Playing with Fire by Sean Michael
This is an oldie, but a goodie. While I write predominantly contemporaries, I love reading fantasy and science fiction. Playing with Fire came out of me wanting to do a fantasy book myself.
Zujan is a fire mage. He's indulged, spoiled, bored. He's got everyone eating out of the palm of his hand (or he's eating out of theirs...)
Enter Wintras, the son of a king of a neighboring land. Wintras is arrogant, cocky, defiant even, despite the fact that everyone else, including his father, is paying homage and bowing and scraping to Zujan. Suddenly, Zujan isn't so bored anymore and he has Wintras thrown into his dungeons.
The fun is bringing these two characters who seem so different together, (it always comes back to character for me,) and in finding out what it will take to make Wintras change his mind about Zujan.
What happens when an uppity fire mage takes the son of a neighboring kingdom prisoner to teach him a lesson? Sparks, of course. Only in this case, where there’s smoke, there’s more than just fire. The Prince and the Mage both have their secrets to hide, leading the reader through an intricate dance of war, deception, and smoldering sexuality.
The hands dressing him were careful, only the most perfect of his pets allowed so close. The fiery silks were carefully draped against his skin --the deepest reds closest to him, the colors slowly growing lighter in weight and shade.
One soft hand was in his hair, carefully arranging the ebony curls into the illusion of effortless muss, another rubbed a lotion containing crushed pearls into his fingers and wrists. Fire rubies were added to his throat, ears, carefully hung in his hair.
Honestly, the trials and tribulations of having to entertain where quite exhausting. Still, it was time that lordlings that he allowed to live on his lands paid him tribute and for that, he would appear in the salle and... mingle.
"Lord Zujan?" His current favorite, a sweet boy with a quick mind and an eager mouth, appeared, dressed in a short, white tunic, legs bare for his touch, his brand just visible on the soft inner thigh.
"Yes, Rall?" He sent a single firefaery over to flit about, just tease Rall with its heat.
"The ballrooms are prepared, as you've requested. The tables are laid. Shall I have the harem prepared and presented?"
He tilted his head, considering. "Have the harem decorated and bound and mounted on the walls as art in the dining room."
There were the handiest crystalline phalluses mounted randomly, jewel-studded chains above to stretch the lovely bodies out. One must impress the gentry, after all.
"All of them, Lord Zujan?" Rall asked softly.
"You will serve me, Pet. And have a few scattered about as side tables, benches." With a click of his fingers, the firefaery dissipated, energy flowing back into him.
Rall's eyes showed both disappointment and relief as the firefaery disappeared, his pet nodded though. "I will take care of everything, my Lord."
"Excellent." He met the soft green eyes with his own. "Do not disappoint me, Pet."
Fear flashed through Rall's eyes, but his Pet boldly promised that he would not be disappointed.
"Is there anything else, my Lord?"
"Mmm... have the kitchen send up something sweet, something to sate my hunger."
"The kitchen, my lord? Or the harem?"
He chuckled. "Cheeky. The kitchen. I will feed my other hungers from you."
Rall bowed to him, eyes alight. "Yes, sir."
Another bow and his pet left to do his bidding.
Such a good boy. It would be a shame to lose him back into his father's arms.
His other pets continued to fuss over him, pressing close, adoring him. He allowed it for a few moments, allowed the touches and soft kisses, the need and want pouring over him, warming him. Soon enough the snack was brought by a sweet little thing and he dismissed them all, allowing himself the luxury of solitude.
There wouldn't be much solitude once he began to welcome his guests, each one would demand his time and attention. There would be gifts and simpering and fawning and as he'd invited them, he'd have to keep from frying too many of them.
A few here and there served as a lovely reminder. Too many and one got a bad reputation.
The firefaeries began to appear -- violet and blue, ruby and orange, dancing together, drawn to him, their laughter silent, their heat fierce as they stole bits and bites of pastry, tiny feet leaving smoldering marks on the dough.
"My lovely ones." Zujan laughed with them, entranced, overjoyed as he always was at their flame, their beauty.
The door opened, sending the firefaeries scattering.
Rall came to him. "My lord, your guests are arriving."
He sighed dramatically and stood, looking up into Rall's eyes. "Am I beautiful, Pet. Will I stun all I see?"
"Yes, my Lord. There has never been anyone as beautiful as you."
"Excellent answer, Pet." He nodded toward the door. "Come, let us make an entrance and I will fascinate the commoners."
"You would fascinate them no matter how you entered, my Lord." Rall held out his arm.
He slid his hand over Rall's skin, sending a frisson of heat into his Pet. "Of course I would."
"Yes, my Lord." He got a smile from Rall and then they were through the door and he was being announced, Rall standing proudly next to him.
