would work, and now was the time to implement it.

"The sea is calm today," he said quietly. "A welcome respite from the storms we have had lately. If you look closely, you can almost see the coastline from here." Jade remained silent, his stiff posture his only sign of defiance.

"The trade ships should make good time from the mainland," Makarii continued. "This time of the year they will be bearing goods from the Orient. It shall be interesting to see what delicacies the captains have bartered for."

Viktor watched the shayke out of the corner of his eye, confused. Why was Makarii being so... friendly? Why did he have to be that way? The shayke was easy to despise when he was as he had been, but this... it was almost pleasant.

Gritting his teeth, Viktor had to bite his tongue not to respond. It was so tempting to talk to the man - and it had been so long since heíd had more to talk about than life in captivity. His mind was crying out for knowledge, thirsting for information and intelligent conversation. However he was still nothing more than a slave, a slave who was used for his body, not his mind.

"And why should I care about the conditions of the sea? Chances are those ships are just bringing in more slaves stolen from their homes and ripped from the arms of those who love them," Jade remarked bitterly.

Snapping his mouth shut, Viktor looked longingly out to the oceans again. He was only hurting himself and perhaps if he had enough information he could figure out a way to find a way home. "My apologies for interrupting your instruction, Master. I let my temper escape me, by all means continue your lessons."

Determined not to rise to any of the older manís baiting, Makarii simply shook his head at the angry question, hiding his surprise when Jade suddenly seemed to reconsider that tactic. Settling on the opposite corner of the windowseat, Makarii frowned to himself at the gaunt hollows in the other manís cheeks and the dazed look in his eyes. He hadnít been eating well, and now who knew how long it would be before he consented to take sustenance from the shayke.

"The ships bring in silks, spices and teas as well as delicacies, both animal and plant alike. Cyprus supports herds of llamas, goats and sheep, and my people are renowned for their skill in weaving and felting." The older manís interest in his island prison was something new, and his grasp of the economy was a pleasant diversion from most of Makariiís other companions.

"We need very little other then what we produce here to sustain ourselves. If needed, I could shut down the ports, and we would be no worse off for the doing." Makarii took another sip of his tea, watching the way Jadeís eyes followed the cup to his lips. "Would you care for refreshment? There is food as well as the tea."

"Why is so important that I need to be fed by you?" Viktor asked softly. "I am no infant in swaddling clothes, my lord Shayke; I am a grown man with an intellect. Must you subjugate me this way?" He turned to look at the other man for the first time that day. "I never meant you injury last night. For that I truly am sorry."

Viktorís eyes turned once more to the ships in the harbor. "This must be a pleasant home - if youíre free to enjoy it, that is," he said without a trace of bitterness or rancor in his voice. It was a simply stated fact, one that, he was slowly coming to understand, would never apply to him. Would it be so bad? Really? He could have ended up with her after all....

Makarii turned to look in the same direction as Jade, his expression saddening for a fleeting moment. "Everyone alive has their own chains, my gem; some are simply less visible then others." He laughed softly at that, the quiet sound holding only the barest trace of irony. "As for why I wish to be the only one to feed you... I have no desire to break you or to earn more of your hatred then I now bear. I simply believe that this is the easiest way to show you that I am the ruler of Cyprus and that my word is law."

"I donít hate you," Viktor whispered quietly.

"I simply cannot understand you. Youíre as beautiful as a dream. You have a harem full of equally beautiful women - all of whom are there willingly or at least accept this life as their own. Why is it so important for you to have me? What value can I possibly have for you?" he continued, wanting desperately to understand what made him so special as to draw the attention of first the bitch and now the Lord of Cyprus himself.

The younger man was silent for a long time, wondering if Jade was fishing for compliments, but no, that went against everything he knew about the other man. He was simply looking for some kind of reason behind what had happened to him - as if there was a simple answer to that.

"Have a drink and something to eat, and Iíll tell you," Makarii offered, knowing full well that Jade probably wasnít going to like the tradeoff but not wanting to risk the other man dehydrating or taking ill. "A bite or sip for each answer."

"The same conditions still apply?" Viktor asked softly, a pale tinge of pink coloring his pale face. Perhaps... Oh face it, Viktor - you want him, damn your soul to perdition. Any excuse to touch him was just that - an excuse. And Gospodi, he wanted to feel those sensations again.

The shayke nodded. "Until I rescind the order, it remains in force," he said quietly, waiting to see what reaction that would bring.

Bowing his head in defeat, Viktor swallowed harshly, his face gone even paler underneath his blush. He wanted to... but Bozhe moi, did it have to be so hard? Afraid of how his voice would sound if he tried to speak, Viktor nodded, a painful bobbing of his head. Why, oh why did this have to be the only way?

If only they had met at court or in some other way, it would be as easy as breathing for the Russian prince... "If I may have some tea..." he managed to croak out, his fingers clenched tight, white with the strain.

Keeping his features carefully schooled into a neutral expression to hide the pleasure he felt at Jadeís request, Makarii nodded again. It was obvious from the older manís posture and demeanor that this was difficult for him, and the shayke was not going to do anything to make him regret this small capitulation. "Of course you may," he murmured.

In time, my gem, he told himself, taking a drink, then setting the cup on the windowsill to lean in over the other man. Once Jade looked up at him, Makarii pressed his lips against the older manís, waiting until Jadeís tight lips eased open to let the warm drink trickle from his mouth to the slaveís.

Viktor swallowed convulsively, the tea going down his throat in a sweet rush, the flavor slightly altered from the tea he was used to. God, it tastes like him, Viktor thought with a tiny, almost inaudible whimper. Drawing back, his eyes large and his face flushed, Viktor didnít realize that his tongue darted out in an unconscious effort to catch the last, faint drops of taste. "Thank you," he husked, ducking his head in embarrassment and desperately wishing for a cool breeze to calm his heated skin.

The tea wasnít enough, Viktor found. Now that he had some little thing in his stomach it rumbled for more. God above, he was hungry, he thought, his appetite returning with a vengeance. But he wasnít going to ask just yet. Blessed Mother, if a mouthful of tea turned him into a quivery wreck of nerves, what would eating out of the shaykeís hand do to him?

"Youíre welcome," Makarii answered, settling back onto the seat alongside the older man, his lips quirked in a tiny, ironic smile. When he had set these rules, the shayke hadnít contended with the idea that these small bits of contact would be a tease for himself as well. One taste of Jadeís lips and he wanted more - much more - but Makarii was willing to wait, knowing that in the end he would have what he wanted.

"Would you care for more?" The sweep of Jadeís pink tongue over his lips caused a tightening in Makariiís loins, but he kept his voice low and pleasant. "Or something to eat?"

"I..." Viktor stammered, unsure of his footing in this new relationship they seemed to be developing. Makarii did not at all seem like the same man Jacquelineís poisoned whispers had described.

Of course, if he were honest, heíd have to admit that heíd wanted to be convinced of the shaykeís evil nature in order to absolve himself of his guilt. But Shayke Makarii was a man, not unlike himself, as trapped within his station as Viktor now was. A man, who was not unkind, just... different from what Viktor was used to.

"I think I would like that, yes, if you wouldnít mind, my lord," he finally replied, an almost smile chasing across his lips as he watched the younger man from beneath lowered lashes.

"Yes, youíd like which, my gem?" the younger man asked, his teeth showing between his neatly cropped bread and mustache in a flash of a smile. "And as I recall, I promised you an answer for each sip or bite you took; would you care for that as well?"

"Perhaps a bit to eat?" Viktor asked demurely, watching the younger manís reactions carefully. Oh, how he wanted to talk to Tatiana now, to find out about the son and not the shayke - or the man he may very well have misjudged.

"As for answers, as it should so please you," the older man continued, almost embarrassed by his eagerness to understand this man. If it helped him cope, find his place in this world... it would be worth it, Viktor thought with an ironic grin. Perhaps the Shayke was right - perhaps he had required visible and physical proof that Makarii was the lord of Cyprus.

Leaving the tea cup where it rested, Makarii rose from the windowseat and crossed to the breakfast tray, carrying it back with him, setting it on the far side of the cushion and settling himself next to Jade where he could easily reach both food and drink. Choosing a tart lemon pastry, the shayke offered it to his slave, watching the way Jadeís eyes darted from the food to his face then back again.

"You may eat while I answer you," Makarii said, raising the pastry to Jadeís soft lips. Once the other man had taken a bite, he smiled, continuing to hold out the offering. "You wish to know what value I place in you. First, my gem, I was attracted to you because of your exquisite looks. You are exceedingly fair of face, Jade, something that is reflected in your body as well. Simple beauty is not enough to interest me, however. As you have seen, I have many fair flowers decorating my harem; what is one more or less?"

Seeing the questioning expression darken the older manís eyes to a color that reminded the shayke of the forests of France, Makarii continued. "You have spirit, my gem. Spirit and pride that not even the Red Lady could strip from you. If you could survive all that time with her and still remain as you are, I knew that you were indeed a prize worth taking - and treasuring."

Viktor looked at the younger man askance, a light blush coloring his cheeks. Did the shayke truly believe this of him? "I... am not sure you are seeing me as I truly am, but I thank you for that. No one has ever said such things of me before. Strange that it should be you of all people, when you have the least need to say it. I am yours to do with as you will; you donít need to pander to my ego at all," the Russian shrugged fatalistically as he finished the tart treat with a final, delicate bite.

"But I think I must protest the fair flower comparison. I would rather not be thought of as a bloom," Viktor chuckled quietly. "As for the Red Lady - she was... Death would have been a more pleasant alternative than serving her in any capacity let alone the one she meant me for. I..." would thank you for rescuing me, he almost said. Is that how he truly felt? Curious, heíd spent so much time in hatred and fear that he never considered the alternatives and the fact that perhaps he should be grateful for this manís interest instead of terrified by it.

"I do not say these things to stroke your ego, Jade," Makarii said seriously, "but because they are true. I do not and will not lie to ease my own conscience or the ones of those around me. Blunt words may hurt at times, but deception is a far greater sin against Allah then that."

He chose a succulent slice of melon and held it out for the older manís approval before continuing. "And no, you are no flower; perhaps instead I should compare you to one of my falcons. Bred to rule, but through a quirk of fate, brought here to serve me. With them I can never be totally off my guard, and somehow I sense it is the same with you. It is plain what you want, but that is something it is not within my power to bestow."

"But I thought you were the shayke. If you do not have the power to free me, then who does?" Viktor asked softly. "You have told me before I have but two ways out of here, freedom and death. You implied you had the power to deliver either to me. Are you now saying you can only grant me death?" Viktor asked sadly.

Turning his head away from the melon with a sad smile, the Russian declined the offering. "Forgive me, lord, but I seem to have discovered that I am no longer hungry," he whispered.

"Iím sure you have your reasons for keeping me," the older man continued after a moment. "But I must tell you that to do so is foolish, no matter what the reason. You were right to compare me to a creature born to rule. I come from a powerful family, lord, more powerful than you can imagine. And what power they do not possess of their own, they soon will through an alliance marriage that reaches into the heart of St. Petersburg.

"They will look for me, lord, and they will not stop until they have found me or avenged me. If they find me here, the might of the Russian army will fall down upon you like a hammer. The Red Lady can die an excruciating death for all I care, but you... I would not see harmed. For your sake, your children and your mother... your people. Letting me leave would be the safest course of action," Viktor finished quietly, knowing heíd probably just damned himself a traitor for this.

At the older manís change of countenance, Makarii cursed quietly to himself. This whole business was so delicate, so touchy, and it seemed for every step of progress he made, he took two backward. "I thank you for the warning. And for the concern, my gem, but I do not think the Russian army would dare try to push so far within the borders of the Ottoman Empire. Your tsar has no desire to anger my sultan and risk his trade routes, and an attack of that magnitude would certainly do so."

The shayke looked at the slice of melon, his expression saddened, then placed it back on the tray before rising from the windowseat. "You are right, I did say that, but I misspoke. There is but one way off Cyprus, and it is not one I would wish on you for anything. You see, the main reason that I cannot release you is because you fascinate me. It is a weakness that I should not allow myself, but it is also the truth."

