Syrik and Izdahl crossed paths near the reception area for Amasi Inc., with the older sibling heading into the office and the younger one going out. Unaware of the attention various waiting patrons lavished on them, they bantered with each other.
“Where are you going, akkti?” Syrik asked, using the casual Nitelge term for younger brother, “Skipping out of work early? I’m telling.”
“I’ll be visiting Mother, ossti” Izdahl replied, with the endearing Nitelge term for older brother, “I have some things to discuss with her.”
“Trying to get a larger piece of the inheritance, are you?” Syrik joked.
“It would be much easier to kill you and have it all.”
“Watch it before you get mauled.”
“Sure, sure. Now, enjoy your meeting with Father,” Izdahl said, cheekily, “As I understand it, it’s time for him to evaluate your performance—and you know how thorough he is.” Izdahl laughed and quickly took his leave before Syrik could carry out his recent threat.
Hadil Amasi, who was braiding her waist-length, silver hair, reclined on a chaise lounge. While waiting for her son, she recharged. She had recently completed an intensive healing ceremony for an injured child.
When Izdahl entered the living room, she motioned for him to sit in a nearby armchair and began her ritual. Izdahl was silent as she completed the action that he had become used to since his childhood.
Being originally of the Ziyad clan, his mother had the ability to heal almost any kind of ailment, using a series of herbs and her magic wielding capabilities. A habit of hers was to analyze the auras of those she loved to see if there were signs of disorders. Her eyes were capable of seeing the particular spiritual balance of each individual. Severe fluctuations in color were often an indication of illness. When she was satisfied that all was well with Izdahl, she squeezed his hand, smiling and telling him that the two of them could now converse.
Izdahl brought up the matter that was on his mind. The previous night, the family had visited Dagmar Havad’s home for a meal. At the dinner, there was yet another conversation which centered on Havad’s discontent with humans. The discussion had become quite heated, particularly between Syrik and Dagmar, who had begun shouting at each other. Jaxon and Izdahl, though less angry than Syrik, had certainly not helped the situation. They had sided with Syrik, who had stated that Dagmar was without a partner and children because he was too cruel to deserve either. Hadil, preferring a serene environment and one to rarely raise her voice, was bothered by the disturbance. She had exited the dining room, signaling that she was dissatisfied with the actions of those involved. Jaxon, Dagmar, Syrik and Izdahl had looked reproachfully at each other.
Knowing that his mother disliked displays of negative emotions, Izdahl had wanted to come and personally make amends.
“Mother, first, I apologize for fueling the argument at Dagmar’s home.”
“We Nitelge are often spirited. I know there are times our emotions get the best of us. It is just that I grow tired of the antagonistic nature of some discussions.”
“I understand…Mother, why is Dagmar so much against humans? Almost any time he speaks of them, he has something derogatory to say.”
“Dagmar is extremely proud of our culture. He wants to see it preserved as much as possible, even if that means curtailing the rights that humans have. Our family, however, is open-minded. We believe that both groups can benefit each other; the Kaved Force Field is more than enough evidence of that. Still, it does not matter for those who think like Dagmar. So, while we are close to him, we often contest his view, which causes some strain. Another reason the relationship between him and us can be difficult, at times, is because…many years ago, Dagmar and I used to be together.”
“What? I didn’t know that. You mean that he could have been my father…”
“You would not have been the same if Dagmar had been your sire,” Hadil assured her son, “His heart is a bit cruel. Once he sets his sight on something, he works to get it, even if it means injuring others in the process. I could never be with someone like that. Your father, on the other hand, is the right life mate for me. Jaxon is driven, balancing his ambition with concern for others…At any rate, please bear with Dagmar as much as you can. He is the Kelcho of Meino and, as such, deserves a specific amount of respect…I am quite upset with your brother. Syrik’s comment quite possibly cut Dagmar to his core, especially since it was said in front of me. Syrik was so antagonistic last night!”
