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Scorpion Memory of Scorpions, #1
By Aleksandr Voinov, Gordon Warnock, Rachel Haimowitz
Riptide PublishingCopyright © 2013 Aleksandr Voinov
All rights reserved.
Kendras hobbled back on land, teeth gritted so hard his jaw ached. The familiar nausea as he adjusted to firm ground washed over him, and he had to pause to not stumble. That forced him to rest his weight on the bad foot, and the pain seared up to his throat and into his skull. At least the pain burned away the despair that was threatening to settle in, choking off all strength, and he stood there, knees shaking with strain, searching for anything to rest against. The seagulls wheeling overhead laughed at him. Their comrades on the ground barely bothered to hop out of his way, as if they knew he was no threat.
Another step, and more agony.
He suppressed a grunt, made the step as quickly as possible, but even taking his weight off the leg hurt.
When he finally reached the end of the quay, he was covered in cold sweat. Leaning against the whitewashed wall of a food shack that wouldn't open for another few hours, he noticed that he was being watched.
A beggar was staring in his direction despite the dirty rags over her eyes that suggested she was blind. A freckled boy and his dog, both accomplished rat catchers judging by the quarry dangling from a line tied to a stick, glanced furtively toward him. From a colonnade, a group of burly stowaways watched him openly, as if assessing whether his weapons and armor were worth taking.
Continue. Do not cause them to think twice.
He'd have preferred to stand and fight. Only, of course, he was outnumbered, and he knew better than to put any faith in the reputation of the Scorpions. Reputation prepared the enemy for defeat, but didn't cause it.
He ducked down the dubious safety of a narrow alley leading away from the harbor and didn't allow himself to rest until the sounds of seagulls had dulled. His best bet was to stay somewhere nearby. He'd never make it up to Dalman without help. Crossing the wild underbelly between the harbor and the walled city up on the cliff in his state would get him killed.
A door flew open, spilling Marines, arm in arm, too drunk for their song to make any sense or possess any kind of melody. They zigzagged from the left wall to the right one, never letting go of one another as they took turns pushing away from the buildings. Kendras grinned wryly. He'd been like that more than once. Nothing like sharing a bed and puking into the same bucket in the morning. He crept closer to the tavern, which turned out to be just as rowdy a place as he'd expected, but not hostile. At least not hostile to men like him.
Kendras made it through the door and to a greasy bench, where he leaned against the wall. His armor dug into his spine, but he'd lived so long in armor that he ignored it. He'd even slept in armor when necessary, force- marched when ordered. He pulled his legs out of the way when one patron was pushed against his table in what promised to turn into a friendly brawl. Last thing he needed was somebody stomping on his shattered foot.
As he watched the brawl commence, everything else blurred into sound and color that simply went on without him, not affecting him, not touching him once. Unsettlingly similar to the state he sometimes reached in the middle of battle, only without the feeling of being immortal.
When the serving wench brought him ale, unasked, he paid with his last few coppers. Sipping the watery brew, he noticed a man watching him, another soldier, short-shorn head indicating he was either still engaged or had recently been released.
Kendras held the other man's gaze, gauging whether the interest was a threat or a nuisance, and found the expression entirely neutral. When he looked away, the other man stood and headed toward him.
The soldier sat down, and gestured at the table between them. "Free?"
Kendras looked up, meeting the soldier's gaze. "I'm not a slave."
Gray eyes narrowed with amusement. "I figured."
"Did you?" Kendras glanced toward the door, calculating whether he'd be able to make it there without losing face. The chances of that were pretty fucking slim.
Gray Eyes leaned back, one hand on the table, arm straight, measuring him up. "You just came from the river boat."
Kendras inhaled deeply but didn't allow himself to sigh, instead releasing the breath slowly. "What do you want?"
"To offer help."
"Ah." Kendras pursed his lips. Despite the simple, sturdy clothes, this man wasn't a lowly foot soldier. Maybe cavalry or some elite unit. His relaxed poise suggested confidence, even though this was clearly not his home turf and there were no comrades around. Interesting.
"Where's your unit?" Gray Eyes asked.
"Left them before Fetin."
Now Gray Eyes smiled, and Kendras had the uncanny feeling the man knew exactly what he'd meant. Too clever to be good company, this one.
"And you're down on your luck." It wasn't mockery or scorn. The sky is blue; you're on your last coppers and hurt.
Kendras shrugged, admitting nothing and pretending not to care. He knew well enough that he couldn't fight or work with his foot, and no healer would treat him without payment. That meant he'd most likely have to sell his armor.
Only, of course, right after a war all the plunder hit the markets, and well-made armor would fetch a laughable price. Even the prices for slaves would be all but ruined, so selling himself would be pointless too. Who'd buy an injured man when much better, younger, and prettier meat was for sale? In his state, he couldn't even become a bandit—and the beggars wouldn't tolerate him competing for their territory.