"Then you are a fool. I am not worth the price you will pay. You are wrong on one count, my lord. The tsar will risk war - for a member of his family," Viktor replied softly as he rose and returned to his own chamber. "Even a member related only through marriage, and I would not see you or your family harmed for the world - or for my freedom."

Makarii turned toward the opening, his eyes dark and somber. "Thank you, Jade. I do not believe that it will be an issue, but the sentiment is one I am grateful for."

Viktor smiled sadly. "Then who am I to argue? I am but your slave, master. It is not my place to argue." Leaving the room quietly, Viktor sat down on the edge of his divan and prayed to both his God and Makariiís that the younger man was right. For as much he despised his servitude, he valued the people here, with maybe one pointed exception. "Please God. Let him be right."

Viktor soon became so accustomed to his nakedness that he no longer even noticed it. He did, however, notice when Makarii shed more than his usual attire. When that happened, he found he had to find a reason to sit or kneel or flee the room quickly. His body tended to betray him then.

His weight stabilized, though he did not gain much. It was still very disconcerting to take all his sustenance from the other man. He had taken to placing a pillow in his lap as he did so, and Makarii, for some reason, let him.

Viktor soon found his dreams inundated with images of the single night they shared together. The way he had begged and pleaded in the end. How good it felt, every touch and sigh repeating itself over and over in his dreams, causing him to wake up with his hand wrapped around his cock, stroking it in time to the dream Makariiís thrusts. He was going mad. He had to be.

The setting sun painted the opulent rooms with shades of fire, and the shayke paused as he entered his quarters, his gaze falling unerringly on Jadeís sleek form. The older man was seated on the cushions, one of the books Makarii had brought for him open on his lap, totally engrossed in the story.

Though he was unable to read the Cyrllic symbols himself, Makarii had given his mother the volumes to look over after he had found them in the stores of one of the ships that had recently returned to port. Tatiana had leafed through the books, then nodded, her smile holding far more pleasure then he would have thought a simple courtesy for her friend would have caused. Ahh, but then his mother tended to look upon Jade as a kind of surrogate son, one she could look after when her own offspring would not allow her to do so.

Allah, the man was beautiful and utterly tempting. The week that Jade had spent in the shaykeís rooms had seen the older man growing more relaxed in Makariiís presence, but that still hadnít stopped the slight stiffening Makarii saw and felt whenever he offered his gem food or drink or shed any clothes in front of his slave.

It had taken a while to understand, but now Makarii was almost positive that it was because Jade was fearful of his master discovering that those interactions affected him physically. Why else would the other man shield his lap with a large pillow whenever he was fed?

It was a first step, and a positive one, just as the unaffected smile Jade had given when presented with the books had been. This approach was working, though Makarii didnít consciously realize that it was entrenching his gem into his heart as firmly as he was insinuating himself into Jadeís.

"It must be a very good story," he said quietly, a smile curling the corner of his lips upward.

"Heart wrenchingly tragic. Every hero and heroine will die in the end, and the villain will live with ghosts to haunt him. Just as the best stories should be," Viktor replied with a small smile, glancing up at his master from the words on the page.

How easy it was to think that now, his master, his owner, his lord; each applied to Makarii, and yet for all the negatives those words implied to someone of Viktorís background, he now only felt a glow of warmth in the pit of his stomach. Because there was another side to this coin.

Viktor was valued, and he did have a purpose, not just as a toy but as a companion. Makarii saw to it that he was kept safe and happy, and in return the shayke found peace and companionship. No one had ever wanted to take care of him like that before. As a man it was expected that he should be the caregiver, the protector. Viktor rather enjoyed the sensation.

Time and his consciously forcing himself to accept his new lot in life had given Viktor a new perspective on the events of a week ago. Makarii had been almost as worried about him as about his mother. The one brief glance Viktor had seen before those mahogany eyes had frozen into fury had shown him that, though heíd denied it at the time. Perhaps in time the shayke would come to value him as more than just a Ďgemí in his collection. Viktor could hope.

"Is there anything I may do to assist you, lord?" he husked softly, after a brief momentís hesitation. This was, after all, his part in the order of things - and he found he actually looked forward to it now.

The shaykeís gaze turned assessing for the briefest moment, then became placid again. Removing his turban, he placed it on the table nearest the doorway, then pulled a bottle of deep red wine and a glass from the shelves beneath it.

"You may assist me by sharing this wine, my gem." Noting Jadeís fleeting look of surprise, Makarii chuckled, a deep, husky sound. "Not something condoned by Allah, I know, but I developed a taste for it while I was in France, and I fear I havenít been able to lose it - not that I particularly want to." Much like my interest in you, he added to himself.

Carrying the items in one hand, Makarii crossed to the pile of cushions where Jade was sitting, waving away the older manís attempt to rise and help him. "Stay where you are, Jade. It is not your task to fetch and carry for me." He settled himself at the slaveís side, his cloth-covered thigh pressing against Jadeís bare one. "Unless I order you to," he added with another hint of a smile.

A slight blush tinged the Russianís cheeks, and the feeling of Makariiís body pressed against him began to once more affect him. Automatically he reached for a small pillow and arranged it over his lap. "A-as you wish," he replied, his lashes lowering to veil his turbulent emotions.

"I do enjoy wine, though I admit to missing vodka... and caviar. More than I thought possible," Viktor continued with a little smile. Funny how the knife did not twist quite so sharply this week - only so long as he did not try to remember his family.

Letting Makariiís words flow over him, his mind began to twist as questions arose. One of the things he absolutely refused to do in the Red Ladyís harem was take the faith of this land. He was Christian, and his only God was the one true God. But Makariiís attitude towards his god fascinated Viktor. "When I go to mass, Godís blood was symbolized by red wine, and we all drink of it to show that we carry God within us," he commented softly, watching in rapt fascination as the wine poured into the single glass.

Viktor bit his lip to stop the whimper that tried to escape. Soon he would feel those lips pressed against his once more, and this time he would be tasting the heady combination of wine mixed with the even more intoxicating flavor that was Makarii - a flavor Vikor was becoming rapidly addicted to.

"Mmm," the shayke murmured, setting the bottle aside and raising the glass so that the sunís dying light reflected through the ruby depths contained within it. "Tatiana professes an enjoyment of caviar too. The next time we get a shipment, I am sure she would appreciate sharing with someone else who relishes it as much as she does. Vodka is harder to come by, but one never knows what will show up on the tradersí ships."

After taking a sip of the beverage, Makarii reclined back against the cushions, inviting Jade to do the same. "I commend you for keeping to the strictures of your faith, my gem. Mine is a much less concrete emotion." The shayke studied the glass again, the fingers of his other hand splayed out on the damask fabric behind where the older man would lie back if he so chose.

"I have seen many things done in the name of religion - most of them sickening," he confessed. "That being the case, while I by all accounts a devout follower of Allah, I prefer to believe in a god who is not of one particular faith. For some reason, giving blind allegiance to something like that goes against my sensibilities."

He took another drink, then looked up at Jade. "Forgive me, my gem, I meant no disrespect to your religion or your faith. Would you care for a taste of the wine? I do not believe that it symbolizes your Lordís blood in this case, but it is a decent vintage."

"I must confess," Viktor began, hesitantly leaning back into the soft cushions, the shift of weight drawing him tighter against Makariiís lean frame as his bare skin brushed against, then came to rest on the soft material of the shaykeís caftan. "I clung to my religion more to oppose her rather than to be true to my faith. She wanted all her slaves to be Muslim, as your god demands. I chose to defy her and remain Christian.

"It was expected of me because of my position and my..." Viktor trailed off, choking back the word family. No, he would not think about it or remember. He was trying to make peace with his life now. Fighting the burn in his throat, he continued. "It was just expected of me to do these things. What I believed never came into question. My beliefs are far more different than my religion would have them, I am afraid. In fact, if my choices were ever found out, I would be cast out, considered unclean, the work of the devil. Itís rather amusing really, that on one hand the church preaches, love, compassion and redemption, and on the other damns both men and women for love outside of its narrow view."

Viktor closed his eyes, for a moment, a wry grin playing across his lips. He was diverting and evading as per his usual method, circumventing being fed or having a drink. It had been long hours, however, without liquid, and even in the shade of the shaykeís rooms he had grown thirsty. Wine, however, would go straight to his head on an empty stomach. Dare he ask for water instead?

"Perhaps a sip or two," he finally husked as he at last acknowledged the younger manís offer, his body automatically tensing for the erotic thrill that was to follow and his eyes becoming veiled once more to hide his riotous emotions.

"It has been noted that each religion twists the tenants of its faith to persecute that which it fears most," the younger man mused. Pleased with the fact that Jade had chosen to recline beside him, Makarii also did not fail to notice the fact that whatever the other man had stopped himself from saying had anguished him in some way.

"But discussions on theology can wait until later, first we share a drink." Drinking deeply from the glass, Makarii swallowed some of the wine down, letting the remainder of the beverage stay in his mouth. Twisting to the side, he brushed his lips over Jadeís, feeling the small tremor that ran through the other man at the intimate contact. The shaykeís thumb inscribed small circles against the flesh of Jadeís back, and he let his lips linger against his gemís for a moment after the drink had been shared.

"Our meal should be arriving soon," Makarii said quietly. He stayed where he was, pressed against and half over Jade, feeling the pillow the other man had held pressed against his groin. "If my memory serves me, the cooks were preparing eel; one of the fishing vessels brought in a good catch today."

Viktor shuddered as Makarii fed him the wine. God above it was delicious, as were the lips that gave him the sweet liquid. Did he imagine it, or did the shaykeís lips linger longer than usual? And Makarii was touching his back, caressing him!

The wine danced over his palate, as did the taste of Makarii, and Viktorís tongue darted out over his lips to taste where the other man had lingered, as if to find a different flavor in the small tenderness bestowed upon him. His face grew heated as he realized Makarii wasnít moving away but remaining, half covering him. God of his ancestors, soon not even the pillow could mask the need racing through him. His breathing began to quicken, and his eyes dilated, betraying his arousal unknowingly.

It was only then did the hazy words the shayke uttered sink in. "Eel?" he squeaked, his face scrunching up in disgust. "You actually eat eels here?"

Makarii chuckled softly at the look of distaste that crossed the other manís face. In that instant Jade appeared younger than he was and utterly innocent. "Yes, we eat them and enjoy them," he answered, staring into the other manís eyes intently, watching as the last vestiges of desire were pushed away by the thought of eating something that obviously was not to his liking.

He took another drink, then set the glass down alongside them, noting the way Jadeís eyes followed the movements of his throat as he swallowed. "Am I right in believing that the meal will not be to your liking, my gem?" The fact that the Russian could eat fish eggs but would not try eel was an amusing one, and Makarii shook his head, his eyes lightening with humor as he continued to rub small circles against Jadeís back with his hand.

Viktor unconsciously relaxed into the petting. It felt so good. Sighing, he let his eyes drift shut for a moment, for a moment letting himself forget everything but the sensation of warm hands on his skin. Arching his neck like a cat, he sighed softly. How could this possibly be wrong? Why did he ever fight so hard?

"Eels are slimy, and they look like snakes," he murmured, his tongue sticking out in a moue of disgust. "But if you say it tastes good..."

The path that Makariiís hand took widened slightly until his palm was ghosting over the older manís shoulder and down past his ribs. Jadeís reaction to his touch so far was enough to inflame the shaykeís desire, but he did nothing else, simply contenting himself with the other manís pleasurable reaction to the petting.

"If you do not think that you will like them, I will not force you to try them," he smiled, willing himself not to stare at Jadeís tongue when the other man slowly pulled it back into his mouth. "There will be rice and fruit enough to satisfy our appetites."

"Iím not a coward," Viktor pouted slightly as he tried not to shiver at the heat he saw flash in Makariiís eyes. "Iíll try anything once - then decide I hate it," he grinned freely, enjoying himself more than he had in ages. Whoíd have thought that a year ago he had been... fighting for his life against a band of marauders.

