The first thing William realized as he woke was that his mouth tasted like a mile of badly kept road in the midst of a three year drought, baked dry and then stirred to throat choking dust with the passage of too many carriages. He cringed, coughed, and forced his gummy eyes open. Roland sprawled in the chair next to the bed he lay in, soot streaked across his cheek and brow, his raven dark curls tumbling about his face in a tangled mess. The sight of his obsessively tidy servant in a torn and muddied shirt, with soot of all things marking the high cheekbones and broad brow of his well tanned face—
William stilled. Roland’s face was more than well tanned. The prince blinked, scrubbed a hand ever so quietly across his eyes, and blinked again. Heat rushed into his cheeks. His throat grew tight. Roland was handsome. The heat in William’s cheeks receded. That warmth slid down his tight throat and pooled in his belly. His mouth fell open, and he found himself fighting to keep his breathing steady.
Roland’s shirt was unlaced at the throat. Indeed, the laces of his shirt were indecently loose, showing the smooth reddish-gold expanse of his thickly muscled chest. The ache in William’s belly slid down to pool in his groin just as Roland’s clear green eyes slid open.
“My Prince… you are awake.”
William tore his gaze forcibly away from the tantalizing expanse of skin visible in the gaping vee where the laces did not snug the linen of his shirt together. He swallowed thickly, attempted to answer and broke into a wracking cough. Roland surged to his feet, strode across the room to a stout oaken sideboard and poured out a cup of water. He returned to William’s side in moments, wrapped a strong arm around the prince and eased him up and back against the headboard.
“Here, my Prince, sip slowly. You breathed in a great deal of smoke before I pulled you from the room last night.” Roland’s lips curved up ever so slightly at the corners.
William glanced down, then quickly up again. He reached to grasp the beaten metal cup and hold it on his own, but Roland did not release his grasp, instead tilting the cup gently against his prince’s lips. As cool water eased the dryness of his throat, William’s face flamed as hotly as the tapestries from the night before. Tiny shivers of feeling tingled through the skin of his hand everywhere that Roland touched him.
“I. Thank you, Roland, you may release the cup now.” William was very proud of the steady lilt of his voice.
“Yes, my Prince.” The deep timbre of Roland’s voice grew a touch huskier. The curve of his lips deepened. He did not release the cup. Instead, he pulled the water away, bending at the waist to set cup and water on the floor with an audible clinking noise. William watched him, mesmerized. Then Roland straightened partially. He slid his arm behind William again, and the prince assumed his manservant intended to ease him back down in the bed.
Roland leaned closer, his arm tightening around his prince’s slender back. His large, callused hand eased up along William’s neck. It nearly tickled the soft skin at the prince’s nape before Roland’s long fingers slid into the prince’s white-gold curls. He palmed the back of the prince’s head. His grip tightened in William’s hair as his smile grew pronounced enough to flash one wicked dimple at the astonished prince. “Open your mouth, my Prince.”
William gaped up at the larger man, caught in the clear green of his eyes as they drew close enough to fill the whole of his sight. “What—what do you—mmmpf!”
Roland eased down until he sat upon the edge of William’s bed, his mouth pressed hard against William’s, his tongue slipping past William’s lips to push right into the startled depths of the prince’s mouth. The slick heat of his mouth drew William in. Thoughts of propriety, class and station fell away from William with every wicked pass of Roland’s tongue against his own. William twinned his arms around the sturdy column of Roland’s neck, using the strength he found there to anchor himself.
Roland pulled the prince’s torso tight against his own, both arms wrapped tight around the other man’s shoulders. William arched into the hold, a sense of rightness spiraling through him. His eyes had fallen shut the moment Roland’s lips touched his own. As the kiss continued, sounds began to grow distant. William began to float away. Roland eased back. He stared down at William, a strange light dancing in the depths of his eyes. A shudder rippled along William’s spine. Roland eased one hand lazily up and down the entire length of the prince’s back, making shushing noises like those the royal stable master made to fractious horses. William found his hands were fisted in the front of Roland’s shirt. He realized this at the exact moment he realized he was also making a distressed sounding whimpering sort of noise that eased with each pass of Roland’s hand along his back and each low humming, shushing sound. He bit down on his lip and forced his fingers to ease their grip on Roland’s shirt. Roland’s smile grew again, flashing bright and white across his face before he spoke. “There. Now that is better, my Prince, is it not?”