“Well, Dagmar certainly played a role; his rants are getting worse,” Izdahl noted, “With Syrik now being the father of a half-human child, he severely dislikes those kinds of views.”
“True. I know the protectiveness a parent feels…At any rate, let’s not dwell on the disagreement any further. I’m almost finished with the sculpture you requested.”
In honor of securing the Preva University Science and Technology Center project, Izdahl wanted to give Armando and Jonas a gift. He had spoken to Hadil, a celebrated artist, about crafting a sculpture of two architects drafting plans for a building.
Learning that the work was nearing completion, Izdahl asked if he could see it. His mother gently rebuffed him.
“Son, you know I never show my work in advance.”
“Mother, can’t you make an exception just this once?” Izdahl pleaded. He looked beseeching at her with the same shade of magnetic eyes that he had inherited from her.
“No,” she told him, laughing and patting his cheek, “If it makes you feel better, your begging does pull at my heart.”
“I thought it was worth a try…Thank you for doing this. I hope it wasn’t a burden for you.”
“Not at all. I know you are excited that Armando is slowly opening up to you. You felt confident enough about where things were going to ask for this. I am more than willing to make it for you.”
Izdahl couldn’t remember when he had felt this content. He had wanted to spend some time with Armando and fortunately, the architect had agreed. The day started with a quiet brunch at Izdahl’s residence. The two chatted, exchanging words and glances that conveyed their nervousness but also their pleasure at being around each other. Then, since he knew that Armando greatly enjoyed riding, Izdahl invited him to the stables owned by the Amasi family, out in the Arlkan countryside.
Izdahl introduced him to each of the 20 luraga his family owned. The four-legged steeds, while looking similar to horses were, on average, at least four hands taller.
“Have you ever ridden a luraga?” Izdahl asked.
“No. I’ve been fascinated by them though.”
“This is Koraiy,” Izdahl said, proudly bringing out his mount.
Koraiy meant “vigilant” in Nitelge and it certainly fit the animal, a stallion that was constantly taking note of what was around him without becoming distracted.
“May I touch him?” Armando asked.
Armando felt along the animal, admiring its spotless black coat, the way the well-developed muscles were on display and the proud stance of Koraiy’s head. The animal was 22 hands, while his Yohan was 16 hands.
“Would you mind if I rode him a little?” Armando asked.
“I’ll leave that for him to decide.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ll see…Go stand in front of him.”
Armando watched, spellbound as the luraga stared at him, scanning his face. Then, seeming to be pleased with what he saw, the steed nuzzled Armando’s shoulder.
“You can get on his back now,” Izdahl instructed, smiling, “Apparently, he has deemed you worthy.”
“Really?” Armando said, laughing loudly, “He’s truly that particular? Or, is that your doing?”
“I assure you, that is originally his personality, though I have indulged him,” Izdahl replied, grinning, “If he seriously doesn’t like someone, he actually turns to show his backside. I enjoy him being so discerning.”
Izdahl told Armando the commands to use with Koraiy. Then, they walked to the fields outside the paddock so the architect could ride him. By the time Armando returned from his stint, the animal had further fascinated him. Koraiy had moved swiftly and gracefully, responding fluidly.
“He’s really stunning, Izdahl,” Armando said as he dismounted.
As if to accept the compliment, Koraiy threw his head up and down, whinnying.
“Kor, you’re such an arrogant thing,” Izdahl said. He stroked the animal’s neck, offering treats that were several sweetened grains shaped into 2-inch cubes.
“Would you like to see Yohan?” Armando asked, “He’s at the Belford Stables.”
“Run by Laura Belford, right? She has an excellent business. If my family didn’t already have a stable, we would use hers. Her grandfather built quite a reputation and she has solidly upheld it.”
“Yes, I never have to worry about my horse when he’s at her place.”
“Let’s go riding there. I’ll have a stable hand put Kor in the trailer. We’ll drive to the Belford’s in my car and Kor will be brought separately.”
A short while later, they were on their way to the stables.