"I was taken a year ago today," he suddenly realized out loud. Visibly shrinking for a moment, he wondered briefly if his family really was still looking for him. But no... to dwell on the past would make the rest of his life a purgatory, and he could not, would not, do that.

Drawing in a deep and shuddering breath, he turned a bit too bright smile towards the shayke. "I will try your smelly sea snake. Then I will happily eat the rice and fruit."

Resisting the urge to draw the other man closer and chase away the shadows lurking behind his eyes, Makarii only closed his fingers lightly around Jadeís shoulder. "I have never and will never accuse you of that," he promised. "And if you try the eel and do not like it, I will forgo it as well. Never let it be said that I am not willing to sacrifice for those in my care."

Viktor smiled shyly. "Thank you, but please, if you enjoy it, then do so. I promise you if you ever do bring caviar, I shall relish every bite, even if you make faces while I do it. If you are with me, that is," he trailed off.

The discreet cough of another slave and Doban bringing in the dinner silenced Viktor quickly, and a blush stole over his cheeks at the blatant position he and the shayke were in. But such was Makariiís prerogative, and it was not Viktorís place to object.

"Caviar..." The shaykeís lips curled upward into an expression of disgust, then he chuckled. "And I will make it a point to be with you, if only to watch you and Tatiana enjoying it."

At the cough, Makarii turned enough to acknowledge Doban and waved to where he wanted the tray placed. "That will be all for the evening, thank you."

After the two eunuchs had bowed and exited the rooms, Makarii pushed himself to a sitting position, bringing Jade along with him by keeping his arm lightly around the other man. "Now then..." he murmured, removing the lids from the plates, nodding at the presentation and the selection. "One bite of the Ďslimy sea snakeí, and then you can at least say youíve tried it."

Viktorís nose wrinkled once more, but he waited patiently as Makarii held out the delicacy. It could be no worse then the time heíd had to eat roast bear at a reception at the Winter Palace.

Taking a delicate bite, Viktor chewed very carefully and swallowed. Knowing Makariiís rule about no food or drink except from him was the only thing that managed to keep the Russian from diving for the wine. He was wrong. It tasted exactly like it sounded - fishy and salty and slimy. "If it would not be too much trouble, could I please have some wine?" he croaked desperately.

The shaykeís jaw clenched as he held back his laughter at the sickened expression on the older manís face. "Of course you may," he managed to gasp out, getting control of himself before he took a drink so that he didnít sputter wine all over Jade.

Once the slave had swallowed down several mouthfuls, Makarii leaned back slightly, studying him. "Better?" he asked, pushing away the plate of eel and bringing the rice and fruit closer.

"I do not think I will ever be Ďfondí of eel, lord," Viktor replied, an expression of wry self-amusement on his face. "I think I would rather eat more roast bear first."

At the other manís smile, Viktor felt an inordinate amount of pleasure at the small accomplishment. How far he had come in a space of a week, he thought to himself, from dreading this man so completely to finding pleasure in being able to make him smile. Ahh, but there were worse fates than this, surely, he told himself as he turned his attention to the pomegranate Makarii was opening as a next selection.

Though, he did admit to himself in the privacy of his own mind, he did look forward to being able to eat and drink on his own - and wear clothes again. And he couldnít wait to see his friend and Tatiana again. He had so much to talk about, so many questions to ask.

"I think you will find this more to your liking," the shayke said, picking up a slice of the fruit and raising it to Jadeís lips. The sweet juice ran over his fingers and down the back of his hand to drip onto the pillow Jade still clutched to his lap, but Makarii didnít mention this fact to the older man. If the pillow allowed him to maintain some dignity, then so be it; the purpose of this exercise was not to break his gem but to mold him.

"As for roast bear, I cannot comment on the taste of it as I havenít tried the dish before." A muscle ticked once in his jaw as Jadeís lips closed over the tips of his fingers as he accepted the pomegranate. Who would have believed that this feeding was quickly becoming torture for him as well, because for the moment, all the shayke could think of was the feel of those velvety lips on other parts of him.

Viktor looked up from underneath sooty lashes. "It is delicious," he whispered, not quite sure if he was commenting on the fruit or the flavor of his master. "And bear is not something you would wish to taste, my lord. It is greasy and smelly and almost as repulsive, I mean unappetizing, as eel," he teased, gratified to see a smile pass over the shaykeís face as he found amusement in Viktorís words.

The rest of the meal passed quickly, but Viktor found his breath catching in his throat at the way the light would suddenly play across Makariiís features, illuminating his exotic looks, or feel himself melting at the sound of the other manís lilting laugh. Though he would never have admitted it, this man who was his master was slowly but surely winning the Russianís heart with kind words and thoughtful actions.

The older man found himself lingering longer than usual, asking for more food and drink than heíd ever done and enjoying the thrill that chased down his spine each time those lips touched his own. Perhaps... maybe... he truly desired the shayke, it wasnít just the drugs, it was him - he, Viktor Baranski, wanted Makarii desperately. And yet he was still afraid to let the other man know. Maybe soon, but not yet - not while he was still so... dependent on the other man. Not when their relationship was even more unequal than normal.

"The hour grows late, my gem," Makarii said once the food was gone except for the now covered dish of eel. He took in Jadeís yawn, the third in the past fifteen minutes, and smiled. "I believe that you should go to bed before you fall asleep out here and wake up with a sore back."

Rising, he held out his hand for the older man, intending to help him up. "Is there anything you would like before we retire? A drink or a final bit of baklava?"

"As tempting as it is, my lord," the Russian replied with a quick smile. "I fear you are right. I feel as if my eyes are being held open with sticks, and the grit of the desert is being blown into them."

Viktor rose, the pillow still held casually before him. Taking a few steps towards his room, he turned suddenly, face open and honest. "I... canít remember ever having as much fun since my capture as I have had tonight. I would thank you for that."

The shayke inclined his head gracefully, pleasure lightening his eyes to golden. "I hope that you will have many more such evenings to come. Sleep well, Jade. I shall see you in the morning." Giving the other man a final smile, Makarii turned and vanished into his own bedchamber, pulling the curtain of beads shut behind him.

Viktor tossed restlessly on his divan, his sleep unquiet. Behind closed eyes a war raged as memories that he hadnít even known he had fought to resurface. Battle cries were all around him. Thief screamed underneath him as an arrow pierced his brave hunterís side. The dogs heíd taken with him, not his beloved borzois for they were guarding his sister but the hunting dogs, snarled and lunged, but one by one fell, yelping.

Pain lanced through his right arm. Then his left thigh. He fell, his rifle expended, his sword dripping blood. Then she stood over him. And smiled. And the world went black.

He woke up to the rocking of a ship and cold water being tossed on him. "Bitch," he snarled. "Iíll see you dead yet." He stared venomously at the petite red-haired witch, who sat on a chair across from him, smirking.

She said something in a foreign tongue, something he could not understand...

In reality Viktor tossed and whimpered as more of his memory pushed its way to the surface.

Two strong arms lifted him and forced his wrists into manacles above his head. His clothing was ripped from him, and he struggled to lash out. Those same hands held his hips as his legs were kicked apart and...

"NYET!" Viktor bolted upright, sweat pouring off his body, his eyes wide with terror. He was shaking like a leaf in a gale force wind. "No, God in heaven, no," he begged, his voice a harsh whisper as the veil that had kept him from remembering, had given him some semblance of peace of mind, was shredded, and his memories flayed him alive.

Before he realized what he was about, Viktor was out of the bed and out the door, coming to stand next to Makariiís bed. He needed to forget again, needed to have something good replace the foul memory now branded in his brain.

"Lord? he husked softly, fearing rejection almost more than he feared his thoughts. It was not his place to demand attention; it was Makariiís to order it. But tonight he needed the warmth of anotherís touch - of someone who cared about him, even after a fashion. He needed the phantom touches washed away in the fire of desire freely given.

"Jade?" Makarii had woken the moment the hanging beads whispered together, signaling the entrance of someone into his chamber. Long years of being alert to threats from other factions and distant relations had taught the shayke that being inattentive meant death. Sitting up in the bed, the light weight sheets sliding away from his bare chest, Makarii unobtrusively replaced the dagger he had pulled from beneath the mattress in its sheath and set it aside.

"What is wrong, my gem?" he asked, rising from the bed and moving toward the older man, his steps illuminated by the moonlight spilling through the latticed window. "Is something troubling you?"

"I..." Viktor began, choking on his words, trying to formulate something. "May I spend the night here, with you?" he asked finally, sounding, for all his effort to the likewise, like a scared child.

"Of course," the shayke answered, not even questioning Jadeís reasons for the request. "My bed is always open to you, TatlIm." Reaching out, he closed his hand around Jadeís, waiting to see if the other man would give any resistance before he led him toward the wide, mosquito netted bed. "Come, it is late, rest," Makarii offered, settling himself back onto the bed, leaving the slave enough room so that he could be as near or as far from him as he chose.

Viktor despised the fear that ate at him. But he felt so unclean, and this man, with all his passion and fire and honest dealings with even a mere slave like Viktor, was someone worth desiring. Someone Viktor did desire. But how to broach the subject? Heíd never actively and freely seduced another man.

Bolstering his courage with the remembrances of need heíd seen in the shaykeís eyes, Viktor pressed himself tightly against his master. "I would be with you... in every way, if you would allow me," he whispered quietly.

"Jade?" The younger manís voice held a thousand questions, but his body reacted immediately to the offer, arousing itself and arching into Jadeís length. "It is not a question of my allowing it but one of why suddenly you seek it?" He chose his words carefully, softening them with a gentle hand brushed over the slaveís back and side and another one tracing the side of the older manís beautiful face.

Viktor turned his face into the other manís hand, the screams of the dying echoing through his brain once more. "Make it stop, please. I lived a year without those memories; why do they come now, just when I begin to find happiness with my life?" he asked desperately, knowing he did not make sense.

"Please, help me forget again. I want to forget again."

Makarii still did not fully understand Jadeís reasons for this sudden change of heart, but, being a practical man, he was not about to send his gem away or refuse him. "I shall do my best," the shayke promised, levering himself up and over Jade, much as he had been earlier that evening.

Moving slowly, he lowered his lips to brush the older manís. It was almost the same as the times over the past week where he had shared his drinks with the slave but with one important difference - this time it was purely for pleasure.

Viktor moaned quietly, feeling his passion rise as he felt the strong body over him, the soft lips claim his. "You make me feel things that Iíve never felt before," he admitted softly as he let desire course through him, burning away the touches he wanted to forget.

"Your touch makes me clean again. Burns away those others... What I feel with you is honest and true. It is not... forced. It is freely given," Viktor continued, trying to explain without saying the words what he felt, trying to express how much he truly did want this.

"Allah has blessed me on this night," Makarii breathed, pushing back far enough to look into Jadeís eyes, to see the open expression, the shadows hidden in his eyes, but also the truth of his words. "Tonight there will be no thought of the past, only the moment, I promise you. There will be pleasure, my gem, for both of us, of that I am sure."

Before the older man could answer, Makarii caught his mouth again, his tongue teasing at the soft lips, asking for and receiving permission to enter, then languorously exploring, sliding against the roof of Jadeís mouth, then back against his tongue.

Viktor sighed and sank back into the divan, letting sensation wash over him, anchoring him in the here and now. Why had he fought this so hard? he wondered hazily as his breath was stolen and returned in a hot rush. The feel of soft yet wiry hair brushing across his denuded body made him shiver in need. The taste of Makarii, undiluted by food or drink, was as intoxicating as the finest wine.

Letting his eyes fall shut, he reveled in the darkly sensual web his master was weaving around him. Touch and taste, the soft sounds of skin gliding against skin, his own breathy moans of desire. "Please," he whimpered, not quite sure what he was asking for, only aware of the fact that it was Makarii alone who could satisfy his need.

The shaykeís hand skimmed down over Jadeís sides, mapping the ridges and hollows of his ribs and the sharp jut of his hipbone before moving on to the firm flesh of his thighs. "Let yourself go, my gem," he husked, feeling Jadeís legs twine around him and their cocks brush and glide together, the path they took made slick by the precum dripping from both of them.

