Also available on Amazon – Barnes&Noble – Smashwords – Kobo – AllRomanceEooks
Five gay fairy tales that feature classic stories like “The Beauty and the Beast” and “Cinderella” with a queer twist. What are the erotic possibilities of the dashing princes and dark forbidden forests that we learned about as children? Stories range from the charming tale of a mischievous Cinderella to the deliciously dark story of a modern-day Little Red Riding Hood complete with a real-life wolf. A mysterious young prince needs help from a beautiful young king in “The Goose Boy,” and Beauty and the Beast gets a sexy retelling in “Captivated.” Includes stories by Elizabeth Schechter, Julie Cox, Kiernan Kelly, Alexandra Erin, and Monique Poirier.
Read an excerpt:
From “Captivated” by Julie Cox
The King of the Westford was a hunted man. He fled through the forest on the back of a lame horse, pushing the animal past its endurance to escape the band of outlaws that had slain his retinue. When the horse collapsed, he left the path and continued on foot through the brush. The outlaws’ horses couldn’t follow him through the press of briars and vine, but the men dismounted and tracked him still. It was deep in the shadowy thicket of the valley that he began to see shapes beyond the trees, just out of sight. It was not only the outlaws who hunted him now.
He came to a ravine, carved deep by centuries of work by the river below. He collapsed against a tree and stared down the rocky cliffs. It was a high, lonely place, and he could see all the way to the sea, to the coast that would have led him home. He drew his sword and waited.
The outlaws came, but not as he expected. Three men ran screaming into the clearing, and stopped short of the ravine. They turned, and cast him barely a glance. Their eyes were on the restless forest. The shadows moved. A bear burst from the trees, an enormous creature of fangs, claws and rage. Its face and chest were stained with blood. The bear charged. It ducked one man’s sword and knocked the weapon aside with a casual swipe of his paw. The man’s arm erupted in blood; while he screamed, the bear took him. Within moments the animal turned and went after the others. One ran back into the woods; the other dove off the edge of the ravine, to be dashed upon the rocks and the river. The bear went after the last man, who barely even had time to scream.
The king breathed heavily, waiting. For long moments the forest was still and silent. The bear returned to him, not charging but at a slow, deliberate pace. The king saw now that its face was horribly scarred; delicate white scar tissue created rivulets in its fur. The bear stood up on its hind legs and placed both front paws on its chest. It separated its fur like a cloak and drew skin away from its shoulders, over its head. In one fluid movement of magic, a man in a bearskin cloak stood in the clearing. The blood on his hands, on his face and running down his throat, soaking through his tunic was all that indicated he was the very same creature who had killed the outlaws. His face was hideous, twisted with scars and hate. The king saw all this with disbelieving eyes before his vision narrowed to a point, and he passed out.
The king woke in a pile of furs before a fire. He sat up slowly, taking stock of the state of his body, wincing. The man in the cloak was there, watching him. The man pushed a plate of meat, bread and limp, stewed vegetables to him, along with a skin of wine. The king eyed the meat, and glanced fearfully at his host.
The man smiled, showing a mouthful of menacing teeth. “It’s beef,” he assured him. After a moment’s hesitation, the king grabbed the plate and ate with the frantic need of one on the brink of starvation. When he was finished, he sat back and sighed, a measure more trust in his eyes.
“I am Bruin, Lord of the Bearskins,” his host said. “Tell me who you are. You must be a man of some importance to rouse those wretches to such a devoted chase. I’ve never seen them chase someone over an hour, much less several days.”
“I am Alfric, King of the Westford,” he said. “I thank you for saving my life.”
“You will repay that debt,” Bruin said.
“I beg your pardon?”
Bruin stood and swept a curtain back from a broad window. A cluster of huts and hovels crowded a village square, and a spiked wall of timber surrounded it. “This city,” he said, “is our home. My people are the Bearskins; our magic is woven into us from birth. We have drifted and traveled the world; we have seen many things. Philosophers, tyrants, wondrous kingdoms, powerful armies and wilderness of such viciousness it could never be tamed. But this, this is the only thing that is ours, that has ever been ours, the first Bearskin city. And that makes it the greatest thing in our world.”
He paced the room. “We drove the outlaws from their caves and hideouts; we slaughtered the wolves and have tamed the wild elk. We cleared the meadow to plant crops, the first we ever have. This forest is our home, not our first but our last. In time, it will rival any city in the world.” He faced Alfric. “But we lack a vital element I have seen in every great land we have plundered. We do not read or write. You will help us with that.”
Alfric shook his head, not in disagreement but in amazement. “You are a barbarian,” he said. “I cannot imagine what you would gain from my presence. I would be wasted on you.”