The palace was beautifully decorated, his harem well-bound and mounted upon the blood-red covered walls, the chandeliers all lit, flames everywhere.
The low chatter stopped, dozens upon dozens of eyes staring at him. "Good evening. Welcome to my home."
There was silence for a very long moment and then someone, a Duke he thought, from just west of his demesne bowed low. "Thank you, Lord Zujan."
He dipped his head, moving gracefully down the long staircase and down along the hallway to take his seat in the well-padded chair at the head of the hall. It rested on a pedestal, allowing him to meet every man's eyes.
Rall sat at his feet, his pet obedient and sweet.
The guests milled around, some of them looking with open amazement at the live decorations, others looking upon them in revulsion or horror. One by one, in no apparent order, they came to pay their respects. The smart ones offered gifts in an attempt to curry his favour.
His fingers tangled in Rall's hair as he listened to the bevy of idiots drone on and on. Would the torture never end?
King Blethin was announced. *King* Blethin. The man had a nerve. He was an older man, with a round wife and a princeling in tow.
A young, strapping princeling who was entirely not his type. Tall. Muscled. Golden skin. Long hair the colour of wheat with shots of flame. And eyes like a midnight sky. Luscious. He needed another princeling. Honestly.
He purred, the sound familiar enough to make Rall tense.
"My Lord," murmured the king, bowing. His wife curtseyed, but the prince just stood there, watching him, defiant, head held high.
"We have brought you the finest furs of our lands as a very small token of our friendship." A cloak was handed to him, black and soft, warm. "The rest of the furs were left with your staff."
The fur was lovely, and he nodded happily. "You are a generous man. How kind of you to attend." And to bring your prince to me.
"We are neighbors, my Lord. It was an honor to be invited." The king all but tripped over his own tongue to lick Zujan's boots. The prince however stood behind his father, still straight and proud, those blue eyes almost looking through him.
This was a prond one. A strong one.
"And will your companion introduce himself?" Come, lovely one. Speak to me.
"This is my son, Wintras." The king made a hand gesture to his son, head jerking. "Bow to his Lordship," the man hissed.
Wintras stood for a long time and then gave him a half bow, eyes never leaving his.
He heard the shock ripple through his audience as one of his eyebrows arched and he tilted his head. "Wintras."
"That's what my father said."
Blethin's gasp was audible, the man going red at his son's words.
"Attractive and observant. How very lucky you are, Blethin." His voice was cool, clipped. "Perhaps he is simply overtaken by my beauty."
"Maybe I just don't like having to give up our best furs to you on top of everything else you've stolen."
The room went silent and he hid his smile as he stood, firefaeries appearing upon command.
Poor stupid little fool. "You misspeak, boy. All I have is mine to take."
The prince stood his ground, cocky and confident, arrogant. "I stand by my words."
An older man, an Earl hurried over. "Please, your majesty, my lord. The boy is young..."
"I am the Prince of the Western Lands. When I take my father's place I will end your terror of my people."
Zujan held out one hand, a flame appearing, the air in the ballroom going cold. "You have not yet learned terror, young one."
Heavens and skies, he was having fun.
"You think a few party tricks are going to teach me terror?" Those amazing blue eyes were steady, watching him, challenging him.
"No." He turned to the Queen, smiling into her tear-filled eyes. "I will offer you the choice, Lady. Give your son to me or I will roast him where he stands."
She fell to her knees, her husband joining her. "Please, your lordship, please spare his life!"
"Get up," growled the boy. "Stop debasing yourselves."
"Excellent." He snapped his fingers, his guards appearing immediately. "Take the Prince down to the dungeons and get him well-settled."
"You can't just take me prisoner!"
"Of course, not. Your family just offered you to me, in front of all my company." He waved his hand, idly. "Take him away."
"You intimidated them!" The Prince didn't fight his captors, glaring at him instead.
Blethin had joined his wife in mewling. They? Were getting boring.
He allowed the firefaeries their own will, watching as they moved in, swirling and heating until attacked by worried nobles, at which point they attacked, stroking with their burning touch.
He sat, enjoying the chaos, fingers returning to Rall's hair. "Are you enjoying yourself, Pet?"
"Y...yes, my Lord."
"Excellent. I am as well."
"Stop this! You are a madman!" Wintras shouted at him from across the room as the guards dragged him away. "Rush him! There are many of you and only one of him! He's insane!"
"They're so entertaining those first few days, don't you agree?" He smiled coldly at the king and his wife. "It is by his own lack of self-control that he goes. He will not be permanently harmed --assuming he learns, of course."
"Thank you for sparing him, your majesty," whimpered the queen.
"You are merciful," added the king, jeweled fingers shaking.
He nodded, in total agreement. Indeed. Most merciful.
Amused and merciful.
And the owner of some lovely furs.
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