"This first time, just feel, do not worry about doing," Makarii continued, circling his hips against the older manís, feeling his own desire build. Since bringing Jade to his rooms, the shayke had not called any of his other slaves to his bed, feeling that to do so was unfair to all of them. This being the case, Makarii, who was used to having company in his bed more nights than not, was more needy then he could remember being in years.

This time would simply take the edge off his lust; it would allow him to take his time and savor his gem the next go around, and Makarii was sure that this night there would be many opportunities to learn everything he wanted to know about Jade.

Moaning quietly, Viktor bit his lip to try and keep the sounds from escaping. He was so hot; he was burning alive, and it was such sweet agony. Doing as his mater commanded, Viktor let the fires build and take him where they would.

Flowing around and underneath the lean body covering him, Viktor felt himself begin to tighten. His skin came alive, his testes drew up closer to his cock, and his erection wept constantly, adding to the silky glide of skin against skin.

Opening eyes gone misty with want, Viktor tried to focus on the handsomely exotic face above him. I am his, Viktor thought with a tiny escaped moan. Even if this collar and the laws of this land did not bind me, I would still be his from this day on.

"Master," he whispered at last, throwing all his acceptance and deference to this man into his voice, not realizing that it also betrayed him by expressing his newfound yearnings and emotions. "Yours," he whimpered softly, his orgasm a gentle tide that first swelled then ebbed as the silky ropes of his pearlescent seed added to the heat and friction between them.

"My beautiful gem," the shayke whispered, feeling the heat of the other manís climax burn against his skin, providing a slick, hot path for his erection to follow. One hand sliding under the taut globes of Jadeís ass, the other tangled in the shorn silk of the older manís hair, Makarii let himself go as well, following the stars painted on his eyelids as he shuddered out his climax, rocking against Jadeís strong body.

Opening his eyes, he was treated to the sight of the other manís verdant, pleasure sated gaze, and the shayke smiled. "I feel as if you were made for me, TatlIm. Made to complement me in all things." The soft words were interspersed with equally soft kisses as Makarii rested against Jade, feeling the evidence of their passion grow cool against their flesh.

Viktor reveled in the slight burn of whiskers against his flesh, almost purring in his sublime satiation. "Why did I ever fight this?" he finally wondered aloud, his hand coming up to gently map the strong, lean lines of Makariiís face.

"I should have known she lied. I should have listened to Tatianaís counsel and my own eyes instead. Forgive me, please, the hurt I caused you with the gift? It was lovely and... I wanted to believe, but I allowed poisoned words to color my perceptions," Viktor tried to explain delicately, not wanting to cause strife and yet wanting his master to understand his baseless fears just a little bit.

Seeing a frown mar the handsome face above him, watching something hot and angry grow in those fascinating eyes, Viktor immediately sought to dispel the sudden gloom. Letting a hand drift down between their bodies, Viktor gathered up their cooling seed and began to delicately lap from his hand.

Taking initiative, he pushed Makarii so that he was now on top of the younger man, and he began to clean the shayke with his tongue, savoring each commingled flavor of skin, sweat and their combined release.

Wending his way downwards, Viktor continued to perform his ablutions. Petting and carding his fingers through wiry curls, Viktor groomed his master carefully but avoided touching the shaykeís awakened erection for the longest moments, until the slight growl of breath above him signaled that Makarii was reaching the end of his patience.

Lapping delicately at the ruby toned tip, Viktor began to chart each ridge and vein and flaring with his tongue. Closing his eyes, he allowed his other senses to take in the spiced perfume on his lordís body, the night air scented with jasmine and incense and the earthy scents of their passion.

Viktor felt the air currents stir and caress his flushed and moist skin, the slick slide of his flesh against Makariiís, and he heard the quiet moans and darkly whispered words of praise. He allowed himself to be consumed once more as he took Makariiís shaft into his mouth, swallowing it incrementally, relaxing his throat as heíd been so well trained to do, and he set about pleasuring his master completely, as was his joy and privilege.

His mind closing down to all except the addictive pleasure of Jadeís mouth, Makarii drew his hands up, threading his long fingers through the older manís hair, not guiding him, simply expressing his appreciation with his touch as he was with his hoarse utterances.

The muscular ripples caressing his cock and the smooth fingers rolling his balls within their sac drew a raspy growl from the shaykeís throat, and he pushed up as Jade descended, beginning to fuck the older manís mouth as much as their positions allowed. When the slave moaned in pleasure, the vibrations started a cascade of ripples within Makariiís body, and, with a near silent plea, he came, inundating his gemís mouth with his seed, feeling the stronger contractions as Jade swallowed his offering down.

Viktor drew back as he felt the first spurt of seed hit the back of his throat, wanting to taste Makariiís essence as it slid down. Catching and collecting all of the shaykeís offering in his mouth, Viktor slowly worked his way off of the now softened flesh, keeping a tight seal and shutting his lips quickly so as not to lose a drop.

Closing his eyes, as he lay between the shaykeís outspread legs, Viktor slowly let the viscous substance trickle down his throat, savoring the flavor as he used to savor the flavored ices his mother would give him as a treat. It was salt and bitter, and yet... it was his lordís taste; there was no question of that. It was better than the finest elixir, and Viktor craved more.

When the last drop had at last made its way down his throat, he opened his eyes, his tongue darting out to caress his lips and catch any last bit of flavor. He looked at his master, only to be mesmerized by the erotic fires burning within them. "Did I please you?" he managed to husk at last.

Reaching down, Makarii caught Jade by the arms and gently drew him upwards until he was settled against the shaykeís body. Jadeís erection pressed against Makariiís abdomen, and the younger man smiled slowly, feeling this evidence that his gem had truly wished to do what he had done.

"You please me to no end," he answered before kissing the older man, tasting his own flavor over Jadeís. "For more reasons then you could ever guess." His hands stroked down Jadeís spine before settling on the round globes of his ass, feeling the older man arch up into the contact and then down against him in reaction.

"And I intend to please you as well, once I am able. Your mouth..." Makarii paused to nuzzle and nip at the soft, swollen lips that had just enveloped him so wonderfully. "Your mouth is enough to make your angels weep out of envy."

Viktor colored slightly and ducked his head at the praise. "I somehow do not think that the mouths of angels were meant to do this - unless perhaps they are fallen angels," he replied after a time. Laying his head on the lightly furred chest under him, the Russian listened to the beat of his lordís heart and sighed, content.

Shifting restlessly, Viktor felt the curls at Makariiís groin abrade his erection and whimpered low in his throat. He needed... so much. But it was not his place. To distract himself, Viktor began to card his fingers through the light furring of chest hair, stroking his cheek against the rough softness as a cat would against an object in order to leave its scent.

One tiny irritation nibbled on his mind though, "Viktor," he whispered softly against the other manís chest, his voice no more than a whisper of breath. "My name is Viktor."

"Viktor." Makarii rolled the unfamiliar name over his tongue, using the same pronunciation the older man had when he spoke. It took the shayke a moment to understand what his gem was gifting him with - or burdening him with if looked at another way. To use that name would be to see Jade as more then a pleasure slave, more than one of the odalisques kept here for his entertainment.

But then, Makarii realized, even as he stroked the nape of the other manís neck, he already looked at Jade as such; if he didnít, he certainly wouldnít have spent the time necessary to make the older man comfortable with him. If he had wanted, the shayke could have simply taken his slave, and none would have said a word.

"Viktor," he repeated, feeling the shiver pass through his gemís body at the word and the attempt to prevent himself from pressing his full cock into Makariiís thigh. "I do not know about your fallen angels, but if they are anything like you, I believe they must be the blessed ones."

Coaxing the older man onto his back, Makarii claimed his mouth in a slow, devouring kiss, his hands exploring the smooth, lean lines of Viktorís body as he did so. The other manís reaction caused a corresponding twitch in the shaykeís phallus, and he smiled to himself, knowing that in not long at all he would be settled deep within his gemís body, partaking of the other manís desire as well as his own.

Gasping softly, Viktor arched into the touch, feeling himself burn underneath the shayke. "Lord," he whispered, his eyes held tightly shut and his mouth open and panting for breath. This was life and fire and passion, this was what and who he was made for, or so it now seemed to him.

"I am yours," he husked, his eyes opening to reveal hazy passion and new understanding. "I know this now - in my heart as well as my mind. I am yours alone."

The older manís words burned through Makarii like raging wildfire, and he gazed down into Viktorís passion-dark eyes for what felt like an eternity as his own desire made itself known between their bodies. "Mine and mine alone, my gem," he whispered, gently kissing Viktorís honeyed lips, sweeping his tongue into the other manís mouth, sliding against Viktorís then over the ridged skin of his palate.

"And you will be mine in all ways, soon, very soon." A final kiss and Makarii pushed backwards, his gaze raking over the other manís lean body, noting the hollows that stress and too little food had left behind. "Beautiful," he whispered again, stroking a hand over Viktorís straining erection then down over his heavy testicles to the tight portal to his body. Dipping a finger into the container of oil on the low table beside the divan, the shayke pressed first one, then two digits within the older man, twisting and stretching them and feeling his own need grow with every quiet exhalation and groan the other man gave.

At Viktorís unspoken plea, Makarii pulled back, replacing his fingers with the firm muscle of his phallus, pushing inside and feeling an utter sense of rightness as he buried himself within his gem.

"My love," Viktor whispered softly, not realizing the words he spoke or the truth behind them. All he felt was the hot slide of muscle within him, the intense fullness and finally the fiery bliss from his prostate being stroked.

Hands slowly traced their way up firm flesh, feeling the play of Makariiís muscles as they bunched and released above him. "So strong - so dangerous," he moaned softly, shivering with delight at being possessed by such a man. Closing his eyes against the sensations flooding him, combined with the shadow memories of the first time they made love, Viktor moaned softly, his breath coming in fast pants, and his body shook with quiet need.

"Please," he moaned softly, not quite sure what he was begging for - more of the same excruciating pleasure or release for his tormented body.

"Look at me, Viktor," the shayke rasped, waiting until the older man opened his eyes before claiming his lips in a kiss, even as he began to move. Viktorís quiet moans and soft pleas goaded him on, and Makarii shifted a hand between them to encircle and stroke his gemís erection, the pearly drops of liquid spilling from it making the glide as smooth as that of his own cock into Viktorís body.

Higher and higher they climbed, with Makarii taking his time, bringing his gem every ounce of pleasure possible, taking him to the edge of his orgasm then gentling him back until Viktorís moans had taken on a needy edge that was just this side of pain. "Come for me, my gem," the shayke whispered then, pushing up just enough to gaze down into Viktorís lust darkened eyes. "Let me see you, feel you."

"Master," Jade whimpered, his body desperate for release, for the pleasure of feeling Makariiís seed flood him and the softening that came with his own orgasm. Head tossing restlessly on the bed, fists clenching the fine cotton of the bed coverings in an ever tighter grip, the slaveís body arched upwards, legs being spread even wider to accommodate his lordís possession of his body. "Please, oh please, I need..." the sentence was cut off with a high wail of desperate need as Jade strove towards orgasm.

"I know what you need," Makarii breathed, angling his thrusts slightly so that each of them raked over the small bump deep within Viktorís body. "Give me the gift of your release, my gem. Let me feel your seed flow over my belly as you tighten around me, bringing me pleasure with your own." He leaned in, brushing his beard over Viktorís nipples, before tugging at the ring threaded in the right one.

The touches drove him wild, his body was played with and brought to ever increasing heights of pleasure and then Makarii added the tiny spice of pain and it was as if a fireball was lit within his stomach and it radiated outwards until, with a hoarse cry, the odalisque did as he was bade. Creamy ropes of his release fell upon Jadeís fevered flesh and were rubbed immediately into the shaykeís, binding them together. "Master," Viktor moaned, eyes fluttering closed to better savour the feeling of completion.

"Sleep now, TatlIm," Makarii whispered, tightening his arms around the older manís body, feeling himself at peace with the weight of the other man pressed up against him. "I will keep you safe from harm, I swear it." Pressing a kiss against Viktorís dark hair, the shayke gently stroked the other manís back until he felt him relax into sleep, then he, too, surrendered to oblivion.

