Until a former lover of Eduard's shows up in their parlor with thoughts of blackmail.
Reza was a crewman on the ship that brought the van De Liers to Java. During the passage, Eduard spent many a night in the younger man's arms. Two years have passed, and the last person Eduard expects to find in his drawing room is Reza, a letter in hand that could destroy the life he and Marien lead.
Seeing him again ignites Eduard's lust for his first dark lover. He hopes to retrieve the letter, either through seduction or subterfuge, and the longer Reza eludes him, the more his desire grows. But they're on shaky ground, and before things can heat up between them, their world explodes -- literally -- when the unstable island of Krakatoa erupts.
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Eduard entered the drawing room, carefully closing the doors behind him. "Good day to you, sir." He gave the man a slight bow, which earned him a nod from the stranger. "I do apologize for the delay. I was attending to household drudgery. I'll not bore you with the details."
When the man spoke, his deep voice rumbled through the room. "Dealing with a servant, perhaps?" Eduard's eyes widened, and the man chuckled. The sound was like thunder, sending shivers of delight down Eduard's spine. "They all speak so highly of you. Word on the street is you're more than generous with your ... affections."
The suggestive way he said the word made Eduard grin. At least he wouldn't have to dance around the issue with this one. Motioning to a sidebar near the fireplace, Eduard asked, "May I get you a drink, Mister ..." He gave an affected laugh and dared to wink at his guest. "Mercy, where are my manners? We've not been properly introduced. I am Eduard van De Lier, Hollander."
The stranger's slight smile didn't fade as he watched Eduard give him another bow, this one a bit sharper than the last. But he didn't take the bait, and didn't bother to introduce himself. After a long moment, Eduard prompted, "And you are?"
Though the smile stayed in place, some of the light in the stranger's dark eyes died, hardening his gaze. "Do you not know me?"
"Surely a man such as yourself is hard to forget," Eduard countered.
It wasn't an answer, but it bought him some time. He studied the man as he tried to think. Did he know him? Should he?
"Perhaps this will refresh your memory." The stranger reached into a side pocket on his pants.
For one breathless moment, Eduard dared to hope the man would ease the fabric aside, allowing him a glimpse of the thick cock Eduard imagined hidden beneath. Though he doubted he'd know the man by his assets alone, he'd gladly fall to his knees before him, move the rest of the material out of the way, and take whatever length the stranger offered into his mouth. His interrupted libido stirred to life again, and adrenaline shot through his veins like a heady drug. He was addicted to other men, and since settling in Java, native skin had become his obsession. "This room is so open," he said, his gaze never leaving that hand in the pocket or the front of the stranger's pale pants. "Perhaps we could retire to my chambers ..."
But the man only extracted a bit of parchment, nothing else, and Eduard felt his disappointment catch in the back of his throat as he watched the stranger unfold the paper. Amid the folds, he saw a seal he thought he recognized, and his heart stopped. "No," he whispered. It couldn't be.
Unconsciously he drifted nearer, drawn by the page in the stranger's large hands. When it was completely unfolded, the man held it up for Eduard to read, the paper stretched open in front of him. The flowing script was familiar, and if Eduard closed his eyes, he knew he could probably recite the words written in fading ink without hesitation. It was a letter he'd last seen two years earlier, during the sea voyage that brought him and Marien to this part of the world. A letter he'd thought destroyed. He had read it, and reread it, hope rising within him at the implications, the opportunity presented, and then he'd copied it, meticulous, angling his handwriting to mirror that of the original letter writer. He could vividly recall the candle flickering low across the wooden desk where he sat, hunched over two pieces of parchment. The sway of the ship beneath him, which made his hand unsteady and his progress slow. The rustle of sheets on the bed behind him, and a low voice that still managed to startle him, coming as it did from such a young, slim man. "Are you not finished yet? I'm bored ..."
The voice resonated through Eduard's memory, attaching itself to a name. With difficulty, he raised his gaze from the paper to look at that face again -- the haughty facial structure, the fleshy lips, the deep-set eyes. A few years had passed, strengthening the features, and the once-idolizing eyes were now harsh, calculating. Softly, Eduard murmured, "Reza?"