“It’s not that I don’t want to ride any of your steeds,” Armando assured Izdahl, “I guess I’m eager to show you mine.”
“I understand; I’d like to see him.”
They had called ahead to let Laura know they were coming. She was there to personally greet them; Armando was one of her best clients; Izdahl’s family had provided the breeding stock for the luraga she now owned. She walked with them to where Yohan was waiting and spoke with them for a few minutes. Then she returned to her office, noting the interesting connection Izdahl and Armando had. She wondered if something was going on between the two of them.
“Do you feel free when you ride Yohan?” Izdahl asked, as he watched Armando greet his horse.
“I…Yes, actually.” Armando laughed softly. “My sister definitely named him properly. When I’m riding through the Genzi Forest on him, I do feel unbound. I start thinking about the future of my company—and many other things.”
“Sometimes wooded areas can also be dangerous places to navigate.”
“I’ve been going to that forest for years, even as a boy. I’ve only encountered one problem there.”
“Oh really, when?”
Izdahl tried to keep his tone within the range of ‘merely curious’, not letting on that he had more information about the situation than Armando did. He was using this opportunity to test how open the architect would be with him.
“It was about two years ago,” Armando explained, “Yohan became quite scared and bucked, throwing me off. I injured my right arm; I have a scar from it. Fortunately, I wasn’t too far from Laura’s place and I walked back for treatment.”
“Did you get a good look at what startled your horse?”
Armando hesitated, unsure what to say. He had never gone into detail about what had happened; he still didn’t understand it.
“Yes…” he finally said, “I’m not completely sure what the being was but it spoke to me. I asked what it wanted.”
“And how did it response?”
“Its words were ‘Only you, Armando Medina’ and then it was suddenly gone.”
“Have you seen that being again?”
“No…Wait a moment, why so many questions?”
“No real reason…Let’s go to your favorite forest. Then I have a surprise for you.”
“What is it?”
“Why so many questions?”
“That was only one,” Armando protested, laughing.
“I know; I’m only joking. Let’s go.”
They went at a trot at first, then slowed to a walk, chatting. Armando commented on something he found interesting about Izdahl and his mount.
“I noticed that your Koraiy kneels for you to get on him…”
“Yes. It’s a sign of respect he shows to me and I treat him quite well.”
“On Earth, there is a country called Greece. In that nation’s ancient times, there was a conqueror named Alexander, the Great. He had a horse named Bucephalus. It is said that his horse would kneel for him…So, are you a conqueror, Izdahl?”
“Do you want to be conquered, Armando?” Izdahl queried, a sly smile gracing his face.
Armando didn’t verbally respond; he just urged Yohan into a run. He looked back at Izdahl, a challenge in his eyes.
After returning from riding, Izdahl took Armando to see his surprise. Erol Amasi’s latest work was a model of the capital city of Tesha. It would be placed in the Banari Art Museum as one of the primary exhibits. Izdahl had been granted permission by his grandfather to provide Armando with an advanced viewing. They had driven to the southern region of Arlka to Erol’s property, going to his studio, which was separate from the house.
Armando surveyed the wide-open space, which contained several easels that were set up in various locations. There were photographs of buildings Erol had designed along one wall. Against the opposite wall were massive wooden and glass chests that held numerous materials for drafting architectural plans, making models, etc. Armando also noticed Erol’s meticulously organized desk, an open sketchbook illustrating part of the architect’s work process in the center. He desired very much to sit down in the accompanying brown leather chair that looked incredibly comfortable. However, out of respect, he refrained.
“You won’t be able to speak with Grandfather this time,” Izdahl explained, “He’s out of the country, meeting with Kelcho Shabota…Here’s what I wanted to show you.” He carefully unveiled the seven-by-six foot replica of the city of Tesha.
“How long did it take him to do this?” Armando asked, as he marveled at the creation. He could make out numerous structures he frequented, including the central park where he sometimes ate lunch.