"Would you care for visitors tomorrow?" Makarii asked, smiling down at Viktor before licking away the droplet of sweat that rolled down the older manís cheek. The two lay entwined on a lounge chair on the shaykeís balcony, with Makarii still buried in Viktorís body as they recovered from their latest round of lovemaking.

The sun beat down on them, filtered only by the striped awning that shaded most of the veranda, and the sounds of the surf mingled with the cries of the sea birds that wheeled overhead. "Tatiana has been asking about you, as has Pearl. I do not want them thinking that I have killed you, so it would seem a visit is in order."

Though he didnít remark out loud, Makarii was amazed and pleased at the changes that had occurred over the past day. It was as if, overnight, Viktor had come to trust him andóif his words of last night could be held true - loved him. It was a disconcerting feeling, but one that the shayke found he enjoyed - and wanted to maintain for as long as possible.

"Ahh but you have killed me - over and over again," Viktor husked, his voice full of suppressed mirth. "After all, what do the French call an orgasm? Oh yes - the little death. And I have died many times since I came looking for some comfort last night. Not that I am complaining, mind you."

Smiling, Viktor brought up a hand to caress his masterís face, admiring the long, lean planes and angles, enjoying the scrape of beard against the flesh of his palm. "You remind me of the pictures I have seen of panthers - fierce and dangerous, with a streak of cruelty all hidden beneath a deceptively lazy and cuddlesome appearance.

"I think that is what made me resist so much - you have the power to devour me, and you are so beautiful and dangerous, and I want you so very much that I will let you," Viktor sighed happily. "I go willingly to my fate now - and look forward to it."

Letting his fingers trace lower, down an elegant neck, across broad and strong shoulders, Viktor recalled Makariiís question. "It would be nice to see them again - I have missed my friends. And yet, I am almost afraid to see them - they make everything real again, and I am hesitant to face reality for fear that all this becomes smoke and illusion."

Makarii chuckled softly at Viktorís play on words and rubbed his face against the other manís palm. "So, you intend on telling the ladies just how I have killed you then?" he asked, his laughter becoming louder at Viktorís shocked ĎNo!í

Once his mirth had subsided, the shayke turned his head enough to kiss the older manís fingertips. "And I do not know about panthers though I am aware that I have been called other, less flattering names in the past as well as ones given with honeyed words of praise, but none have pleased me half as much as hearing these from your lips."

Makarii shifted then, rolling carefully to his back, bringing Viktor to rest on his chest, his arms wrapped around the shorter man. "This is reality, my gem. All the reality that matters. Seeing your friends will not change that in the least, this I promise you." He was silent a moment, his hands roaming slowly over the older manís smooth back and sides. "I shall have some of your clothing brought over for the visit. Is there anything else that you would like?"

"My journal, perhaps," the older man requested softly, after a tiny whimper of protest as Makarii at last slipped from his body in order to move them. "I have missed writing in it and find that I do not want to forget a moment of this past week - both the bitter and the sweet. It has changed my life," the Russian admitted softly, curling into the taller manís strong frame.

Placing soft kisses on Makariiís shoulder and chest, Viktor carded his fingers through the younger manís chest hair. "I like how this feels, so soft," he purred, rubbing his cheek against the soft mass. "And the way you smell. I love the way you smell," he sighed, losing himself once more in the moment and letting cares and concerns drift away.

The shayke nodded at the older manís request, smiling gently as he continued to stroke Viktorís sun-warmed skin, his eyes half-closed with pleasure at the feel of his gem rubbing against his chest. "After the night we spent and this morning I would say that we smell of each other and sex, a heady combination indeed." He lifted his head at that, inhaling deeply at the warm skin of Viktorís neck, then kissing the spot before relaxing once again.

"Our meal will be here soon," Makarii sighed, loathe to leave their idyllic spot but now strangely possessive of others seeing his gemís naked beauty. "I believe that I should like a bath. Would you care to join me?"

Ducking his head with a shy smile, Viktor nodded softly. "I should be the one to take care of you; after all, it is my duty, is it not?" he replied with a slight shiver. The idea of bathing with his lord and lover, of running soapy hands over Makariiís strong, lean body, of cleaning him in places that heíd come to know so intimately... Viktorís breath caught in his throat, and a shiver of desire raced through him. "Oh yes, I think I should like that," he continued softly.

Levering himself up, Viktor bemoaned the loss of contact with the younger man, missing already the heat of the shaykeís skin on his own. Standing, he offered a hand to his master and smiled as Makarii allowed him to assist.

Following the younger man back inside, Viktor breathed in at the opulence of Makariiís bathing room. There was a pool. A heated pool of water, large enough to fit the entire harem with room to spare. The room was decorated with latticed windows and tropical plants and lemon, lime and orange trees, even songbirds and cockatoos in the trees. In a shadowed alcove there was a serving platter with iced sorbets and cool fruit juices. The room smelled of citrus and something muskier - a scent that was Makarii.

Next to the pool was a gold tray with various soaps and oils and scents, and the water had rose petals floating on the surface. Looking around in amazement, Viktor barely registered the husky chuckle behind him, though he did feel the hard frame press into him and hear his masterís voice reminding him that this room was for bathing, not to simply stare at.

Laughing at his own naivetť, Viktor waited until his lord was in the water, then eased himself into the fragrant steamy depths. "Oh - this is...wonderful," Viktor sighed voluptuously before ducking his head underwater to wet it and resurfacing. Wiping the water off his face, Viktor felt the growth of beard just below his skin.

"Perhaps, if you do not mind my attendants coming later, I should see to certain matters," Viktor trailed off, not sure of how else to describe the subject of his denuded skin.

Still chuckling to himself at Viktorís reaction to his bath, Makarii nodded, his arms encircling the older man from behind, his hands idly roving over his gemís chest and abdomen, feeling the muscles ripple and twitch in response to his touch. "I will have Doban send for them after we dine," he murmured, resting his chin on Viktorís shoulder and kissing his neck.

Reluctantly letting go of the older man, Makarii moved to the side of the pool and sorted through the various soaps and oils there, picking the one that appealed to him and holding it out to Viktor. "I am at your disposal, my gem," he smiled, handing the other man the sandalwood scented soap.

Lathering his hands with the musky soap, Viktor turned and began to bathe his lordís chest, letting his fingers play through the silky chest hair and marveling at his own boldness. Strong shoulders were washed and down arms, to wash each finger individually. Viktor washed under the shaykeís arms, his fingers playing with the soft hair he found there, and gently cleaned the taut stomach and even his indent of navel.

Moving to stand behind his lord, Viktor repeated his motions all over again. "If my lord would stand on the top step so that I may finish?" he husked and watched as his master did so, the younger manís curved and erect penis reminding Viktor fancifully of a scimitar.

"So beautiful," he husked as he began to wash Makariiís feet then each of his strong legs, Viktorís face nuzzling the proud erection as he did so. The firm globes of Makariisí ass were washed with excruciating care, and then Viktorís fingers dipped within the darkened crevice to clean the sensitive flesh found there very carefully and thoroughly.

Feeling his lordís legs quiver and his erection nudge his cheek, Viktor slid his hand further, gently washing the younger manís perineum before, at last, turning his attention to the soft curls of his masterís groin and the precious jewels they framed. Stroking his hands softly along the hard length and softly rounded testes, Viktor was unaware that he was crooning softly in his native Russian, describing in erotic detail just how beautiful his master was.

"If you persist in this, I do not believe that we shall ever leave the bath," Makarii husked, trailing his fingers down over Viktorís beautiful face and across his full lower lip, feeling the tip of the other manís tongue sweep out to touch his fingertips. "And, as appealing as that notion is, you need to eat, my gem. I will not have you wasting away to nothing because I desired to feast upon your body rather than letting you eat."

In reality, Makarii wanted nothing more then to press Viktor up against the smooth marble of the bath and sheath himself within the hot, giving flesh of his body, but he refrained. Already he sensed that this man could easily win his heart and that he had to exercise control when dealing with him.

"Come," he murmured, taking Viktorís hand and leading him from the bath, standing still while the other man carefully dried both of them with the thick towels he had gathered. Drawing Viktor from the steamy confines of the bath, Makarii led him to the divan and the trays of food that awaited them there. "No eel today," he smiled, gently teasing his new favorite. "And no roast bear, either." Sitting, he arranged Viktor so that the older man was sitting between his legs and leaning back against his chest. Satisfied with their positioning, the shayke plucked several grapes from a stem and offered one to his gem.

Viktor smiled, shakily, his desire still on the knife-edge. Taking the grapes from the younger manís fingers with a delicate swipe of teeth and tongue, his mind turned inward and his thoughts pensive. How had this happened? How had he gone from despising what he was around this man to reveling in it so completely that when he was denied, it was like a stab to the heart?

Schooling his features into bland happiness, the Russian fought back the wave of hurt and jealousy when he thought of the others in the seraglio - others that Makarii would take to his bed whenever the whim struck him. This was his life, better to accept it now, no matter how hard it was to do so.

"I thank you for the lack of eel and bear," Viktor replied with a small smile, reaching forward to pour a glass of citrus flavored water into an elegant goblet and offering it to the shayke, deftly avoiding the younger manís hawk like eyes. He wished almost desperately that he could go back to his rooms in the seraglio. There he could vent his feeling in almost complete privacy, as only Tatiana would understand what he said and would hold his confidences, if she were present at all when he let loose his emotions.

"May I serve you?" he husked, and at Makariiís nod, Viktor began to lift the covers from the dishes, revealing steamed couscous with delicately flavored vegetables and chicken. There were ices for desert and mint tea to finish the meal. Preparing a plate for his master, Viktor offered it to the younger man, eyes demurely lowered.

Chuckling quietly, Makarii accepted the laden plate from his slave, holding it in front of the both of them and scooping up some of the couscous with a piece of pita bread, then holding it up to Viktor. The two fell into their established routine, trading bites of food with the sharing of the slightly tart drink, then savoring the ices.

Makarii particularly enjoyed the way the ices dripped on Viktorís bare skin, letting him clean the sticky trails with his fingers, sharing the lingering lemony flavor with his gem and himself. Once the food was gone, the shayke kissed Viktorís neck and then his ear. "Your attendants will be here soon; you may receive them in the bath. I have some things to look over, but I will be right out here in case you need anything." After another kiss, Makarii stood, bringing Viktor to his feet along with him, then stroking the back of his hand down the older manís cheek. "I shall see you soon, my gem."

Viktor sighed luxuriously; if heíd been told a month, even a week ago, that he would revel in preparing himself for his master he would have laughed. Yet here he was, smooth, oiled and relaxed from his attendantsí care, his skin perfumed and sheened with a light coating of sweet oil. He had been groomed ever so carefully, as if his servants had known that he had won Makariiís undivided attention - for now.

Finally he was ready to return to his lord but for one tiny thing. Motioning for his servants to bring his jewelry, Viktor first snapped the silver slave collar on, this time with pride, and then reached for earrings only to find new ones on the tray. Shrugging, the Russian affixed the trio of jewels, a ball of amber, a perfectly cut smoky brown topaz and finally a catís eye set in silver filigree. The silver hoop for his nipple also had new decorations, three tiny beads of the same jewels.

Dismissing the eunuchs and female body servants, Viktor rose from the divan in the bathing room and went to rejoin his lord in the outer rooms, shedding the diaphanous cloth heíd draped around his hips for modestyís sake, now much more comfortable in his own skin then in constraining fabric.

Padding silently through the rooms, he found Makarii in the outer chamber at his desk, looking over letters or reports. Seeing the lines of stress in the younger manís back, he could only assume that the news was not good. Coming up behind him, Viktor boldly plucked the letter from the shaykeís hand and tugged the young lord to his feet.

"Work is over, come play with me," he requested coyly, wanting to ease his lord out of his mood, if only for a while. "After we play, I can help you if I may? I was trained for this thing in my... life before," he offered with a slight hesitation.

