Tags: cecilia tan, science fiction
by Cecilia Tan
$3.99, 35,000 words, ISBN 978-1-61390-063-5
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About the Book:
In this novella-length prequel to Telepaths Don’t Need Safewords, Cecilia Tan weaves another BDSM science fiction tale. Arshan is a young noble on a world where dominance and submission are a way of life. In his travels he has taken full advantage of the carnal pleasures on offer, sowing wild oats across several planets and learning the joys of bondage and discipline from both sides of the whip in preparation for someday becoming a full-time master. He is summoned home, though, to join a group of candidates being convened so that the crown princess may choose a consort and a slave.
Arshan is not destined for slavery, not even at the feet of the future queen, and finds himself trapped in a world of castle intrigue and sexual competition for dominance. He is fresh meat, and everyone wants a piece of him. Can he find a way to survive without surrendering, to submit without being collared for life?
Warnings/Enticements: BDSM, bisexuality, power games, dubious consent, erotic jeopardy, knife play, D/s, explicit sex.
About the Author:
Cecilia Tan is “simply one of the most important writers, editors, and innovators in contemporary American erotic literature,” according to Susie Bright. Tan is the author of many books, including the ground-breaking erotic short story collections Black Feathers (HarperCollins), White Flames(Running Press), and Edge Plays(Circlet Press), and the erotica romances Mind Games, The Prince’s Boy, The Hot Streak, and the Magic University series. Forthcoming she has a three-book BDSM erotic romance series from Grand Central Publishing entitled Slow Surrender.
Her short stories have appeared in Ms. Magazine, Nerve, Best American Erotica, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and tons of other places. She was inducted into the Saints & Sinners Hall of Fame for GLBT writers in 2010, was a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Leather Association in 2001, and won the inaugural Rose & Bay Awards for crowdfunded fiction in 2010 for Daron’s Guitar Chronicles. The Prince’s Boy won honorable mention in both the NLA Writing Awards and the Rainbow Awards. She lives in the Boston area with her lifelong partner corwin and three cats.
Look under the cut for a hot excerpt!
I wasn’t supposed to see what I did. I was supposed to be elsewhere, occupied, doing what doesn’t matter now.
I wasn’t supposed to see my father rocked back on his heels by the power of a slap so hard that it sounded like a gunshot in the spare, hard room he used as his audience chamber. The orbital station he called home was never luxurious; softness did not suit him. I was too late to hear what he had said, or see what he had done, to deserve such a blow. I ducked to the side of the doorway.
“Give me your hand,” I heard a female voice say. The woman in the room with him, by the glimpse I had caught of her, was someone important. I dared a peek around the edge of the open hatch. She was in bright scarlet, the royal house’s color, carried a rod of office, and had a long, red cloth woven through the mound of hair on her head.
My father opened his hand, palm up, and extended it toward her. She placed something in it, and I saw his fist clench instantly, the cords of his muscles and veins standing out as he squeezed whatever it was as hard as he could. It was hurting him, as if she had dropped a hot coal into his palm, yet the pain never registered on his face.
She smiled. “You always were a stoic one.”
“You’ve been hiding him long enough,” she then said, and I suddenly knew why I had been sent off on an errand just before. Any thought I had of sneaking back to my duties disappeared. This visit from an important personage was about me.
“I haven’t been hiding him,” he said, his broad shoulders tensing visibly. “His mother’s people…”
“Come now, come now.” she said, her voice sinuous and light. “We know about the school on Phynia, about the girls whose parents called them suddenly home. He’s one of us, Audan. You of all people must recognize that.”
“I will train him, as I have done before. When he is ready.”
“He is ready. He is more than ready. It is you who are not ready to face that he is not a boy anymore. He is twenty-three, Audan.”
“I know how old my own son is.”
The bantering tone she had been using evaporated. “Trella will not be denied in this. You will send him to Baelia where he will meet the others. Tomorrow. Be thankful I am not taking him with me now.”