“He has been working on it for four years. This was actually relaxation for him. He did it while completing another intensive project, the capitol building in one of the Shabota strongholds…At his request, I designed a holographic program to provide information about the model. If you activate it, you can get information about his progression. Pay special attention to what’s said at the end.”
Armando looked at Izdahl questioningly then pressed the nearby console cube to activate the hologram. A three dimensional figure that was based on Erol Amasi in his youth appeared. There was a five-minute presentation. The figure ended with, “The model will soon include Preva University’s Science and Technology Center, designed by the architectural firm of Medina and Ramsey, Inc.”
“He’s really going to do that?” Armando asked, excitement overtaking him.
“Yes. He could have stopped with what he has now. However, he is impressed with your company. His project will be unveiled before your structure is completed so he wanted to make sure your new building is later included in his model.”
“I’m not sure what to say. I’ll have to tell Jonas all about this.”
“I’m sure he’ll be happy to—”
Izdahl’s growling stomach cut off his words.
“Hungry?” Armando asked, chuckling.
“Just a little…Would you like to go somewhere to eat?”
“Am I not fit to be seen with you in public?”
“No, that’s not what I meant.”
“What exactly did you mean?” Izdahl asked, peering at Armando through half-closed eyes.
“Nothing, let’s go eat.”
“You know, actually, I don’t think there’s a restaurant I want to dine in right now,” Izdahl said.
“In this whole, colossal city?” Armando asked, laughing.
“To be sure, there are many great options. I just think that the best place is at…um, my home. How about I cook you a meal?”
“Oh. I see,” Armando said, looking at him and grinning, “What are you up to, Mr. Amasi?”
“Why do I have to be ‘up to’ anything? Why can’t I just want to host you in my house?” Izdahl affected a wounded expression.
“Maybe we should go elsewhere. Don’t you have a chef? My palate couldn’t stand what you’d conjure…I suppose I’ll just help you.”
“Hey, I’ll have you know that I’m an excellent cook.”
“Would your victims attest to that?”
Armando smiled, realizing that he really enjoyed the verbal sparring with Izdahl.
After arriving at Izdahl’s house, he and Armando searched his food supplies to determine what to make. While they cooked, they conversed, jumping from subject to subject. Soon, the kitchen was filled with the scent of food that was being well-prepared.
“Only the finest of ingredients is used for our meal,” Izdahl began with a flourish, “Grade A meat—enhanced by spices from one of our tropical strongholds—and vegetables from GG’s gardens.”
“What do you mean when you say ‘GG’, Izdahl?”
“Oh, sorry. Great-grandmother Xersa. By the way, she’s having an event for her birthday in two weeks. As the leader of the Amasi clan, there will be many Nitelge and some humans paying her homage. Would you like to attend?”
“You said there would be ‘many Nitelge’.”
“Yes, naturally. Can you handle that?”
“I suppose there’s no real way other than to just go and find out,” Armando said.
“Good for you…Here, taste this.” Izdahl offered a bit of the meat he had grilled.
“It’s very good. What is it again?”
“Uru, from the Iseka Mountains, in one of the Markel territories. The animal climbs to high altitudes. The meat can be a little tough but with the right technique, it’s perfect.”
“And you’re saying you have the right technique?”
“Didn’t you enjoy having it in your mouth?” Izdahl cursed under his breath as he realized where his words took his thoughts.
“I…Yes…Your eyes are changing. They’ve started turning dark blue. Why?”
“Oh, it’s nothing,” Izdahl replied quickly, “Anyway, your project for the university should be unveiled soon right?”
“Yes, very soon.”
“You must be quite excited about it. I know that there was some skepticism about your company getting the contract. Many were expecting a more established business to get it—not that you and Jonas aren’t good. It’s just that you’re relatively new compared to…Are you listening to me?”
“I’m trying to listen,” Armando told him, “My transmitter might be faulty.”
Around the Nitelge planet were satellites, which controlled the various ports that translated languages. With the influx of humans from numerous cultures, the Nitelge had created a system to convert any word into Nitelge. Everyone carried a device that allowed access to the services of the satellites. These devices could be turned off to hear what others said in their original vernacular.
“What Earth language did you say your family speaks again?”
“Spanish, from Spain, on a continent called Europe. I’ve only seen pictures of it.”
“Your home planet has so many languages.”
“I cannot really say that Earth is my ‘home planet.’ I have never been there. My parents were planning a trip to Castile, the Spanish region from where my earlier relatives came. However, we were unfortunately unable to go…I am glad my parents taught us the language of our ancestors.”
“You could also learn my Nitelge,” Izdahl said.
“And you could learn my Spanish.”
“Maybe you can teach me what you know and I will do the same for you…Now, let me take a look at your transmitter. When’s the last time you had it checked?”
“It has been a while.”
“How about I provide you with an upgrade? It’s the most advanced one on the market. Let me go get it for you…Please keep stirring the sauce. I’ll be back.”
While Izdahl was rummaging through his office, trying to remember where he had put the new transmitter, Armando tended to the food. He leaned closer to the sauce that would accompany the uru, deeply breathing in all of the strong, delicious scents.
The mixture suddenly bubbled up, several large drops bursting onto his shirt. Trying to wipe it off with a nearby, dampened towel, he only made it worse. He shook his head at himself, laughing. Of all the times for me to be so clumsy, it had to be now, he thought.
“Armando, here’s the transmitter.” Izdahl chuckled when he witnessed what had happened. “Apparently, I can’t leave you alone for long. I suppose I should have warned you about the sauce. It can have a mind of its own. The elra spice causes it to pop sometimes.”
Armando grinned sheepishly.
“I’ll go get you a different shirt,” Izdahl said, after turning down the heat on the sauce.
“Oh, you don’t have to do that. Really.”
“It’s not a problem. It might be a bit large on you but it should do just fine. Come with me.”
Armando followed Izdahl to his bedroom. The architect did his best to avoid staring at the massive wooden bed in the center of the room. It’s just a bed, he thought, you’ve seen one before…
“Take off your shirt,” Izdahl said, trying to sound as nonchalant as possible. In actuality, his mind was frantic: We’re in my bedroom! I hope there’s nothing embarrassing in here!
He did a scan, satisfied that his room was presentable. Then he went to his closet and chose a crisp, blue shirt for Armando. When he turned his attention back to Armando, he saw enticing, muscular, tanned skin as the architect took off the stained garment.
Izdahl dropped the shirt and they both bent to pick it up, bumping their heads.
“Ouch,” Armando said. He rubbed his forehead.
“Sorry,” Izdahl replied, smiling sheepishly.
Deciding that it was best to leave Armando alone to finish dressing, Izdahl quickly went to the kitchen, focusing on the food, willing himself to be calm. He knew he had already reached the first stage of arousal, the dark blue color of his eyes being the initial indication of his state. Soon, a silver ring would appear around his irises. Next, there would be undeniable evidence in his nether regions and he certainly was not ready for that to be on display. He used the time Armando was changing to finish the unruly sauce, trying to also get himself under control.
“Please start cutting some vegetables,” he said, when Armando returned, “All the materials you need are out. You can go over there.” He motioned to a safe distance away from him.
Armando did his bidding, noticing that Izdahl had become tense, his words stilted.
“You didn’t answer my question,” Armando said.
“About your eyes.” The architect stifled a smile, his quick mind suddenly calculating the cause of the change in Izdahl’s demeanor.
He surveyed the vegetables he was supposed to slice, seeing that they varied in size and color but that they were all cylindrical and tapered at one end. Feeling mischievous and quite curious, he wondered just how a fully aroused Nitelge looked.
“This is really thick,” Armando said, “And heavy.”
Izdahl wished he hadn’t looked at how Armando was manipulating the vegetable with his long, flexible fingers. Now he couldn’t avert his eyes.
“I can only imagine if something this large was attached to your body,” Armando continued, trying his best to sound innocent, “It could do some mighty damage, don’t you think?”
Armando peered expectantly at Izdahl, as if he had asked an intensive, cerebral question and sincerely wished for a deep response. Izdahl swallowed, going over what his best course of action was. Unable to contain his amusement, Armando burst out laughing. Izdahl looked at him, accusingly, now fully aware of the architect’s ruse. He decided to play a game too.
“Entertained, are you?”
There was now a silver lining around Izdahl’s irises. He took a few steps towards Armando, increasing his production of pheromones, quickly sending Armando into a state of arousal.
“What the…Wait, you’re using that technique, aren’t you? It’s like when we were back at my office. Stop it.”
“If you can toy with me, I can repay you in kind.”
Izdahl took Armando’s face in his hands, staring directly into the architect’s eyes. Then, he brought his mouth to Armando’s, slipping his tongue inside. Listening to the increased heartbeat of the man, he teased him, massaging his neck as their tongues skirmished. Sliding his hands down Armando’s back, he pulled out the architect’s shirt from his pants. He pressed his large hands against Armando’s skin. Using a toned-down version of what he employed during fire sparring, he sent heat flowing up and around the now captivated Armando.
Realizing that Armando was firmly enthralled, Izdahl grew bolder. His kiss was more fervent as he reached down and around to Armando’s crotch. Feeling the architect’s hardness, he stroked it, increasing its size. Armando groaned into his mouth. Unzipping Armando’s pants, Izdahl slid his hand inside, quickly finding that the architect’s cock was begging for attention.
Armando was now kissing Izdahl more forcefully. Izdahl used Armando’s copious slickness to further lubricate the architect. He brought Armando to an even higher state of arousal, guttural groans being issued by the architect. Taking his cues from the man, Izdahl increased his pace, additional fluid helping the process along. Izdahl continued to stroke, listening to the gasps and groans of his partner.
Armando put one hand on Izdahl’s, encouraging him. Breaking the kiss, Izdahl kept up his ministrations, reveling in every display of pleasure that ran across Armando’s face. His eyes closed, Armando threw back his head, lost in the sensations. Soon, he gripped Izdahl’s arm, a deep moan issuing from him moments before he released. Thick, white strands landed on Izdahl’s hand. He eagerly watched as Armando twitched through the last waves of his orgasm. Finally, the architect opened his eyes, staring right into Izdahl’s completely dark-blue, silver ringed ones.
Armando reached for him, ready to return the attention.
“No,” Izdahl said, firmly. He stepped back, avoiding Armando’s hands.
“What about you?” Armando asked.
“Not now. I’m too aroused to go slowly and that won’t turn out well for you. You’re not prepared for that; I assure you.”
“Armando, please…” Izdahl pleaded, “Don’t make this anymore difficult for me.”
Izdahl washed off the evidence of Armando’s pleasure, willing himself not to do what he wanted and at least taste the essence of the architect. It would only make it that much more likely that he’d take Armando now. He let out a long, shuddering breath, his loins fully hardened, crying out for notice.
“You’d better go home,” he told the architect.
“I think so too,” Armando said, “I didn’t expect this to happen.”
“It must have been the spices,” Izdahl joked softly.
When Armando left, Izdahl chastised himself, believing he’d come on too strongly. Now, despite the fact that Armando had responded so keenly to him, with some later thought, the architect might regret his actions. Armando might not want to be around him for a while.
That night, Izdahl was surprised to receive a call from Armando.
“About what happened,” Armando told him, “I wanted you to know that I wasn’t trying to make things hard for—That was a poor choice of words.”
“I understand what you are saying.” Izdahl couldn’t believe that Armando had contacted him so quickly and that there wasn’t a note of remorse in his voice.
“At any rate, I’d like to go to your great-grandmother’s gathering. I’ve checked my calendar and reshuffled a few things.”
“Really? I mean, that‘s excellent.” Izdahl provided him with more details about the celebration, providing the day and time. “You can meet me at my house. We can go to the event from there.”
“I’ll see you in two weeks…if not earlier.”