Makarii frowned, knowing that the work needed to be done, but Viktorís presence as well as his offer lightened the shaykeís expression. "If either of us can move after Ďplay timeí," he chuckled, "I will think that we didnít get much playing done at all. Work can wait until tomorrow, and then, if you still wish to help, I would appreciate any insights you might have." Makarii knew that Viktor had a quick mind, and, in all actuality, he was as interested in testing it as he was in reveling in his gemís body again.

Spying something, Makarii paused, halting Viktor as well when the older man tried to lead him toward the bedchamber. "I take it these pleased you more than did my other gift?" he asked, running a finger over the three golden brown jewels in Viktorís ear, then over the round stones threaded on the ring hanging from his nipple. "I had hoped they might."

Viktor blushed hotly. "The choker did as well ... but I didnít want to admit it. Tatiana explained how things work here, but I did not wish to listen then. I wanted to cling to my past like a shield in order to somehow protect myself. I am sorry for my behavior," the Russian admitted softly.

"And, yes, these please me. They are beautiful. More so because they came from you." Leaning into the younger manís hand, Viktor allowed his own to drift to the sash that tied Makariiís lounging robe together. Letting it drift open, the older man sighed at the beauty before him and, without thinking, dropped to his knees. He stroked his cheek against Makariiís hot silk erection, breathing in his masterís scent.

Turning his face, Viktor felt a pearl of liquid smear across his lips, and he licked it off, savoring the sea salt flavor. Looking up into midnight eyes, Viktor husked softly. "How may I please you, Lord?"

"That is simplicity itself, my gem." Makarii gently drew Viktor back up to his feet, pulling the older man in for a kiss that rapidly grew heated. "You please me by your presence, by your acceptance of your life and your place in my life. You please me with your cries and moans when we lie together and by the fountaining of your seed when I touch you."

His hands roamed over the slaveís denuded body, seeking the smoothness of Viktorís flesh and the downy softness of his bare skin. The other manís erection rose in all its proud glory from between his legs, bared of all camouflage, Makariiís for the plundering.

"And tonight it would please me to..." The shaykeís next comment was interrupted by shouts and a loud crash, then a shrill scream as Jacqueline stormed into the room, several of the eunuchs and guards close behind, wanting to do something but unsure as to what.

"So!" she shrieked, leaping at Viktor, her sharp nails brandished like claws. "This is why you ignore me. For this, this perversion!"

Viktor half turned, instinctively guarding his more vulnerable side as well as placing himself between Makarii and Jacqueline. He grimaced as nails raked down his back and felt the warm trickle of blood as it began to flow from the wounds.

The enraged woman continued to come at him, shrieking obscenities in a multitude of different languages, but Viktor stoically withstood it, a lifetime of treating women with respect and as the fairer sex forbidding him to strike at her even though he longed to.

"Enough!" Makariiís harsh command froze the hysterical woman in her steps, even before his hands wrapped around her upper arms, pulling her away from Viktor. "You have overstepped your position for the last time, Jacqueline," he hissed, leaning in and staring into the womanís eyes, watching the anger in them slowly turn to fear. "Heed me well. This is the last time you shall set foot in my apartments as well as the last time you shall see the outside of the seraglio. I have allowed you much leeway due to your position in my household, but that time has come to an end."

"But, Makarii..." she wailed, bringing her hands up to cup his face in an attempt for sympathy.

"Silence!" he thundered, thrusting her toward Doban with more strength than was necessary as if her very touch now disgusted him. "See to it that she is confined to the Lotus rooms. I do not wish for anyone other than her servants to have contact with her. Is this understood?"

At the eunuchís solemn nod, Makarii turned his cold gaze to the blonde. "You shall be treated with the respect that the mother of my child deserves, but that is all. Do not attempt to subvert those who serve you, or you shall do without them."

"Makarii! Makarii!" Jacquelineís cries became more strident as she was pulled from the rooms and her desperation grew. "He should be dead! He would have been dead if not for that damned kitten, but I will find a way!"

The shayke had turned back to Viktor, but at the womanís poisoned words, he spun slowly around once again. "Send for Tatiana to see to Viktor," he ordered, his voice carrying no emotion at all as he advanced on the now cowering Jacqueline. "This matter requires my personal attention."

Viktor placed a restraining hand on the shayke and plastered himself against his lordís back in order to keep their conversation private. "Makarii, no. She is the mother of your child," he whispered softly, ignoring all protocol and calling his master by his given name. "Think of your daughter, my lord; you do not want the blood of her mother on your hands. I am not worth that."

"You are wrong," the younger man replied, not bothering to lower his voice, "there is nothing more that I want to see than that. You value yourself too low, my gem, just as she valued herself too highly. For your sake and that of my daughter, I will not deliver the blow, but the deed will be done tonight, and I will witness it."

Pulling away gently from Viktorís hand, Makarii nodded to Doban, who pulled the now weeping woman from the room, flanked by the guards. "Do not concern yourself with this, Viktor." The words were as much an order as a request. "This is the way of Cyprus. My way. Do not seek to change it in this matter. She sought to take lives I hold dear, and so she must pay with her own."

He gazed at the shorter man then, seeking some kind of understanding in his eyes, then looking away when all he saw was confusion. "Tatiana will be here soon to stay with you until I return. If you would also prefer Pearlís company, you may request it from the guards. They will bring her."

Faced with the arduous task ahead of him, the shayke picked up his turban, settled it on his head and strode out of the room, not allowing himself to look back at Viktor.

Viktor stared after his lord, confusion painted on his face. So much responsibility for one so young and so much pain, the Russian thought to himself.

He understood why it had to be done and respected the courage it took to stand there and watch as the execution took place, and for that the older manís heart ached for the shayke.

Shaking himself out of his dark thoughts, Viktor realized Tatiana would be arriving soon, and he was still quite naked. Padding silently into his masterís bedchamber, Viktor chose a pair of loose cotton pants, hoping the younger man didnít mind his borrowing the garment, but he had no desire to greet Tatiana draped in nothing more than a towel. Wincing as he moved, Viktor realized his wounds were still seeping. Hopefully the Valide wouldnít mind seeing to them when she arrived.

The minute Tatiana crossed through the doorway Viktor was hugging her tightly. "Oh, Tatiana, this is going to kill him, isnít it?" he asked, his voice rough with worry for his lord.

"Not in any way you can see," she sighed, reaching up to stroke the young manís hair, her blue eyes dark with concern. "But yes, it will. No matter what else she became, there was a time when Jacqueline was different. I believe that and the fact that she is the mother of his child has been what has protected her up until now."

Noting that Viktor winced slightly as he lowered his arms, Tatiana brusquely turned him around, frowning at the jagged nail marks on his back. After calling for water and bandages, she led Viktor to the cushions, gently urging him to sit.

"You seem to be much more content at being here then you were the last time we spoke," she commented, using a damp cloth to gently clean the oozing marks. "Is it too much to hope that my son has something to do with that?"

Viktor blushed hotly as he ducked his face to avoid the valide odalisqueís gaze. "I am content," he admitted softly, looking up through thick sable lashes to see the older womanís smile. "And your son has had more than a little to do with that," he continued, his cheeks turning a brighter crimson than before.

"Is it possible, do you think, that what the poets say is not merely exaggeration and flowery language? That perhaps it is possible to fall in love in the space of a day?" the Russian wondered out loud, even as his hand drifted up to his ear to touch the jewels now decorating it.

The valideís throaty chuckle had him grinning foolishly at her, and somehow the two friends managed to find a small oasis of humor in a too somber day as they waited for their lord to return.

The night was half over by the time Makarii returned to his rooms, his step slow with emotional as well as physical fatigue. Jacqueline was dead, her body placed in a weighted sack and tossed from the cliffs, a fitting end for one who committed such treason. The fact that the punishment was justified, however, didnít stop the shayke from feeling guilt that such a thing had occurred and at what it had almost cost him.

Tomorrow he would have to try to explain to Mirimah why she wouldnít be seeing her mother any more, but what words could one use to tell a child of three such a thing? Sighing deeply, Makarii entered his rooms, removing the turban from his head and setting it aside. Running a hand through his hair, he paused, taking in the two sleeping forms on the divans.

Swallowing back the sudden rush of tenderness that threatened to overcome him, the shayke crouched down beside his mother, shaking her gently. "Tatiana, go back to your rooms now; thereís no need to stay here." As her gaze turned from confused to questioning, he shook his head. "Tomorrow, Mother."

One hand rose to rub at her pearls, and Tatiana looked toward Viktor before standing with her sonís assistance. Kissing his cheek, she looked sadly up at him. "Let him take care of you, ĎGeny. Let him help you."

"Good night, Tatiana," he answered, waiting until she had left the rooms before turning and crossing over to the divan where Viktor lay curled up. "You can open your eyes now, my gem. There is no need to pretend that you are asleep."

Viktorís eyes fluttered open, and he sat quickly, watching his lord. "She was tired and needed rest. These past few weeks have drained her, and now this... I wanted her to sleep. She needed the rest."

Standing, Viktor ducked into the bathing room and came back with a basin of citrus scented water. Leaving it near the divan, he went and poured his lord a drink of the wine Makarii liked. "Drink, master," he instructed quietly as he began to strip the shayke of his tunic and trousers. Taking up the sea sponge, Viktor wet it and began to gently wash the dirt and the grief of the last few hours away as best he could, ministering to the younger man.

Taking the now empty glass, Viktor refilled it once more and issued yet another command for his lord to drink. He removed the basin and sponge then blotted the younger manís skin dry. Leading Makarii to his own sleep couch, the slave guided Makarii to lie on his stomach then took a container of warm oil and poured it along the center of Makariiís back.

Slowly and methodically Viktor worked out all the kinks and knots and tension in the smooth skin beneath his hands. He called upon all the skills heíd learned in the Red Ladyís seraglio to bring his lord some relaxation and relief. "Tell me how I may serve you tonight, master. Anything you wish, anything in my humble power to give is yours... let me take care of you, please?"

As Viktorís talented hands kneaded his back, Makarii slowly, almost reluctantly, relaxed, his eyes closing and his breathing evening out as his body lost the tension the last few hours had infused him with. "I wish..." He couldnít voice what his true wish was, so the shayke slowly rolled over.

Reaching for the older man, Makarii pulled him down across his chest, his fingers threading through Viktorís obsidian dark hair, holding his head in an

almost brutal clasp. "I want you, my gem. I want to see you riding me, to watch the sweat gather on your skin and roll downward. I want to watch your face change as your climax approaches, then to feel the walls of your body clench down around me when it overwhelms you."

He wanted to block out the memories of Jacquelineís pleas and wails with the earthy sounds of the other manís moans, to replace the sight of her mottled, lax face with that of Viktor in the throes of his orgasm, the smell of death with the musk of their passion. Pulling Viktor in, Makarii closed his lips over the older manís, drinking him in as if he were a life-giving elixir.

"Your wish is my pleasure, master of my heart," Viktor murmured quietly as he bent to rain soothing kisses across his lordís face and chest. Reaching for the bejeweled flagon of oil next to the bed, Viktor unstopped it and poured some of the perfumed liquid into the palm of his hand then set it aside.

Rubbing his hands together, Viktor spread the oil lightly across Makariiís chest and stomach. He let his hands drift down further to grasp and oil his masterís cock. Reaching for the oil once more, Viktor made sure that the shayke was well oiled for what he was to do next.

Standing, Viktor quickly shed the light pants he had worn in deference to Tatianaís presence and returned to the divan where he straddled Makariiís hips. Taking the shaykeís erection in his hand, he guided to his opening and slowly sank down upon it until his cheeks were firmly against the younger manís thighs.

Looking down through lash veiled eyes at his master, Viktor began to rock back to an almost kneeling position and then sank down slowly yet again. Over and over he repeated the motions, calling upon all his skill to pleasure Makarii and drive whatever demons rode him away.

"You feel so good within me, my lord," he murmured quietly. "I can no longer fathom why I fought so hard. This is what I was made for, to be yours like this. Nothing is as important as this, as being yours, as feeling you move within me, over me, molding me as you wish," Viktor purred softly as he continued to ride his master, his hands gliding over the oil slick flesh beneath him.

"Yesss," the younger man breathed, his hips arching upward to meet each downward motion that Viktor made. Makarii ran his hands over the slaveís soft skin, settling on his hips and urging him on.