Bruin scowled. “You claim to be a king of a faraway land. If your kingdom is of any significance, you must know how to read and write. You know about the manner of a high court, about music and stories. Medicine, crops, the nature of the stars. You will teach us.”
Alfric took a long time in answering. “I have never scoffed at a man looking to make himself into something more. But what you ask is better served by a host of ordinary men, instead of their leader. Allow me to return to my home, and I will send you scribes, artisans, courtesans and sorcerers. I will not force good men and women into exile, but I will ask for volunteers. They will pay my debt in my stead, and you will be better off.”
“It is not for you to decide,” Bruin said.
“I am a king,” Alfric said evenly. “It is always for me to decide.”
Bruin’s scowl deepened, and he turned away to stare out the window. “It is not only knowledge,” he said. “My people are rough warriors.”
“If they are anything like you, they are beasts indeed,” Alfric said.
“Yes. We are all of us beasts, vicious and bloodthirsty. We are powerful, and so we are feared. But we do not wish to be only that.” He turned back, and the light from outside played across the mass of scar tissue along his scalp. “I am their lord, and I must provide an example worthy of being followed. I want a member of royalty for a constant companion. I have seen great beauty in the manner, carriage and presence of fine men. I would be such a man, for the sake of my people.”
Alfric thought for a moment. With great weight in his voice he said, “I will ask my own son to come in my stead.”
Bruin nodded slowly. “Will a young man, who has not been in the situation you were in when I saved you, be able to see past this, and do what I require of him to do?” He gestured to his face, a shadow like vulnerability in his eyes.
Alfric nodded, certain. “I promise you, he will not count your appearance against you.”
Bruin nodded curtly. “Then it is done. My own guard will accompany you home, and will stay in… Westford, was it? They will guard the company you send back to us, and will ensure they, and your prince, return.”
Alfric smiled. “You do not know my people at all if you doubt my word.”
Bruin walked towards the door. “We will see.” He left, and the heavy click of the lock punctuated his exit.
King Alfric was a man of his word. Within a month the Westfordian convoy arrived, pale and slight compared to the Bearskins. Their eyes were wide, and they smelled of fear. Even their horses, delicate creatures of gold and silver, danced and paced and quivered. The Bearskins surrounded them in the village square.
Only one man showed no discomfort. The moment Bruin set eyes on him, he knew that this was the prince. He bore a strong resemblance to the king, but more than that, his entire posture and presence spoke of a great inner calm that could only come of the absolute assurance of control. Here was a man at peace with power. He was beautiful but not delicate; Bruin felt his groin tighten eying the prince’s muscular chest and thighs. To master this one would be to master the entire company.
“I will have my name in your mouth,” he murmured to himself, “and then some.”
Two men flanked the prince, watching him and watching the crowd. These would be his guard. Bruin drew his hood and cowl around his head and approached them. The prince did not even glance at him.
“I am Bruin, lord of the Bearskins,” he announced. “It was I who saved your father in the woods, and to me you will pay his debt.”
The prince glanced in his direction, and smiled thinly. He dismounted.
“You guess correctly that I am Tyr, a Prince of the Westford,” he said. His voice was rich and deep, and Bruin immediately wanted to hear more of it. “I am elated to be of service to my father in this matter. I have not been to war since Westford’s last campaign in the lowlands three years ago, and to embark upon establishing a new civilization with our newfound friends is both a welcome adventure and a great privilege.” He bowed slightly to Bruin, and the other Westfordians bowed as well.
“You will find no adventure here,” Bruin said, scowling. “You are to serve me.”
Tyr only smiled wider. “So you say. Come, we will talk together tonight when we are settled. But now!” He turned back towards the Westfordians, and slowly rotated so he addressed the whole host in turn. “We have much to celebrate! A new life begun together in peace and companionship! What could be more worthy of joy? We have brought with us food and drink for a great feast, and wonders from across our kingdom. Let us stable the horses, and get the festival underway! To new life!”
A great cheer rose up, and people scattered forth to activity, fear having given way to excitement and anticipation. Bruin alone was left scowling in the square.
Late in the evening, Bruin found Tyr relaxing, staring into the darkness beyond the great bonfire in the center of the square, looking peaceful and contented. He watched the prince a moment, admiring his handsome form lit by the fire. If only the man was mute. He trudged up, and as a last touch, pulled up his hood and cowl. He told himself it was to better intimidate the prince; who could keep up such calm dignity before a man shadowed by the face of a raging bear? But in truth, he also did not want the beautiful prince to see his ugliness. For now, faced with such beauty as he saw in the Westfordians in general and Tyr especially, he knew that he was ugly, perhaps more so than all the other scarred, war-torn Bearskins combined.
He sat beside Tyr with a grunt. “I hope you are happy with yourself,” he said.
