Free Read

Every few weeks I shall post a free read here – either a chapter of one of my books or a short story.

Here’s a light-hearted short I wrote a while ago, set in my favourite Aurigan constellation.

planet 3


Rhys Owen examined himself critically in the full length mirror. His fine blond hair shone like polished shimmersilk, brushed carefully to fall to one side in a sleek waterfall, no need to do any more to that. Carefully he added a drop from a small bottle to each eye and blinked slowly. Now when he opened his eyes again, they were sky blue, bright enough that he could see his own reflection in them. He ran the tip of a pink tongue along his full bottom lip, then brushed on a clear shiny gloss. He ran his tongue over the lip again, checking that the gloss did not smudge. He pouted provocatively, checking his reflection from both sides. Yes, he thought he could safely say that he still had what it took. He peered closer. Despite what Niall had said, he didn’t have wrinkles. Sure, he had a few—a very few—laugh lines, but they added character, after all, he wasn’t a teenager any more.

He turned sideways to check his back view. Black shimmersilk pants outlined the perfect shape of his bottom, still round and firm thanks to those boring exercises, but he had to admit they had paid off. The sky blue wrap-around shirt, fine enough to see through, was now the exact colour of his eyes, grading to a darker blue around his waist, crossed over to form a vee down his chest, the ends fastened behind his back.

He checked his silver wristcom. Time to go. It was the night before New Year’s Eve 2499 and he had a job to go to. He was going to spend New Year’s Eves, two of them, on Moonta in the Capella system.

This year he had been lucky enough to get a short contract as a steward on the space yacht Diamond Sky. The passengers would board the yacht at Walleroo from 20:00 the day before New Year’s Eve, then they would cross the date line to celebrate their first New Year’s Eve on the beach at Paradise Island’s most luxurious resort. Then at about 2:00 am local time they would be whisked up by shuttle to the Diamond Sky where the party would continue as they orbited the planet in a westerly direction, to arrive at Wallaroo just in time for New Year’s Eve there. At Wallaroo, they would be conveyed to a five star hotel overlooking the city square where the lion dancers would be performing, and that’s where Rhys’ job would end for the night.

He boarded the yacht and went quickly to work, checking that he knew where all the drinks were kept, memorising the stock. Before long, the privileged men and women who had enough credits to buy a ticket, began boarding and Rhys began work in earnest, serving drinks and small appetisers; tiny spring rolls, miniature dumplings stuffed with tasty vegetables and bite sized shrimps fresh from the seas of Moonta. For drinks, they had everything from Fayruz champagne to Orion brandy.

There were three other stewards, his co-worker Niall and two women, neither of whom were known to him. They seemed competent enough but not, he thought, as deft as he was. He wished, not for the first time, that his lover Felix was with him. He smiled to himself, Felix was very… deft. They had been together since that ghastly time on Fayruz, when he had been kidnapped and very nearly murdered. Not to mention unceremoniously dumped by his latest lover.

Felix had been there to pick up the pieces. Both of them had been employed as stewards on the Voyager, a ship which transported colonists and cargo between the stars, and their relationship had flourished sufficiently for them to keep it alive even when their contracts on the Voyager had ended. They had been together for just over four months now, and Rhys had— rather to his surprise—stayed faithful. Fidelity wasn’t usually high on his agenda. Maybe getting kidnapped by an ex-lover as payback had given him an incentive to change, he thought wryly.

If only Felix was with him now, to keep him focussed. New Year’s Eve was a bad time to be alone, too many drinks, too many opportunities to party; it had been the start of more than one affair in his past. Already one of the male passengers had been eyeing him off. Rich and sophisticated, he kept asking for Rhys to bring his next drink or snack, smiling at him in a very clear “I want you” way. It didn’t help that Niall was almost sea green with jealousy. Niall was single and had been looking forward to this occasion to catch a rich lover, if only for the night.

Rhys smiled provocatively and went about his work as usual. He already had a lover, he didn’t need another, but it didn’t hurt anyone to flirt. Surely he could have a bit of fun without hurting Felix? He had resolved to make a Resolution this year. Before the countdown ended he was going to make a promise to himself, a promise that he would stick to one relationship at a time, no more affairs on the side. But flirting didn’t count, right?

It seemed no time at all before everyone was standing in a circle on the beach at Paradise Island, holding hands and counting down the New Year aloud.

Ten …

Nine …

Eight …

“I promise to be faithful next year,” Rhys said silently.

Five …

Four …

Three …

Two …

One – it was official, he had promised. Everyone burst into a rowdy version of “All Our Sins”, renouncing the bad habits of the last year and embracing the opportunity to change for the new, all the while moving slowly around in a circle, still holding hands. When the song ended, everyone turned to kiss the person next to them. It was, of course, totally co-incidental that Rhys was standing next to Justin, his wealthy admirer.

He remembered out of nowhere that Felix had told him the original words to the traditional song had been “Old Lang’s Sign” but that was silly, it didn’t make any sense! Rather guiltily he pushed Felix to the back of his mind and continued to do his job, making sure his passengers were well looked after. And if he engaged in a little discreet flirting, what harm was there in that? After all, he smiled to himself, there were still a few hours before ‘next year’ became official.