The muscles bunched in the shaykeís legs, and he thrust up off the bed, his fingers tightening and pulling hard on Viktorís body as his need overtook him. This was heat and life, this was - if not totally freely given, at least given without strings that could turn into a garrote.

One hand moved to circle the older manís erection, and the other slid upward, tugging at the ring in his nipple before slipping behind his head and pulling him down for another kiss, this one as forceful as their coupling.

Whimpering against Makariiís mouth, Viktor began to ride the younger man harder, needing the burn and fire of their coupling as much as Makarii seemed to crave it. Over and over he slammed himself down on his lord, riding the shayke with a passion borne of desperation. It was their first time all over again - the heat and fire, the almost violent need that boiled in his veins. Pulling his mouth away, the older man made tiny, moist sounds as he whimpered and panted and impaled himself on his lordís cock.

It was like a rebirth for the Russian, a new life out of the ashes of the old, and he felt his heart expand with the knowledge of what heíd kept hidden even from himself until this moment. He loved. With every fiber of his being he loved his master, his lord, Makarii. Biting down hard on his lower lip to prevent the declaration from escaping, Viktor, now Jade in his heart, felt his orgasm bubble up and spill over, painting Makariiís chest with creamy white threads of his passion.

Almost sobbing as his release went on and on, Viktor rode his lord fast and furious, wanting to feel Makariiís seed within him, marking and claiming him once more. "Please, Makarii, need to feel you. Oh by all the gods!" he whimpered as the long, elegant length of the shaykeís cock stabbed again and again against his prostate.

Makarii reached up and wrapped his arms around Viktor, pulling the older man to him and rolling them over so that he was cushioned by the slaveís toned body. "My Jade, my Viktor," he rasped, driving into Viktor again and again, each thrust a combination of desire, rage, and anguish.

With a bellow, Makarii arched his back and came, feeling his seed fill the other manís body. His fingers threaded through Viktorís hair, holding his face still so that the shayke could look down at him, then he rested his head on Viktorís shoulder, his body slowly relaxing and calming.

Slowly, Makarii raised his head once again, staring deep into Viktorís eyes, his thumbs rubbing circles on the other manís cheekbones. "My gem," he whispered.

"My life," Viktor responded unthinkingly, his trembling fingers reaching up to brush across Makariiís lips. "My liege." Sliding behind Makariiís neck, Viktor pulled the younger man down for a sweet kiss that revealed things that he was not yet willing to admit to himself let alone say out loud.

When their lips at last parted, moist and trembling from the tenderness, Viktor pulled Makariiís head down to his shoulder. "Rest my lord, let me guard your dreams as you have guarded mine in the past. I will keep you safe, I promise."

The shayke considered declining the offer for a moment, then reconsidered as he was simply too comfortable to move other than to shift his legs so that one was between Victorís and his weight was only partially on the smaller manís body. One arm was wrapped around the older manís waist and the other was over their heads, his fingers tangled in Viktorís dark hair.

"You have my trust, my gem," he murmured, allowing himself the luxury of complete relaxation in the other manís arms, his breathing evening out as he sank toward slumber.

Jade watched as Makariiís breathing deepened and he slipped into the oblivion of sleep, marveling at how the shaykeís face became so young and innocent. "I love you, Makarii," he whispered to the somnolent man, knowing his confession was not heard but feeling better for saying it.

Lying back, Viktor stared up at the elaborate ceiling of Shayke Makariiís room and wondered at the turns and twists of his life. He was content. He truly was. He may not be loved, but he was desired and liked and cared for. Heíd found his place at last.

The lyrical sound of birdsong woke the Russian slowly, by increments. Sometime during the night heíd fallen asleep, and Makarii had shifted off of him to lie next to him instead. Raising a hand, he traced the morningís growth on the younger manís face, smiling as the stubble tickled his palm before it turned into the short beard that Makarii wore. He wondered what his master would look like clean-shaven.

So intent he was on his musings, he failed to notice the change in Makariiís breathing pattern or the opening of the shaykeís eyes. He was startled by the touch, his eyes flying upwards to find himself being watched.

"What is it that has you staring at me so intently this morning, Viktor?" Makarii asked, his voice still rough with sleep. He skimmed his fingertips down the older manís side, arching an eyebrow in question.

"I... you are beautiful," the older man admitted with a faint blush. "I like the way you look in the morning. Iíve never really had chance to watch you like this; weíve only just recently... well, come to terms with one another. That has left me craving other things first thing in the morning," the Russian admitted, his voice going darker with remembered need.

"Other than food?" the shayke asked, smiling slightly, pleased that Jade was there to distract him from memories of the previous eveningís events. His sleep, while deeper than he had hoped for, had still been fitful, fraught with memories and half-formed nightmares.

"Well, there is food and there is nourishment; both are not all the time the same thing, yes?" the pleasure slave replied with a mischievous grin. "And I have often craved my nourishment before my food, since having learned that it is most beneficial for my health."

Trailing a finger down the younger manís stomach to tease just above the hairline at his groin, Viktorís smile became devilish. "However, if you would prefer that I fetch you your breakfast, my lord..."

Makarii glanced down, watching Jadeís finger as it trailed over his skin, then looked back up into the other manís green eyes. "I would suggest that you continue what you are doing now, my gem," he said, his voice dropping to a low growl as he caught Jadeís hand, pressing it over his growing erection.

"Oh, but you expressed hunger, my lord, and I should try and fulfill your every wish; after all that is my role, is it not?" Viktor continued playfully, wanting to chase the shadows from Makariiís eyes.

Stroking the erection a few times, the Russian managed to worm his hand out from underneath the shaykeís then rolled off the bed. "Iíll be right back - but then I suppose Iíll have to wander the hallways naked since you donít like to see me in clothing; ah the decisions I must make."

Looking back over his shoulder, he winked at the younger man. "Iíll be but moments, my liege. You might want to cover up though; you wouldnít want to catch cold."

"Jade." Makariiís tone was mild, though his eyes shone a darker shade of brown as he watched the other man walk away. "It would be in your best interests to return to the bed. Now."

Viktor looked over his shoulder, pure deviltry in his eyes. He found himself enjoying the chance to play with the younger man. Smiling a purely angelic smile, he whispered seductively, "Make me!" before taking off running towards the shaykeís private courtyard garden through a partially hidden door.

The garden, he knew, was walled with no way out, but it was a good place to play catch if you can and a better place to make love. And his Makarii needed to be reminded of how to be a child again, if only for a moment.

Makariiís eyes narrowed, and he slowly rose from the divan, taking his time in pulling on loose trousers, a long, sleeveless vest and wrapping a sash around his waist. He left his head bare, for he would not be leaving his apartments, and likewise went without shoes.

It seemed that his gem was feeling playful this morning, and while that was a good thing, he also was determined not to allow the other man too much leniency in his handling. Makarii had seen what that would lead to, and he was determined that those circumstances would not happen again.

Stepping through the doorway, he moved into the garden, lifting his face to the sunlight and feeling the heat warm the rest of the sleep from his bones. Settling himself on a carved marble bench, the shayke rested one foot on the smooth stone while leaning against the high armpieces. "I will not chase you," he commented, stretching out a hand to pluck a ripe fig from a heavily laden tree.

"I didnít want you to chase me. I wanted you to come outside and join me," Viktor husked, coming up from behind the shayke and taking the fig from his hand to feed it to the other man. "Iím not her, Makarii. I donít want to change you, I just... I just want to love you," the Russian admitted softly. "Is that so wrong?"

Makarii chewed and swallowed before looking back at the older man, his expression somber. "I cannot answer that other than to say that it would perhaps be safer not to do so."

Viktorís face fell slightly, and his body sagged. "Perhaps you are right. No sense spinning myself fairy castles in the sky when I canít even walk out a door if Iím not under guard, yes?" he replied quietly.

"The human heart is a strange thing. It has too many doors to keep track of all the time. I had not realized that one had begun to open. Perhaps I must learn how to shut it, now," he continued, more to himself than to the younger man, his mood growing pensive despite the dappled sunlight and the sound of birdsong.

"But today I am to be a pretty ornament to make you laugh and be happy again. So, enough talk of closing doors, tell me how I may please my lord," the slave continued, painting on a happy smile and adding a gay lilt to his voice. "Anything your... you desire is but yours for the asking, as well you know."

All too aware of the false front the slave was presenting for him, the shayke sighed, standing and walking to the wall surrounding the garden to look out over the sea. "I have enough pretty ornaments as you call them. I value you for the fact that you speak the truth, not flighty words that mean no more than the chittering of birds."

"You do?" Viktor asked, shocked. "But I... I donít understand you at all sometimes." The slave shook his head and stood to move behind Makarii. "I only wanted to help. What would... Iíll, Iíll go ring for breakfast," the older man sighed as he turned away.

"No." Makarii shifted, placing his hand on the other manís arm, drawing Viktor back, positioning the slave in front of him. "Stay." He rested his chin on the shorter manís shoulder, closing his eyes for a moment, his arms wrapped loosely around Viktorís waist.

Viktor sighed and melted back against the shayke, his eyes closing in bliss. "Of course I will. Thereís no place else Iíd rather be than with you, Makarii. Truly," the older man confessed. Placing his hands on top of the younger manís, the Russian entwined their fingers and just enjoyed the sensation of simply being.

"Thank you, my gem." The words were spoken so quietly that they were barely audible. "I know it was not always so."

He fell silent, then continued. "Do you miss it?" At Viktorís questioning glance, he spoke again. "Your former life. Your place in Russia. If you could return, would you?"

"I miss my family, but not my place," the Russian replied without hesitation. "Funny though, if you had asked me a month ago, I would have told you Iíd be willing to sell my soul to return home. But now... there truly is no place on earth Iíd rather be now than right here, with you. Iíve found my place, and I donít regret a single thing that I went through to get here."

Viktor turned in the taller manís arms, his hand coming up to caress one of Makariiís cheeks. "I am Jade now, and it is enough, more than enough. It is everything."

Makariiís expression remained solemn as he gazed into Viktorís eyes, then it slowly lightened as he smiled. "You are more, much more than you know. You are Jade, and you are Viktor, and you will always have a place here with me, that I swear to you."

The older man laughed quietly and pulled Makariiís head down for a kiss. "So serious so early in the morning," he teased before stealing a kiss. "I need no promises, Makarii; to be here now... it is enough. But I thank you for that; hope is a wonderful feeling, and I treasure it."

Stepping out of the circle of the shaykeís arms, Viktor took his hands and pulled him back towards a sunny spot that had a rug spread out. "Come, lie in the sun with me; itís too beautiful a day to spend on such somber thoughts, yes?"

Inclining his head in acquiescence to the older manís suggestion, Makarii followed Viktor. Once at the edge of the rug, he allowed Viktor to pull him down to the woven fabric, reclining and letting himself relax once again. "Arenít you going to join me, my gem?" he asked, his eyebrows raised in a question as he looked up at the other man, who was kneeling beside him.

"In a moment. I just need to get a few things. Relax and enjoy the sun; let the heat soak into every muscle and pore," Jade replied with a grin, pushing the younger man back down onto the blanket.

Quickly returning to the shaykeís rooms, Viktor returned with a basket of towels, oils and lotions. As well, he had a carafe of chilled juice and a single goblet. "Iím thirsty, Makarii," he teased invitingly. "Arenít I supposed to take liquid only from your lips?"

Makarii chuckled quietly. "I am pleased you still remember that command, my gem, and yes, it is still in effect." Sitting up, he took a sip from the glass Viktor offered, holding the liquid in his mouth until the other man set aside the goblet and leaned in. Opening his lips under the light pressure, the shayke tilted his head, letting the tart juice flow from his mouth to Viktorís. Once the older man swallowed, Makarii let his tongue sweep forward to claim the remaining taste from Viktorís flesh and the warm recesses of his mouth.

"More, please?" Viktor croaked almost desperately when he could at last speak again, his eyes heavy and lust filled. There was something so erotic about having Makarii feed him in this manner; he was instantly erect and weeping as he licked the taste of the younger man that still clung to dewy lips.