“Tolerably,” Tyr said. “I am encouraged that our people seem to be finding common ground. Most of the people I have brought with me have experienced war or raids first hand. They may look slight in comparison with your warriors, but they are fierce.”
“As I assume you are?”
Tyr smiled, wicked and sharp. He saluted Bruin with a tilt of his mug. “You may assume as much, yes.”
“We must get something straight,” Bruin said, moving closer to him. “I am the lord of my people.”
“As I am the prince of mine.”
“And there is the rub of it. We are each accustomed to being in control of our forces. But there cannot be two masters of this pack – ”
“And why not?” Tyr asked, his tone light and cheerful. “You keep your Bearskins. I will keep my Westfordians. When conflicts arise, we will refer to the laws of our combined people as written out.”
“We have no writing,” Bruin protested.
“And that is why we have scribes. Law will rule without bias where we cannot.”
Bruin shook his head. “We must be one people if we are to survive. Surely you see that.”
Tyr leaned in close, smiling, and said softly, almost purring, “I’m a flexible sort.”
Bruin wasn’t sure to make of that. “I will be your master,” he said with finality.
Tyr laughed. “Do you think it is as easy as all that? You say heel, and I fall into place? I am not one to be mastered lightly.” His smile turned vicious, like the snarl of a dog. “What do you do with your political enemies? Cut them down in the street? Duel to the death? I learned long ago that when the stakes are the safety of one’s people, honor and virtue are nothing. NOTHING. I do not put pride above my responsibility to their safety.” He slid a little closer, until the length of his body brushed against Bruin’s. “If I think you will make a slave of me, if I think you are a threat to the Westfordians I have brought, then I will kill you. Not in a duel, not with honor. It will be a drop of poison in your drink, a knife in the dark, an accident that was not an accident. Force me and you will never sleep at night. Kill me and you lose all chance at peace with these highly experienced, deceitful warriors you have let in by your front door.”
Bruin’s gut churned, and his breath came fast and angry. Tyr slid a hand upon his leg, and his breath sped again, for a different reason. “Play it my way, show me you are worthy of being followed, make me WANT to be mastered … and you will never have to know fear again.” He moved his hand up the inside of Bruin’s thigh, and he smiled.
Bruin licked his suddenly dry, chapped lips. Tyr’s soft mouth was close to him, teasing. An unwelcome thought flickered through his mind – what he would like to do with that mouth. “You are a complicated man.”
“You have no idea.” Tyr’s hand left Bruin’s thigh and raised to the bearskin cowl. He chuckled as he touched it. “Why do you wear this? Do all the Bearskins wear them?”
“I … do not wish for you to see me. I am not a beautiful man.”
Tyr laughed. “You don’t have anything to worry about on that count–”
A dancing pair, a Westfordian man and a Bearskin woman, tripped over their own feet and landed on Bruin with a great laugh. Bruin rolled them off and helped them up, admonishing them to show a little care. But they were off again, trying to mesh the dancing styles of two very different realms. By the time Bruin looked back to where he had been sitting, Tyr was gone.
The next day, back in his home, Bruin anguished over showing his face to Tyr. He drew all the curtains and snuffed all the candles, until it was pitch black. He then called a servant to summon Tyr from the guest quarters into the main hall, despite the darkness.
As Tyr stopped at the top of the stairs, he said, “I am sorry, but I am unfamiliar with your home, and as you may have guessed, I cannot see. I would ask some assistance.”
Bruin came up the stairs and awkwardly offered his arm. “It is not always so dark in here,” he said, “but I prefer it this way.”
“Dark or light, it makes no difference to me,” Tyr said. He took Bruin’s arm without a hint of discomfort, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. “I only regret that I cannot see my host.”
As they walked, Bruin spoke, hating what he had to say but certain it was the only course that would, eventually, net him what he wanted. “I was brusque earlier,” he said. “I should have known to be more gracious to you.”
“Easily forgiven,” Tyr assured him.
Bruin took him to the den, a much cozier room than the great hall. There were comfortable places to sit, great skins to draw around oneself, and was opposite the kitchen so it stayed quite warm. He directed Tyr to the most comfortable spot, then called a servant to bring them mead. He was about to ask awkwardly about the journey, and how he felt about the town, when Tyr said, “My father tells me you are a great warrior. I myself have seen three campaigns. You must tell me of your conquests!”
Bruin smiled widely and immediately launched into one of his favorite stories from his travels. It seemed that the Westford did not have a navy, and Tyr was keen to learn about ships and the great battles that were fought between them. He found himself quickly getting lost in the retelling of favorite tales to a new and appreciative audience, and forgot his nervousness.
