Release Date - October 5, 2014 - Amber Allure
The village was quiet. It would be a while before the shops were open. But the shops were not his goal this morning. He was on his way to practice with his sword. The sun was coming up and Hunter could smell food being cooked, but most of all he could smell the coffee. He wished he had taken the time this morning to brew a little for himself. Maybe it would have helped to clear the fog in his head he was having a problem shaking. He was dressed casually in tan trousers and a long white tunic, his blond hair pulled back in a ponytail, and his sword hung at his side. He had his sleeves unbuttoned and folded up, already feeling uncomfortable in the clammy humidity. It seemed it was going to be another warm, fall day. He wore tan, soft leather ankle boots that made no noise as he walked. Lost in thought, he took the shortcut down a deserted alley between the pub and the inn.
Hunter never heard--but more importantly never felt--Tome come up behind him. Tome had an arm around Hunter's throat and his dagger's point pricking his back before Hunter reacted.
"You're dead..." the taller Tome whispered in Hunter's right ear, "again!"
Hunter had immediately grabbed the arm around his neck but stopped struggling the moment he heard Tome's voice. His first reaction was a shiver of pleasure, knowing it was Tome's arm around him, his breath in his ear; the next was intense anger at himself for his first reaction.
"You bastard! Let go of me!"
Tome laughed, released him, and pushed him forward. "You've been absolutely no fun these past weeks. You're too easy to beat."
Hunter turned to Tome and came at him, but Tome anticipated the move, grabbed both of Hunter's hands with his own, and had him pinned up against the outside wall of the pub with barely any effort.
"See what I mean?" Tome's face was only inches from Hunter's, his black eyes flashing. Then, becoming serious, he asked, "What's the matter? Bad dreams again?"
Hunter widened his very green eyes in shock, his heart pounding hard in his ears. "What... How...?"
"How did I know? Atael told me. Seems you rejected her again and she was angry. But don't worry; your little secret is safe with me." He whispered the last part.
Tome was dressed in a black tunic and black trousers that were better suited for sneaking around in the dark, but obviously had worked well even in the early daylight hours. He also had shoulder length black hair that he let fly loose. He wore ankle boots that were as silent as Hunter's but Hunter still should have known Tome was there, sneaking up behind him. Tome laughed and once again released Hunter from his grip. This time, Tome did not get out of Hunter's reach in time and Hunter had Tome down on the ground. They rolled, but Hunter was able to maintain his on-top status and pinned Tome's upper arms under his knees. Hunter knew it wouldn't take much for the bigger man underneath him to unseat him, but he held the position anyway. He looked down at Tome, intending to say some biting remark, however, having Tome's hot, heavy breath that close to his private area and watching that tongue of his darting out to wet those slightly parted lips had Hunter scrambling back to his feet.
Hunter stood over him and said between his teeth, "Touch me again and I'll fucking kill you! Leave me the hell alone!" Just the man's touch! How could only his touch elicit this kind of reaction?
Tome chuckled as he sat up. Hunter noticed Tome's eyes were looking intently at his crotch. "No, I will not leave you alone. How can I? You're..." Tome's gaze traveled slowly up Hunter's chest to meet his eyes. "You are the great master, the superior one, the one to beat, and I will be the one to do it. But it won't mean anything if you are not at your best." Clearing his throat Tome rose, adjusting his own trousers and forcing Hunter's eyes to Tome's front, where he did little to hide the bulge there. Tome winked at Hunter when he raised his eyes back up to meet Tome's grin. "And the way you've been lately is pathetic." Tome stepped back making sure this time he was far enough away from Hunter's threatening clenched fists.
"I mean it, Tome. Knock it off with all these surprise attacks." Hunter sighed. "Really. Please, just leave me alone." He walked past Tome.
Tome hurried to once again catch up to him. "Look, Hunter, we're colleagues, right?"
"Like fucking hell we are. Quit following me."
"Ouch! You cut me to the bone." He darted around Hunter. "Tell me about your dreams then. I'm a good listener."
At this point Tome had put himself in front of Hunter and was bending down to try to look into his eyes. Then he halted dead in front of Hunter, forcing him to stop.
Hunter looked up into Tome's face and couldn't help but notice the smirk on it. Crap, but this man is beautiful. "What do you want?" Even to Hunter, his voice sounded whiney.
Tome's gaze wandered up and down Hunter's body, then came back to Hunter's eyes.
"Unfortunately, something you're not willing to give me... yet. But other than that, to beat you fair and square. I want to be number one. But I can't do that when you're weak and distracted. What's going on?"
Hunter looked at Tome for a minute, knowing he should tell someone about the dreams. He had let it slip with Atael that night when she tracked him down at Master Peron's academy. The building was large and housed a number of separate areas, each one for the learning of a specific skill. In Hunter's case, he practiced his swordsmanship with Master Peron himself. But none of that intimidated Atael. She was a beautiful girl and certainly not used to being turned down when she asked men out on dates. It was the third time she had approached him. He tried to be gentle but was extremely tired from a number of sleepless nights. So many, in fact, he had lost count. The few minutes he had slept, his nightmares haunted him. It was usually the same dream. Some of the details would be different each time, but the feeling he brought with him when he finally woke from them was what left him 'weak and distracted', as Tome had pointed out.
"Come to dinner with me." Atael's soft, girly voice grated on Hunter's nerves the second she opened her mouth. He had tried to avoid her, tried hard not to be seen by her, but it was obvious she had been lying in wait for him. "My brother just brought home a young deer and I made a stew with carrots and beans. I used lots of meat. Even you have to take a night off once in a while, right?"
"No. Not tonight." Please, just leave me alone.
"Why not, Hunter?" She had sidled up to him, rubbing against him, something that did nothing for him. "I'll make sure you have the big bowl..." She whispered it in his ear, her hot breath smelled sickeningly like flowers.
Oh fuck. Hunter stepped back, nearly tripping on his own feet. "No, Atael! I mean it. Not tonight."
"Well, why not?" She had obviously noticed Hunter's quick retreat and--coupled with his consistent rejection of her plans for him--she had become angry. Her fists rested on her ample hips as she glared at him.
"I haven't slept well. These damn dreams. I haven't... slept... That's all... just..." Shit!
Atael's mouth had shot open at that point, her eyes went large. "You mean...?"
"I don't mean anything, Atael. Nothing! They're just dreams, not..." Hunter cringed.
"You... you're having nightmares?" she said under her breath, as she drew it in. "Hunter Charles! You're having nightmares!"
It had been a simple mistake. Everyone had nightmares, right? Why would Hunter having nightmares be of any concern to anyone, much less that of Atael or Tome, for that matter? But Hunter knew better. He really did. Even at that moment, that incredibly stupid, weak moment when those words left his mouth, he knew it wouldn't take long for the news to spread.
"Hunter is having dreams again!"
"Hunter's nightmares have returned!"
"Who did Hunter dream about this time?"