"I believe I have a better idea," Makarii breathed, seeing as well as feeling the heat of desire burning through the other manís body and feeling the corresponding changes in his own. Picking up the goblet, he held it out to Viktor, smiling slightly when his emerald eyes widened in surprise and shock.

"I wish to taste the juice from your lips as you have been from mine. It seems to be something you have come to enjoy." He held out the goblet again, waiting for his gemís acquiescence or demurral.

Taking the cup between both hands, Viktor took a mouthful, enjoying the sensation of cool liquid in his mouth for the first time in a while. When he drank from Makarii, the liquid was always warmed by his lordís own body before it passed through his lips. A delicate shiver raced down Viktorís spine, and he was tempted to swallow the mouthful.

Instead, the Russian-born odalisque leaned forward to seal his lips against his masterís and allowed the beverage to trickle out of his lips and into Makariiís waiting mouth. It was an unbelievable sensation, almost indescribable, and when the last drop of juice was fed to his lord, Jade moaned quietly and rubbed his leaking erection against the younger manís thigh in arousal. "Makarii..." he purred, looking down into the darkly beautiful face beneath him.

Makarii swallowed, licking his lips to savor the last of the liquid clinging to them, then did the same to Viktorís mouth. "Mmm, I can see why you enjoy that so, my gem. It is both highly erotic and most satisfying at the same time."

He flexed the muscles in his thigh, rolling them against the hard length of his slaveís erection, before catching Viktorís hand and bringing it to his own throbbing cock, letting the older man feel his need. Rolling them both over, he pushed up onto his elbows, staring down at Viktor intently, feeling the small flex of the other manís hand as it was caught between their bodies. "But this would be even more satisfying." That said, he swooped in, claiming the Russianís lips and the sweet-tasting cavern of his mouth in a soul-stealing kiss even as he settled between his gemís strong thighs, rocking their bodies together.

A tiny moan of need was the only sound that Jade could vocalize as Makariiís mouth claimed his. The older manís free hand raced up and down his loverís back, caressing and teasing. It then dipped low and slid between the smooth cheeks of the shaykeís buttocks, gliding over the tiny winking muscle there then down further to tease the younger manís perineum even as his trapped hand continued to caress and knead the erection trapped between their bellies.

"You do the most wicked things to me," Jade gasped as his mouth was at last freed. "Drive me wild, beyond myself. Even when I thought I hated you I could not deny how much I craved your touch. I was made for you, my lord. I merely survived until you rescued me from that she-bitch and showed me my true nature."

"You are mine, Jade," Makarii rasped, reaching for the container of oil with one hand while he somehow balanced himself enough to tease and pull at Viktorís nipple ring with the other. The feel of his gemís hands roaming over his body caused Makariiís breath to stutter in his lungs, and he burned with the need to be buried deep within the other manís body - to know that he would be the only one to touch him like this for the rest of his life. "And you will be mine as long as you live."

Rearing back up onto his knees, feeling as well as hearing the other manís low moan at the loss of contact between them, the shayke poured out a pool of oil onto Viktorís lower stomach, coating the older manís cock and his own fingers when he reached to stroke the now slick skin there. After giving the golden hoop threaded through Viktorís nipple a final tug, Makarii dragged the fingers of that hand through the fragrant oil, then lower, across Viktorís heavy testicles and back to the muscular portal of his anus.

"You are mine," Makarii whispered once again, as he pressed first one, then two fingers into the other manís body, his grip on Viktorís erection tightening as his slick digits were gripped by the glove tight heat of his gemís body.

"Yours," the older man agreed wholeheartedly, torn between the two opposing pleasures, not sure which way to thrust. "Come to me, Makarii, please?" he begged shamelessly, his hands tightening on the younger manís hips, trying to pull him forward so that he might feel the pleasure of being claimed once more. "I need you, so much, my life," he moaned, head tossing on the silken rug and body quivering with need.

Teasing them both, Makarii dragged his cock through the oil alongside Viktorís, rubbing the sensitive flesh together until he was sure they were both about to go mad. Then, when his gemís pleas had dissolved into whimpering moans of wordless begging, he placed his shaft at the entrance of Viktorís body and thrust forward, burying himself as deeply as possible in that first move.

"I am always with you, my gem," he breathed, leaning in over Viktor and brushing their lips together. "Even when we are apart, I am here with you. All you need do is remember this." Makariiís hands tangled in Viktorís dark hair, and his hips began to move, snapping back and forth, angling his thrusts so that each one glided over the swollen gland deep within the other manís body, the spasms of delight that touch drew forth giving both of them pleasure.

"Makarii," Jade sighed, all his feelings for the younger man coloring the one word he uttered as he let the pleasure wash over him. His hands simply rested on the shaykeís hips, the feel of them snapping back and forth, driving into him, only adding to his pleasure as he let sensation after sensation wash through him, burning this moment into his heart and mind for all time.

Soon, however, passivity was no longer enough. Viktor began to thrust up, using his strong thighs to lever him higher into Makariiís thrusts, even as his hands began to pull the younger man down into him. His inner muscles contracted and released, squeezing the shayke tightly within him while milking his erection. Racing his hands down Makariiís chest, Viktor let his nails rake across the younger manís nipples before he surged up to latch onto one, suckling his lord and nibbling on the tight nubbin of flesh.

The fleeting sensation of pain merely made Makariiís cock harder, and he let loose a hoarse bellow of unrestrained desire. Pulling back until just the head of his cock remained in Viktorís body, he waited until the other man was mewling around his nipple and his strong fingers were scrabbling at his back before slamming back in, repeating the maneuver until he thought they both would go mad from it.

Snaking a hand between them, he pumped Viktorís erection in his slick fist, tilting the older manís head up once again to stare deeply into his eyes as they crashed and strained together. "You are mine. Come for me and show me."

The lust and the possession in Makariiís eyes along with the sensations coursing through his body and the hoarse command were too much when combined with Viktorís earlier conditioning. He felt the heat pool at the base of his spine and radiate out, burning along his nerves, filling his already aching cock and balls, and coalesce into a bright inferno.

"Makarii, oh by Allah!" the older man cried out, his head thrown back and his body arching in the extreme rictus of pleasure as his cock spurted streamers of hot come between their sweaty bodies, adding to the almost frictionless glide of skin against skin.

The shaykeís arms collapsed, and he plastered himself over and around Viktorís body, his own shaking with the force of his orgasm as he spilled his seed deep within the other manís body even as the tremors of ecstasy still gripped Viktorís toned frame.

Breathing heavily, Makarii rested his head on Viktorís shoulder, feeling the sweat and semen beginning to cool on their skin as the ocean breezes wafted over them. "More precious than diamonds or pearls is the warmth of my gem beneath me," he sighed, running his teeth along the outer shell of Viktorís ear.

"Master," Viktor purred contently, his whole body loose and sated despite the occasional aftershock or shiver caused by the younger manís teeth. There was so much he wanted to say, he wanted so desperately to confess, but he knew now was not the time. One day, perhaps, when wounds had healed, Jade could say the words of his heart, but not today.

"I am honored and delighted that you treasure me so, despite the fact that I was probably more of a thorn in your side than any other of your slaves. I... you honor me, truly," he stumbled out.

Makarii stopped his languid movements and chuckled softly. "I believe that I compared you to a thorn in another portion of my anatomy quite a few times, but..." His tone softened, and he reached up to brush Viktorís hair from his forehead. "I believe you honor me also with your trust. I know that it cannot be something easily given, especially in a situation such as ours."

"Perhaps we should agree that we are both lucky to have managed to come up with a satisfactory armistice between ourselves and leave it at that before we both get swelled heads or other things," Jade laughed softly, reaching for the neglected juice. "Iím still thirsty, mílord. You seem to bring that out in me," he teased.

"Hmm, and if that happens, you will never get your drink - or that juice anyway." Makarii laughed again before sitting up, pressing another kiss against Viktorís lips when he pouted at the loss. Taking the goblet, he took a drink, sharing it with the older man before slaking his own thirst. "And are you hungry as well?" he asked, once the juice was gone.

Viktorís eyes danced as a sly smile spread across his handsome features. "For you, my lord? Always. I have turned into a wanton where you are concerned, but even I must have respite from my Ďhungersí," he teased. "I could, however, do with some sustenance, as I seem to have worked up quite an appetite. One would think I had been exercising instead of lying flat on my back."

"Imp," the shayke chuckled, smacking his palm on Viktorís backside before standing and offering the older man his hand. "Come and eat and then Iíll introduce you to some real exercising. I trust you learned how to handle a sword in your homeland?"

"A sword and a musket. Theyíre the latest rage in the military, better than a flintlock, quicker and more efficient and easier to aim. I was a fairly good huntsman by the time... I came here," Viktor replied, taking Makariiís hand and allowing himself to be pulled upright.

"You trust me with a sword?" the older man continued almost shyly, a beatific smile breaking out over his face. "You honor me, Makarii, thank you!" Before Viktor got silly on the subject, he quickly bounded up the stairs. "But I think it best if you clothe me for that particular activity, my lord," he tossed over his shoulder, "after all I have no desire to become a eunuch like Doban!"

"No, that wouldnít be good at all," Makarii smiled, following more sedately after Viktor. The ramifications of yesterdayís events were still shadowing his thoughts, but his gemís presence did wonders for keeping them at bay. Now, perhaps, he should show the other man how much he appreciated Viktorís actions and honest emotion.

"As for clothes, the time for you to remain in your natural state at all times has passed. I would prefer that you remain as such in my presence, but at other times, you may dress as it pleases you." The shayke quirked a smile at Viktorís shocked look. "This would make seeing Tatiana and Li Yan much more comfortable for you too, no?"

"I, yes, itís just that... well, Iím rather used to being like this now. It shall feel strange to wear clothing again," Jade replied with a wry grin. "Oh, Iím sure Iíll adapt, but it should be like going back to the clothing I used to wear in Russia after wearing my harem clothes for so long. Constricting and binding and rather uncomfortable," the older man admitted with a self-deprecating laugh. "However, clothing would seem to be a good thing in the presence of both swords and the ladies of the harem..."

Viktor paused and sobered slightly, turning to look back at Makarii. "The threat to my life is over now. Does this mean I will be returning to my rooms tonight and remain there until the next time you wish to summon me?" the older man asked quietly.

Makarii stepped up behind Viktor, wrapping his arms around the older man and running his palms over the taut skin of his abdomen. "If you wish to do so, you may. I would prefer that you remain for tonight at least. After that... you are part of my harem, my gem, and while I do not deny the fact that you are my favorite, I also cannot neglect the others, or more strife will arise. Can you understand this?"

"I would rather stay with you this night," Viktor purred, leaning back against the body behind him, arching cat-like under the stroking. Turning his head, Viktor buried it in the crook of Makariiís neck. I would rather be your only, not your favorite, but this is my life so... "As for the other, I do understand. Besides it will be a good way for me to get used to wearing clothes again. Having your mother surprise me with breakfast or an afternoon tea when I was less than decent would surely stop my heart. Mothers are not meant to see their sonís lovers like that!"

Turning in the embrace, Viktor stroked Makariiís cheek tenderly. "You are Shayke Makarii Jevgeny. You must do what you must. If my previous life has left me with nothing but the knowledge that roles must be played, it has left me with that."

"And what I must do now is feed you so that we can see just how rusty your sword skills have become." Makarii smiled slightly and brushed his lips against Viktorís. "And then we shall practice the other form of swordplay if you are not too worn out from out exercising." He kissed Viktor again, this time more lingeringly, before smacking the other manís backside. "Come, my gem, our meal and the day await."

End

  since 02-04-07

Russian phraseology:

Ptichka: little bird

Milaya - an endearment like sweetheart

Poshol k chortu, suka! -- Go to hell, bitch

Sukin syn - whoreson

barbarski sukin syn - barbarian whore son

liubimi - darling

spokoyne utrom - good morning

da - yes

ditya - child

ubliodok - mongrel, cur

Eb tvoyu mat, nadmenni ubliodok - fuck you, arrogant bastard!

daragoy - darling

Turkish phraseology:

TatlIm - my sweet

 

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