Dinner was brought, consumed and forgotten. Tyr related one of his own tales, an epic sweep across the mountains and a clash of armies with tens of thousands of men. Bruin could not imagine such numbers, and paled at the description of the Westford’s armies. It was very well he had not killed or ransomed King Alfric; he might have doomed his small retinue to death. As a lesser regret, he would not have met Tyr, whom he now found to be as engaging a companion as he could have hoped for. Once they were at ease with each other, it seemed like they would never run out of things to say. It was no small miracle, since Bruin normally spoke little, yet as soon as he grew silent Tyr was asking him about something, keeping him talking, drawing him out. By dinner his resolve to hate the prince had completely evaporated in light of Tyr’s apparent deep interest in him, and his drive to bed the man had grown in proportion.
It was late in the night when Tyr yawned, and Bruin realized the dawn must be near. He escorted Tyr back through the darkness to the guest quarters, and bid him goodnight. He walked on air back to his own bedroom, dizzy with new found lust and wondering how their blossoming friendship would change when Tyr’s pretty blue eyes saw Bruin’s ruined face in the light of day.
Bruin managed to avoid that wretched moment for a long time. He saw Tyr almost exclusively at night, only with the curtains drawn and the candles snuffed. When he had to be out by day, he drew his cowl and hood. Tyr never spoke a word against it, though Bruin suspected that had more to do with his royal upbringing than truly not needing a light. The young man’s manners and civilities were very complex, and he related them in bits and pieces to Bruin. He had two servants who shadowed him almost constantly, and Bruin was impressed with how complete their devotion was to their master. They performed all kinds of ordinary things for him without being asked, almost without giving away their presence. Bruin assumed this to be a sort of privilege of royalty, and he admired the dynamic. Some of the habits of the court that Tyr described were bizarre, such as different utensils for different sorts of eating. Some of them rang true with the Bearskin warrior, such as the policy of hospitality, and he felt ashamed at how he had treated Tyr’s father. Tyr told him about lands in far away places, stories from long ago, the movements of the stars and medicine made from certain plants. He sang songs of such aching beauty they made Bruin want to weep.
Each day, after he finally woke, Bruin would watch Tyr from dark windows, unseen, marveling at the beauty of his companion. Each night – or each early morning – he bid Tyr goodnight at the door and went back to his own bedroom. He would then close his eyes and take his hand to himself, thinking of the young prince while he stroked, biting his lip to keep from calling his name. He pictured him in all the ways he wanted to have him, all over the room, in increasingly greater detailed fantasies. He imagined the way Tyr would cry out, the way his back would arch, how his hair would fall into his face and how he’d tilt his head to the side, just so, asking to be marked. Bruin pictured Tyr on his knees, the royal prince acquiescing to a brutally spoken, forceful command with that enigmatic smile that was so maddening. He imagined that smile hid a mouth that was willing to do things whores might blanch at. He wanted the prince, and with each night spent in the darkness, talking, learning from him, Bruin’s desires grew more desperate, more obsessed.
It might not have been so bad if Tyr were not such a terribly enigmatic man. Bruin learned to tell from the tilt of his smile when he’d made a joke, and Bruin would have to review the last few minutes of conversation to find when he’d begun speaking in double entendre. By the time he caught up, Tyr was on to something else. Tyr would find reasons to touch him–to rub Bruin’s shoulders or demonstrate a fighting technique, and his hands moved in such a sensual, suggestive fashion. But any direct attempt by Bruin to grab him, and Tyr twisted lightly out of his grasp, as if he had not even noticed.
One night, Tyr was describing a battle he had been in. He told stories well, and Bruin was particularly engrossed. He pictured his beloved on the battlefield, armored and astride a powerful warhorse, slicing through infantry, drenched in blood. Just as Tyr got to the climax of his story, Bruin leaped to his feet.
“I cannot take it anymore!” he cried.
Tyr stopped and looked up. “I’m sorry? Am I upsetting you?”
Bruin paced the room. “Yes! Yes you’re upsetting me! You vex me, you hound me, you disturb my days and my nights!” He fell down on his knees in front of Tyr. “You… you beautiful creature,” he said, a little more softly, “You. I want you, and I cannot get you out of my mind. Please … ”
Tyr stared down at him a moment, then slid off the chair he had been in. He slid his hands down Bruin’s chest, found his hips in the darkness, and straddled him. He kissed him fiercely, opening his mouth willingly when Bruin pressed against Tyr’s lips with his tongue.
“You want me,” Tyr said between gasps, “then come and take me.”
Bruin turned and threw him down on his bearskin cloak. He tore at the young man’s garments and felt smooth, hard muscle beneath his calloused hands. He wished it were not so dark, so he could see more than just a hint of the outline of Tyr’s body, but more light was impossible. One who valued beauty so highly would not possibly give himself to a monster.
To read the rest of the story, download the book: