The foxling soldati, p.4
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       The Foxling Soldati, p.4

         Part #2 of Soldati Hearts series by Charlie Cochet
 
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"Touch yourself," Rayner instructed, and Toka moved his hand from Rayner's backside to his cock, pumping slowly at first, then picking up his pace to match Rayner's movements. The burn was exquisite, and the sounds coming from Toka as he writhed in Rayner's arms were enough to stoke the flames inside Rayner into a roaring blaze. "Toka," Rayner ground out through his teeth, the muscles of his body pulled tight, straining as the sound of his skin against Toka's added fuel to an already raging desire.

  "Rayner?"

  "Yes, my darling?"

  "I want... to kiss you... to see your face as you take me."

  Rayner released Toka's leg so he could wrap his arm around Toka's waist. He shifted them to the edge of the bed and sat up, Toka sitting on his lap.

  "Get up and face me." He helped Toka off him, and leaned back on his arms, watching as Toka straddled his lap. "Put my cock inside you."

  Toka whimpered. He nodded quickly and leaned forward, lining up Rayner's cockhead with his hole. He wiggled his backside, his bottom lip between his teeth as he pushed Rayner's cock inside him. Then he impaled himself the rest of the way, and Rayner cried out in surprise, throwing his arms around Toka.

  "Oh," Rayner said through a breathless laugh. "You devilish little fox."

  Toka hummed as he rotated his hips, pushing himself down against Rayner and making him groan with pleasure. He was no longer in control. Toka wrapped his arms around Rayner's neck, and Rayner gripped Toka's waist tight as Toka moved slowly at first, then bounced on him, pulling up almost all the way out before plunging himself down. Rayner groaned, the pleasure sweeping through him, and his skin scorching. He captured Toka's lips, their breaths coming in pants as Toka rode him, Toka's inhibitions and shyness nowhere to be seen. Rayner gripped Toka's asscheeks, spreading them as he thrust up to meet Toka's plunges, relishing the cry that tore out of Toka's sweet lips.

  "That's it, my darling. Show me I belong to you. Take me."

  "Yes. Rayner," Toka moaned, his lips parted in ecstasy, his expression one of wanton pleasure. He threw his head back as he rose and fell on Rayner's shaft, driving Rayner deep inside him with every thrust. Rayner slid his hands up Toka's back, resting his fingers on Toka's shoulders for better purchase, forcing Toka down as Rayner thrust up.

  Rayner was so close. His hips lost all rhythm as he brought Toka down hard against him over and over, plunging deep and hard inside Toka. His thrusts became erratic, and drove Toka down against him. As Toka cried out, his release exploding through him, the feel of his hot semen coating Rayner's chest and stomach sent Rayner over the edge, and he filled Toka with his seed, coating his insides. He held on tight, seizing Toka's lips, his tongue, tasting every inch of Toka's mouth as he shivered with his release. They clung to each other as the white light of Rayner's Soldati soul flared, the pulse leaving his body to illuminate the room.

  When the strength of their release waned, their bodies no longer racked with shivers, Rayner fell onto his back, pulling Toka to lie on him. As their breaths steadied, Rayner traced circles with his fingers over Toka's back, his eyes closed as he sank into the bliss of their lovemaking. A soft sigh escaped Toka, and Rayner smiled. They lay together, their bodies cooling off with the arrival of night.

  "We should get up before we get stuck together," Rayner murmured.

  Toka sat on the edge of the bed, his eyes lowered as he worried his bottom lip. Rayner crouched down before him, and took his hands in his.

  "Come to bed. You can tell me your worries as we lie together."

  Toka's head shot up, his eyes wide as he stared at Rayner. "You.... You're staying?"

  The thought Toka might not wish him to stay hadn't crossed his mind. It hurt, but he understood. "Forgive me. I shouldn't have assumed." He stood and turned when Toka grabbed his hand.

  "No!" Toka stepped before him, his hands coming to rest on Rayner's chest. "I want you to stay, more than anything. I thought...." He shook his head and averted his gaze, his voice growing quiet. "I feared...."

  "That I wouldn't want to stay?" Rayner asked, realizing his mistake. Of course Toka would assume he'd leave. He never spent the night with anyone. Toka nodded, and Rayner turned his face. He smiled down at Toka. "Only with you. This was more than a romp for me, Toka. I meant what I said. I belong to you."

  Toka's smile shone brighter than the moon itself, and Rayner's heart swelled, knowing he had caused it. He took Toka's hand and led him to the bed, then lifted the covers for him. He stopped at the small, tidy bathroom to fetch a washcloth. When he returned, he wondered what he could have done to earn the adoration in Toka's eyes.

  For centuries, Rayner had done his best to avoid developing affections for Toka. As a Soldati of high rank and power, Rayner's place was to wed someone equal to his station or above. Knowing there was no future for him and his sweet foxling had Rayner turning to a string of meaningless affairs in the hopes he could lose himself in lust, and now the only lover he wanted in his bed was Toka.

  Rayner pulled back the covers, then lay down before cleaning them both off. Finished, he neatly folded the washcloth and placed it to one side on the nightstand. He drew Toka against him beneath the covers, smiling when Toka snuggled up close, his hand on Rayner's chest over his heart. Rayner took hold of it and brought it to his lips for a kiss before returning it to its former resting place.

  "Rayner?"

  "Hm?"

  "Why me? Of all the Soldati, of all the creatures in the realm, why did you choose me?"

  "I didn't choose my mate, my little fox. My heart chose for me. The moment you walked into the throne room, I was lost. I had never been so terrified."

  Toka pulled back to meet his gaze. "You? Terrified? Of what?"

  "Of never having you in my arms." Rayner ran his thumb over Toka's bottom lip. "Of never knowing what you tasted like." He moved his fingers to Toka's cheek, caressing his jaw. "Of never knowing the softness of your skin or the sound of your sighs."

  "Why did you wait?"

  "I needed to know what I felt for you was more than lust. I wanted to know you, wanted you to know me. I needed to know you wanted me for who I was, not what I was."

  "You said your heart chose your mate. Is... is that what I am to you?"

  Rayner went thoughtful. When he imagined his life, he could not do so without Toka in it. But he didn't want Toka there; he wanted Toka to be a part of him, wanted him at his side as his equal, his claimed mate. He had never been drawn to another like he was drawn to Toka. For a long time, he'd attempted to ignore his growing affection, but at some point in the last year, he saw only Toka. Where most believed it was another one of his dalliances, he quickly knew that wasn't the case. Not only did he trust Toka with his life, but with his heart.

  "Do you... think you might come to love me one day?" Rayner asked.

  Toka blinked at him in surprise. "One day?"

  Rayner swallowed hard, his face cupped by Toka. The smile on Toka's beautiful face sent Rayner's pulse fluttering.

  "Rayner, I fooled myself into believing all I felt for you was desire, but the truth is, I have loved you for centuries, and with each passing day, my love for you grows." The love in Toka's heart showed through in his kiss. Rayner pulled Toka down against him, returning his passionate kiss. When they were forced to come up for air, Rayner brushed Toka's hair from his brow, his reserve fortified.

  "We'll find a way. Riley isn't giving up on us, on pushing forward the changes that are needed. We mustn't give up either. Change is needed, and I will fight for that change."

  Tears welled in Toka's eyes, his smile something Rayner would cherish. Rayner held Toka tight against him, his concerns regarding Pavoni once again plaguing him.

  "We must be cautious, my little fox. It will break my heart, but I must treat you like any other servant, and you can't look at me in such a way. I am nothing but another Soldati to you."

  Toka looked up at him, his amber eyes filled with worry. "I... I don't know if I can."

  "You can, and you will." He brushed his fi
ngers down Toka's jaw. "I cannot risk you. Please, for us."

  Toka nodded, and Rayner closed his eyes. As he brushed his fingers down Toka's bare arm, he contemplated their future together. Why should he and Toka lead half a life? How long until the next king appeared, intent on uniting their kingdoms, offering a match too good for Khalon to decline? As much as Khalon would wish Rayner happiness, he wouldn't understand why Rayner would choose Toka over someone of prestige, someone who could offer the Soldati a prosperous union. As if the Soldati weren't prosperous enough.

  Chapter Four

  IT WAS time.

  Rayner sat in his seat beside Toka's chair, his expression guarded. Ezra was to Rayner's right, and Adira beside Ezra. In the center of the raised platform, Khalon's throne lay empty along with Riley's as everyone waited for them to be announced. Several seats were arranged to the left of Khalon's throne for Pavoni, Prince Merlo, and Princess Verity along with select members of their court. The grand banquet hall was exquisitely decorated, filled with ornate tables now occupied by Soldati and members of Pavoni's court. Dozens of Soldati warriors kept guard around the room, while an army of servants tended to the guests, offering an array of tasty morsels and fine beverages. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Ezra gasped, seizing Rayner's attention, and he quickly turned to him.