At 2:00 am Rhys helped Niall, Adele and Rhiannon herd their party onto the shuttle for their journey up to the Diamond Sky and then around the planet, returning to Wallaroo. He served another round of drinks and appetisers, this time including coffee, tea and fruit juice for those who wanted to pace themselves. Justin tried to order a cocktail for him, but he had to explain regretfully that staff weren’t allowed to drink until they reached Wallaroo. Although, he had managed to down a couple during the evening, when no-one was looking.

Just as the Diamond Sky reached Wallaroo, Justin cornered him on his way out of the servery, and pressed another kiss on his not too unwilling lips. “I’ve got a suite,” he whispered. “At the Presidential Hotel with a view over the square. I’ll order a bottle or two of champagne to be ready for us. What do you say? Will you join me?”

“I shouldn’t,” protested Rhys, weakly.

Justin smiled and pulled Rhys hard against him, his tongue thrusting into his mouth, a strong thigh pushing between his legs. “Yes you should,” he told him, then released him fast, to return confidently to the lounge in a definite swagger.

Just a couple of drinks, Rhys told himself as he followed Justin down the luxuriously carpeted passage of the Presidential nearly an hour later, that’s all he was going for. Nothing else. Friends could have a couple of drinks together, couldn’t they?

Justin had made a couple of calls when they disembarked from the shuttle. “Just arranging for the champagne,” he said smoothly. The rest of their group followed them into the hotel, after all that’s where everyone on the trip was staying, but only a few people went straight to their rooms. The majority went to the function room which had a large balcony overlooking the square, to get prime viewing positions for the lion dance.

It was dim and quiet in the passageway. Rhys was still uncertain about what he was doing. Justin was rich and hot and he really, really fancied him… if only he could stop thinking about Felix. Still, what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him, right? It was just a fling, it didn’t mean anything. It wasn’t as if he was going to leave Felix to be with Justin, haha, not that Justin had asked him, of course. In fact, he had been rather unflatteringly clear that this was a one nighter only.

He followed Justin around the corner to his room and froze. There were two other men in the passage, about to enter or perhaps leave, the room next door. One of them looked surprisingly like Felix, with an elegantly shaped silver head and slim build, his white shirt and black pants looking very like the suit Felix had bought himself only a few weeks ago. The man with him was much younger, a piece of beefcake, he thought dismissively, all muscles and no brains.

Just then the man who looked like Felix turned slightly towards him to say something laughingly to his companion. Rhys felt the world stop. He looked like Felix because he was Felix. He felt as if he had been plunged into an ice cold bath, what was Felix doing here with another man? Well it was painfully obvious what they had been about to do, or had they done it already?

He strode towards Felix, leaving Justin standing there, completely forgotten. He stood over Felix, shaking in his intensity of emotion, “What the fuck are you doing here?” he demanded.

“Oh, Rhys! There you are. Please don’t get upset, it doesn’t mean anything!” protested Felix unconvincingly.

“It damn well means something to me!” Rhys didn’t even realise he was echoing words which had been addressed to him all too often in the past.

“Have you… did you…?” he couldn’t finish. Felix might have just had sex with someone else. Didn’t he want him anymore? He couldn’t believe the pain he was feeling, he was trying hard not to cry.

“I didn’t think you’d mind,” excused Felix. “After all, it was just going to be the one time.”

Rhys felt the ice around his heart thaw a fraction, it sounded as if Felix hadn’t done anything irrevocable yet. He’d been going into the room, not out of it.

“Well I do mind, I don’t want you sleeping with anyone else,” he said masterfully. “Not once, not any time.” He grabbed Felix by the shoulders and shook him. “You’re mine! Right?”

Felix looked at the ground, hiding the flash of triumph. He loved Rhys but he had no illusions about him. Rhys had been courted so often, “I love you” no longer had any real meaning for him, so Felix had been very careful never to tell him. He thought their relationship might last longer if he kept Rhys guessing about his feelings, ensuring that Rhys was the one in pursuit.

“Well, if it means that much to you,” he answered reluctantly. “I guess…” He turned to the young man who had been standing by with surprising patience and shrugged ruefully. “I’m sorry, Hans.”

Felix looked over Rhys’ shoulder to where Justin was standing watching the small drama with a sardonic eye. “And who-?” Felix started to ask in a suspicious voice.

“He’s one of our special passengers,” Rhys announced quickly. “I’m just seeing him to his door to make sure everything is in order.” He shot Justin a pleading look over the top of Felix’s head.

“That’s right,” Justin confirmed, obligingly. “Just escorting me to my room. And here we are, I’ll say good night then. Happy New Year everyone!” He disappeared into his suite.

Rhys and Felix looked at each other. Rhys couldn’t believe how near he had come to losing his lover. He put both arms around him, and drew him tight against his body, marvelling how well they fitted against each other. “New Years is only a few minutes away. How about we both make a resolution, let’s be faithful to each other for the next year?”

“If you’re sure,” murmured Felix submissively, hiding his fierce satisfaction, it looked like tonight’s ploy had paid off handsomely. “And who knows, maybe next year we’ll be able to make the same vows to each other.”

As he opened his mouth eagerly to receive Rhys’ hot kisses, he hoped Rhys never found out he had paid Hans to wait with him in the passage or that Justin was his second cousin, at least, not for a very, very long time.







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