And then I saw something else I had never seen. Which was my father, slave trader, slave trainer, and former high priest of the Empire, dropping to his knees. The woman parted her scarlet robes and he placed a cursory kiss upon her mound. Before he could rise, though, she had the rod on his shoulder. She lifted one elegant leg in scarlet tightskin over his other shoulder, and then I could no longer see his face because her robes were in the way. By the sound of it, though, he was licking her, and she was enjoying it.
I turned away in shock. Yes, of course it was within her rights as a noble superior to demand such favors, but as far as I knew it was rarely done other than as a part of a public abasement. And I had never seen my father abased before anyone before. I knew, of course, that he had been through the full training, had years as an acolyte to the priesthood as well as years at court, so surely in his lifetime he must have spent as many hours on his knees as any man of his position. But I had never seen it. I had never met a Kylaran who outranked him. And certainly never one who demanded her full right.
I also suspected, as it was certainly rumored, that my father had not touched a woman sexually since my mother’s death. Men yes, both slaves and peers, but women, no.
If the long disassociation with the female genitalia had affected him, I could not tell. It seemed mere moments before she began to cry out, and I heard the sound of the rod falling to the floor, then something heavier. I peeked again and saw she had collapsed, and he now had his arms locked around her thighs as his tongue continued to work, as her cries rose and fell and rose again. Now she was trying to push him away, but weakly, her hands barely responding as her body arched with pleasure and sensation and she writhed.
When he pulled away, he remained on his knees, eyes up, hands open on thighs, perfect posture. Hers was somewhat less than perfect as she stood, still slightly a-shudder. He sat placidly, the only evidence of his exertions was the sweat making a fringe of the gray hairs behind his ears. She opened her mouth as if to say something, then thought better of it, and instead left through the opposite hatch, the one toward the airlock.
I waited until he had regained his feet to come into his presence, and I did not kneel when I approached him. Between us, we only used the protocols when I was actively training. But there were advantages to not looking one’s superior in the eye.
“You need to learn to hide your emotions better,” was the first thing he said. I suppose it was obvious from the expression on my face that I had just seen everything. He looked at me as I stood there, trying to think of what to say, what to ask him. “Everything changes now,” he added. His eyes swept the room. The space was curved, all white and gray, as antiseptic as the medical center and as empty as a tomb, save two chairs on a raised platform at one end.
I found my tongue. “When she said ‘Trella’…”
“She meant Princess Trella. You’re to join a group of others in forming a circle for her.” He used the old word for “circle,” torun. The word had echoes in it of our words for collar, and for embrace, and for strangle. He went to sit in the left hand chair, then sat staring at the palm of his hand.
“Are you hurt?”
“No. Siksie’s little agony bomb left no marks.” He held up the hand to prove it. “She’s a vicious one,” he told me then. “And I will apologize to you now in advance for the suffering she is going to inflict on you to get back at me.”
“For taking control from her,” I stated.
“Exactly,” he said, his approval radiating from his eyes as he almost smiled before he became serious again. “But don’t think she is so easily beaten. I took my one opportunity and made it count.”
“I know how the game is played…”
“It’s not a game.” It was not like him to interrupt me. “I won’t be able to protect you down there.”
I opened my mouth to say I could take care of myself, but this time he stopped me before the words came out.
“No, you don’t understand. In the palace they are not just about who is sleeping with whom and who is dominant to whom. I could really lose you.”
“You mean she might make me her slave consort forever,” I answered. “I know that. Anyone in the circle could…”
“Could end up dead,” he finished, finally shutting me up. It was a signal that I should listen. I spread my feet slightly and settled my weight on my legs. If he started to lecture I might be standing there for a long time. “What the other sons and daughters of our noble peers and superiors might do for power, what rules they will follow and which they will break, I don’t know. You will have no allies but your own wits.”
He rubbed his knuckle hard against his chin. “I always knew you would someday have to take a place in our society,” he said. “Even when I didn’t want to admit it to myself. But I didn’t think it would be quite like this. Right into the palace!”