Gray Eyes watched him think.
Annoyed, Kendras shook his head. "You don't seem the charitable kind."
"Charitable?" Gray Eyes gave a snort. "No, that I'm not." He tapped his fingers on the table, maybe impatient to be going. Then, out of nowhere, a silver coin appeared between his fingers and came to rest on the worn wood. "Follow me?"
"To earn enough that you won't go hungry while your wounds heal." The silver coin vanished. Gray Eyes stood, held his gaze for a long moment, then turned to go upstairs.
Kendras considered his options, but the truth was, he'd already gone through all of them. There was nothing left to do.
He pushed himself up from the table and pressed his lips together when he had to move the leg again. Just putting weight on it felt like a sword point entering the sole of his foot and slowly pushing upward, splitting the bone. Gods below, this fucking hurt. Small step by small step, he hobbled across the room and then supported his weight against the dirty wall as he climbed the stairs.
He had no idea if and how he could get downstairs again, and for one ridiculous moment, he thought he'd be trapped. But he'd been trapped the moment he'd been injured.
He made it to the landing, wiping the sweat off his brow. Gray Eyes stood there, watching, not offering help or comment. Kendras caught himself scanning the corridor, despite the fact that he didn't have his glaive and whatever came next wouldn't be fighting. A man who could buy him wouldn't attack him.
Gray Eyes opened the nearest door and held it ajar.
Kendras hobbled in, setting his face in stone to not betray his agony, but his careful movements gave it all away anyway.
He felt the man at his back when the door closed behind them. His muscles twitched with the motions he'd make to skewer Gray Eyes if they'd been on the battlefield. Standing still in the middle of the room was torture, but Gray Eyes did not indicate what he wanted.
A movement caught Kendras's eyes. In a silvery arch, the coin was flicked onto the bed, where it landed, gleaming. The unscarred surface shone as if minted just today.
"Do you need help with that armor?" Gray Eyes asked.
Kendras tilted his head, then glanced over his shoulder. "You'd pay me for that?"
"Yes." The other man stepped closer. Inside striking distance.
"You can get it cheaper than that."
"Would you have followed me without getting paid?"
Kendras huffed. As if he'd tell him that. "Open the hooks at my neck."
Gray Eyes inched closer, alert like a wild animal, and placed his hands on Kendras's shoulders, seeking the hooks that held the scale armor tight. He had to pull the coat together to take the weight off the hooks, and the familiar feeling—first of tightening around his shoulders, then the release—brought up memories of his comrades readying each other for battle.
Kendras stepped away, despite the pain, and opened his broad belt, then loosened the fastenings under his arms. He bent over and pulled. Slowly, the scale armor slid off his back, then its own weight pulled it down and, like a snake, Kendras freed himself. He straightened, not sure his foot would allow him to gather and roll up the armor, so he took a moment to find his resolve.
Gray Eyes stepped to the side, studying him in his protective leathers. "More."
Kendras gave a half-smile but didn't feel any humor. The man with the money called the tune. He'd really like food and maybe even a medic's attention. He began to unfasten the leathers, fingers working on their own.
The heavy leather tunic came off, and there was a hiss of appreciation from the side when he bared his chest. He saw the other man cup himself, the half-hard cock clearly outlined by the way Gray Eyes stood there, groin tilted forward.
Kendras tore his eyes away from the strong hand roughly kneading. He'd get to that part soon enough. Too soon. He sat down on the bed, unspeakably relieved to take the weight off that foot.
Getting one boot off was easy. The other one nearly made him scream before he relented and took his dagger, cutting into the side of the boot and down to the hobnailed sole. He sat there shaking when he'd finally freed the bandaged, splinted, badly swollen foot. Even with his dark skin, his toes were half-purple and half-black, and he wondered idly if he'd lose them, before he stood again.
The foot felt like it would come apart when it touched the floorboards, as if only the boot had kept it together. Kendras hated the other man for giving him the order to strip, for demanding to see everything, even the injury.
He pushed his trousers down, sat, and pulled them off his feet, careful to not touch the bad foot. He wiped the sweat off his face with his arm, then stood again, this time keeping all his weight on his good side. Without the armor, that was a lot easier.
"That what you wanted?"
"Not yet," the other man said and smiled. He was fully hard now in his trousers.
"You're mad. You could easily get a couple of boys for that."
"That's not my taste."
Kendras shook his head. He doubted very much that he could fuck the other man in his state.
"Do you suck?"
Gray Eyes accepted that. He nodded toward the bed, and Kendras got on it. After undressing, this wouldn't be too hard. He could pretend there was no coin lying there. Pretend, pretend, pretend. He'd never done this for money, had never expected anybody would offer him money, either, at least not since he'd become a Scorpion.