  "Is everything all right?"

  Ezra's eyes glowed white. The Eye was speaking through him. "I sense Pavoni's arrival. His presence casts a shadow over the Soldati Realm. I fear this visit will end in tragedy."

  Rayner cursed under his breath. Bloody fantastic.

  "Nothing like a good prediction of doom to start the festivities," Adira grumbled. "Why hasn't Riley had a vision?"

  Ezra's eyes returned to their usual blue. "I don't know. The prophecies of the Soldati Saugur are still a mystery to us. His first vision concerned Khalon and the future of the Soldati. Perhaps his visions are triggered by possible events of a much larger scale?"

  "Maybe," Rayner muttered. "But keep vigilance and inform Khalon of the Eye's warning when you can."

  Ezra nodded his agreement.

  The horns blared, heralding the forthcoming announcement. Rayner released a heavy sigh. "Here we go."

  "His Royal Majesty, King of Dell'Orso, Pavoni. His Royal Highness, Prince Merlo, and Her Royal Highness, Princess Verity."

  Everyone in the banquet hall stood to welcome their royal guests. Rayner begrudgingly followed suit, his gaze on the insufferable man who strode down the black-and-gold carpet as if he were a god. Everyone bowed as Pavoni and his court walked by, and as Pavoni approached the stairs up to the platform, Rayner forced himself to bow along with his friends.

  "Rayner," Pavoni sneered. "Still here I see."

  "Where else would I be, Your Majesty?" Rayner smirked, waiting for Pavoni and his court to take their seats before resuming his own. He reminded himself of his promise to Khalon. No matter how much he wanted to claw at Pavoni, he would behave himself. Do it for Khalon and Riley. Rayner settled back in his chair.

  "I truly hadn't expected you to survive this long. What with your penchant for recklessness and disregard for authority."

  Only certain authority. "Humans have this wonderful saying. A tiger cannot change his stripes."

  "How very fitting. Such stubborn, rash creatures, you Soldati. Always letting yourselves be led by your emotions."

  Rayner hummed his agreement. Better to be led by one's emotions than arrogance. Pavoni scoffed, running a hand through his dark hair. He was large, wide, and burly, with more muscles than he had sense, and at some point he might have had a neck. Rayner couldn't remember. He was all snarl and bare teeth, even when he was smiling. "Smile" was too strong a word to describe the gesture. It was mostly a sneer in the guise of a smile.

  The Orso had once been a noble race of gentle giants. They had preferred to be left in peace, to spend their days basking in the grandeur of their kingdom. Anyone who made the mistake of crossing them would experience the ferocity beneath the gentleness. The Soldati and Orso had forged a kinship back before humans walked the earth; the peace and support between their kingdoms allowed both sides to come and go as they pleased. Only a king and his court possessed the power to summon portals, making trips to and from each kingdom possible within seconds rather than the days or weeks it would take to cross one mass of land to the other. In a matter of centuries, Pavoni had reduced their kingdoms' kinship to mere tolerance, if that.

  Beside Pavoni, Prince Merlo watched Rayner. It was disconcerting. Princess Verity was the one Rayner pitied most. She was the opposite of her brothers. Kind and gentle, with eyes that held immeasurable sadness. Perhaps one day he might ask her the cause of her sadness, though he imagined living under the rule of King Pavoni was somehow involved.

  All in all, Pavoni had arrived with a modest sixty members of his court, not including his siblings. It included ten trusted council members, twenty high-ranking Orso, and thirty guards. It was a shame General Segreti was not among Pavoni's entourage. It would have made the visit more bearable. Understandably, Pavoni had left Segreti to guard the realm in his absence.

  The heavy wooden doors to the hall opened, and everyone stood once again. The horns blared, this time longer and louder than before, announcing the arrival of their king and prince.

  "His Most Royal Majesty, King of the Soldati, Khalon King, and His Royal Highness, the Soldati Prince and Saugur, Riley Murrough."