“Surely one of the others will be eager for the position and the rest of us are just there for show,” I said.
He huffed. “I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the choosing were rigged. But things are rarely so simple. Those who bear a grudge against me would think nothing of taking you apart just to see me suffer.”
He proceeded to give me a crash course in palace politics as they had been when he was my age and what he knew now. I had been on and off Kylar many times in my life. I wasn’t a complete stranger to the protocols, the hierarchies, and the rules, even if Audan had, for his own reasons, raised me outside of them for the most part. I was also confident in my abilities to withstand pain and pleasure, and to deal out both. But we didn’t know anything about Trella, who had been raised mostly in seclusion, and what we knew about the Emperor himself, well, let’s just say there was a reason my father lived on an orbital platform and not on the surface of the planet. I still didn’t know exactly what had caused the falling out between the two of them years ago. Once upon a time they had been so close that my father named his first born son, me, after the man. Certainly many Kylaran nobles did the same, it was a common enough custom, but not the sort of thing Audan would have done without a reason.
He also would not have kept me standing there through the whole conversation without a reason. But maybe he had said it himself. Everything changes now.
“Obviously, I have to go,” I said when he wound down. “But is there something you want me to do?”
He made a noise, half-grunt, half-gurgle. “Your mother wanted you to be your own man. In her eyes, that meant not being… dependent on the Kylaran way.” He suddenly glanced up, as if realizing I was still standing, and indicated the chair next to him with a flick of his eyes.
I sat. “What do you mean?”
“She felt a person had to be a person first and a master or a slave second. I promised her I would give you the chance to discover who you were outside of dominance and submission.” His eyes lingered on the chair as if he had never seen it before. “Outside… protocol.” He seemed almost chagrined at how easily the two of us had slipped into a formal mode. “That’s why you spent most of your life away from here.”
“But you knew this might happen.” I thought about the two times he had sent me to foster on the homeworld, once when I was seven, and once when I was fourteen.
“I had to respect her dying wish, but also prepare you for a life here, if you wanted it.”
“You never told me it was because of her.”
He didn’t answer that, merely let the statement hang there as truth. Then he said, “I don’t believe you can be anything other than what you are,” and I realized we agreed. Perhaps my mother was able to make a separation where the Kylaran way stopped and the Kylaran personality started, but Audan didn’t and neither did I. “And I am sure the Emperor thinks that, as well.”
“It sounds like someone has been watching me.” My sudden recall from Phynia was making more sense to me now, too. I had been engaging in, shall we say, a healthy sexual life while there and had created a circle of willing slaves of my own there. Phynian girls are very particular but very specific about their virginity, and that had made it a particularly interesting challenge for me. And even the woman who had just been here, what had she said? He is one of us?
“Trella wants you for some reason, Arshan.” My father stepped down off the dais and we faced each other eye to eye. “I don’t know if it is revenge for something I did, or if it is part of some other scheme we have yet to uncover, or if maybe she just likes what she sees. All I know is, if she bonds you for life as her slave…” He grimaced at the thought.
“How do you know I wouldn’t be happy as her slave?” I asked him, smirking at my own thought. “Maybe she’s what I’ve been waiting for.”
He gripped me by the shoulders. “Don’t joke about it!” His eyes searched mine.
“Didn’t you teach me yourself that even the most dominant of souls must serve sometimes?”
“I know you, Arshan. You were not made to be bonded as a slave. Your soul would die.”
I shrugged off his intensity, though not his grip. “It’s not as if I haven’t served before. Remember when you sent me to Mirell’s house?” Mirell had been cruel and sweet to me, exacting and never skimpy with either punishment or reward. I remembered her fondly.
“No. This wouldn’t be like training. This would be forever, a pact drawn in blood in front of the gods.”
“I thought you didn’t believe in the gods anymore.”
He stared at me. “The gods are real, Arshan,” he said softly. “I just no longer follow them.”