Getting on all fours, he placed his leg in a way that the bad foot wasn't touching the lumpy mattress, which incidentally opened him up.
He glanced to the side and watched Gray Eyes undress. Riding boots, tunic, then his trousers, baring a pale body with sunburned neck and arms covered in golden hair. His dick was certainly adequate and remained fully hard, and Kendras wondered if he'd have taken that more like a compliment if he hadn't been paid. But he didn't want to think about the man, didn't particularly care why he preferred a crippled soldier to an eager, good- looking boy who could be had for a handful of coppers.
Gray Eyes joined him on the bed and moved between his legs. The sound of spitting, a practiced hand gliding over his ass, a thumb tracing his crack.
"Fetin, huh," Gray Eyes murmured. "Which side were you on?"
Kendras couldn't help but tighten. He told himself that was because the wet thumb was forcing entry, because the other man spat again, adding more and forcing the thumb deeper.
"Oh really?" Gray Eyes didn't sound surprised. "Well, I'll enjoy fucking your ass then, Dalmanye. Like you did us." With that, he forced his way inside, and Kendras sucked his breath in and held it, held it to not give anything away.
The burn and stretch were hard to ignore. Every instinct screamed at him to shake the man off and kill him for the attempt. But that wouldn't do. He needed the money. Even if it came from an enemy who paid to mock him with this. He'd been wondering about Gray Eyes's allegiance, but assumed the man might have been just another mercenary or drifter from inland. A Fetinye. Damn unlucky meeting, under these circumstances. Not that he had any loyalties. He'd serve Fetin if there was money to be had and if their officer signed the contract.
He pressed his lips together as he felt the other man pause and spit again, clearly struggling to get fully inside him. There was no point in making this hard for him—it would be over faster if Kendras complied. He pressed against the burning discomfort, that sharp friction his body remembered well enough. Not encouraging, just accepting as best he could.
"Oh damn you," the other man said, and began to move. He might not be the biggest, but he knew how to use what he had.
Kendras stared at the wall, lifting his gaze away from the coin underneath him, and resisted the thrusts, which, despite the situation, stoked a fierce pleasure inside. Even though this wasn't a comrade and despite the burn, the pleasure was immediate and irresistible. The pain might even have added to it; sometimes rough sex was the only way to take the edge off.
Gray Eyes's thrusts were harsh, but not brutal, and after a few, he paused to add more spit, working it inside him with ungodly skill. Kendras wanted to tell him not to stop, but remained silent. One way to keep face—be the paid whore. Silence was the best he could do.
Finally, Gray Eyes found a rhythm and fucked him faster, hard enough to move that ankle a bit, which made Kendras groan.
One hand slid from his hip down to his groin, and there was an odd little sound from Gray Eyes when he touched and then took Kendras's hard cock. An admission, some kind of defeat, but Kendras couldn't care anymore when Gray Eyes began to stroke him in time with his thrusts.
Both together were unbearable, too good, and Kendras moved, feeling their skin slide together, sweat mingling as every stroke and every thrust robbed him of thought and control. He could hear the desperation in the sounds of their bodies, sometimes perfect together, then resisting, forcing, and yielding. He almost felt alive, and that sudden realization cut to the bone. He might just live. He might just want to go on.
Then climax took him, and he only vaguely felt Gray Eyes clutch his hips harder, coming inside him.
Kendras fell onto the wet spot underneath him but couldn't care about it, couldn't move because Gray Eyes lay on top of him and his semi-hard dick slipped out but rested against the inside of Kendras's leg, hot and wet. Kendras relished the soreness in that moment, the exhaustion, and the sheer satisfaction so much that he didn't try to get Gray Eyes to back off. Just two bodies. "You've done this before," Gray Eyes murmured against his shoulder.
Kendras huffed. He'd have been content to just sleep. "Maybe."
"So I was right."
"You doing this." Gray Eyes rubbed his face against Kendras's back like a cat.
"That why you were alone?" Kendras asked. "Seeking your entertainment?"
"Not quite." Gray Eyes pushed himself up and off, then got to his feet. Kendras turned his head and ended up looking at an admittedly nice pair of thighs.
"What are those?" Gray Eyes reached down to touch the back of Kendras's hand.
"Scars." Kendras turned his hand fully. "The officer thought the tattoos weren't visible enough. So he cut the outlines."
"And you call me crazy?" Gray Eyes shook his head. "What about that?" He indicated Kendras's wrist, and Kendras, half-amused, turned it to show the tattoo there too. "Seventeenth? Your unit?"
Excerpted from Scorpion Memory of Scorpions, #1 by Aleksandr Voinov, Gordon Warnock, Rachel Haimowitz. Copyright © 2013 Aleksandr Voinov. Excerpted by permission of Riptide Publishing.
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