  Khalon had always been handsome and impressive, and Riley shining brighter than any star made them a stunning couple. A simple but gleaming gold crown rested on Khalon's brow, his attire regal enough for a king, but not ostentatious. He dressed in black with gold accents, from his pristine black boots to his black trousers, long-sleeved shirt, and black leather jerkin intricately decorated in gold. He wore a long black cape similar to the one Rayner, Ezra, and Adira wore, but longer and with the added gold crown above the Soldati crest embroidered delicately on the back.

  Rayner's heart swelled with pride whenever he saw his kingdom's crest. The gold shield was quartered, the bottom left depicting a lush tree with many branches, symbolizing the natural order of their existence, their connection to all living creatures, and the origins of their birth. They owed their presence, power, and immortality to the great gods and goddesses who came together to create them in order to protect their creations from the demons feeding on the darkness, plaguing all living creatures, especially humans.

  The top right contained three rays representing the light of the Soldati soul, the source of their powers and the means by which they vanquished demons. The bottom right contained a regal crown, the symbol of their realm's proud monarchy, and the upper left section depicted a sword, the weapon wielded by the Soldati. The shield was framed by two tigers rearing on their hind legs, jaws open, claws outstretched, and eyes glowing. A ribbon below the shield and tigers displayed three words: Lux. Fortitudo. Amor. Light. Courage. Love. What every Soldati aspired to in life.

  Khalon looked every part the noble king he was, but it was Riley who was a vision. The banquet hall burst into murmurs and expressions of awe. Riley dressed similarly to Khalon, but instead of black, Khalon's tailor had dressed Riley in gold and cream with a cream-colored cape trimmed in gold, the Soldati crest embroidered in amber. A gleaming gold crown sat on his brow, and his shy smile was charming. Riley looked every bit the Soldati prince, even if at times he confessed to Rayner that he feared he might not be princely enough for the Soldati. Khalon was always quick to reassure his prince with a well-timed kiss and an encouraging word.

  True to Riley's word, Toka walked behind Riley, dressed in ceremonial servant's garb of cream and gold to match that of his prince. He looked ethereal, the gold embroidery of his tunic's hems bringing out the amber of his eyes. A slim gold band rested on his brow. He was beautiful, and after all eyes left Riley, they followed Toka. His foxling skin gave him away as a servant, but his beauty, the way he carried himself, and the gentleness reflected in his eyes
rivaled that of any noble.

  Riley might still have a lot to learn regarding the Soldati, but the man was quick-witted and astute. Everyone in the castle was aware Khalon had gifted Toka's services to Riley, elevating his position, but Riley had discovered how to bring Toka under his protection. By having Toka sit at his side, dressed in finery and wearing his colors, Riley had declared Toka as his personal courtier. Toka could not be commanded by anyone other than Riley or Khalon. If Khalon had disagreed at any point with Riley's decision, it was clear Riley had won him over. A feat Rayner doubted was too difficult for Riley these days. Khalon would never admit it, but he was wrapped around Riley's little finger, and eager to please his prince.

  Khalon and Riley greeted Pavoni and his court, with a clasp of hands, or in the case of the princess, a kiss to her hand. Once the greeting was done, Khalon waited for Riley to take his seat before sitting at his throne. Toka sat beside Rayner, and Rayner remained stoic, doing his best not to look at Toka, even when he felt Toka's eyes on him. The hall broke off into chatter as everyone took their seats and conversed. Pavoni and Khalon exchanged polite conversation before Pavoni excused himself to visit with some of the members of Khalon's court. Riley took that opportunity to get Rayner's attention.

  "Rayner, you wouldn't lie to me. Do I really look okay? Because I kind of feel like a Christmas ornament."

  Rayner reached out to take Riley's hand and lifted it to his lips for a kiss. "You are the most dazzling Christmas ornament I have ever laid eyes on."

  Khalon chuckled, and Riley wrinkled his nose. "Thanks."

  "He's teasing," Khalon assured Riley. He placed his fingers under Riley's chin and turned his face so he could kiss him. It was sweet and quick, but still enough to stir the envy in Rayner just a bit. For some time now, he'd been asking himself why he couldn't be so free in public with his affections for Toka. He could flirt with Toka, be playful, but showing any true feeling for him would arouse suspicion of something more, and that would rouse concern. It had begun to make Rayner's skin crawl, to awaken a growing anger within him. For most, the line between servant and Soldati was clear, but for Rayner it became blurred the moment he'd laid eyes on Toka.

 
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