All the ramblings, beneath the jump.
(All dates are approximate. All stories are slightly less approximate ;-D)
DAY 1 - EMBARKATION
- GPS lies to us. We miss the turn to the terminal like seven times. Terminal itself seemed designed by a small child with a very short attention span. Open-sided tent in 20-degree weather = Not Cool To Wait In Line In For An Hour. Thank god for Kindle. Conclusion? If Jersey City is the armpit of NJ, then Bayonne is the unwashed sweat of said armpit.
- But hey, at least the boat's pretty. I mean, really pretty.
- Coulda lived without being assaulted by Philippino crewmembers wielding giant vats of hand sanitizer, though.
- My roommate, Andrew (who, for reasons soon to be explained, wished to be called Brooklyn, which is hilarious for reasons also soon to be explained), arrived before me. Found him waiting in the room. Also found Cruise Compass (daily newsletter) waiting in the room, featuring hilarious hyperbole in the form of this headline: "WELCOME TO THE FIRST DAY OF THE MOST AMAZING VACATION OF YOUR LIFE" Okay, fine, just because you happened to be right this time, Royal Caribbean, doesn't mean you'll always be right. I'm watch you. *glares*
- Wandered the ship with Brooklyn. It has an indoor Main Street, complete with bars, stores, coffee shop with free Seattle's Best coffee, and the calypso version of street performers. Also a place called the Aquarium Bar, which basically reminded me of Troy McClure's bedroom. ("Gay? I WISH!") Very cool for this saltwater aquarium lover.
- We're tired. We try to arrange for an earlier dinner than our 8pm seating, but for some mysterious reason they can't do their Anytime Dining on the first day. We're irritated, but this turns out to be kind of epic, as we meet four lovely Brits who make dinner the highlight of the rest of our cruise. Andrew #2 (hence Andrew #1 wanting to be called Brooklyn, as he lives in Brooklyn, to avoid confusion) and Johanna are on their honeymoon but probably couldn't have been less romantic about it if they'd tried. Kerrie and Steve are two years married but made up for Andrew and Jo's lack of cloying lovey-doveyness with pretty much every touch, look, and giggle they ever exchanged. They are all adorable, bright, funny, and about our age, but I kind of have a hard time noticing because I'm too busy staring at Steve, who is ridiculously adorable. (Hi Steve!) What can I say; nobody's ever accused me of not being shallow ;-)
DAY 2 - At Sea
- I'm on a normal-people schedule somehow, which means I get up around 6:30 AM instead of several indecent hours after noon. Eat breakfast in fancy dining room. Am instructed to fetch my own fruit, juice, and granola at a breakfast bar. If I'd wanted to fetch my own food, I'd have gone to the buffet on the Lido deck. Damn it, what the hell am I paying $45 a day for?! ;-p
- Since we sailed out of Jersey, it's still pretty damn cold, but I bundle up and spend a few hours on the deck working on Crescendo.
- Start Finding Zach by Rowan Speedwell. HOLY CRAP.
- Lunch buffet is made of awesome, and also some kind of red-bean-and-tomato thing.
- More Finding Zach. HOLY CRAP. I am utterly hooked.
- Saw the show but have no particular recollection of what it was beyond three excellent singers (and one not-at-all excellent singer that Brooklyn dubbed--rather aptly, I might add--"Ponytail Obama"), eight or ten strong dancers, and a production/set budget to rival Broadway.
- Formal night in the dining room. I packed formal clothes for Just In Case, but I hate dressing up. Brooklyn's not a fan of it either. Despite awesomeness (and hotness of one) of our dinner companions, we decide to skip it and eat in the buffet. Pass Steve and Kerrie in their formal-wear on the way to the Windjammer. Stopped briefly to
ogle Steve in a tuxtalk.
- Bed at like 9:30 because I'm a wimp, and also had been up since the asscrack of dawn.
DAY 3 - AT SEA
- Begin slow creepage back to "normal" 2pm to 6am schedule; wake up around 8. Breakfast in the buffet today, since the dining room was awful for it. Best meal of the day; wish I could keep waking up for it in the future.
- Attend an "enrichment lecture" about the history, flora, and fauna of Haiti. I had high hopes for this, as I'm eminently geeky and love this sort of thing. Turns out to be 45 minutes of overcrowded Powerpoint slides gacked from Wikipedia, and long, endless lists of scientific names of plants and animals. Very little useful or interesting.
- Finding Zach makes me lose my whole afternoon. This seems like a fair exchange. Plus it's gotten nice and warm out, so I get to read on the deck under a lovely tropical sun.
- Naptime! Brooklyn enters the Men's Sexy Legs Competition, forgets to wake me first so I'm not there to laugh
atwith him. He wins the unofficial Best Hairiest Legs award. Well deserved.
- At dinner, engage in long conversation with other couples about differences between American and UK English. They are vast and occasionally hilarious. By the end of the cruise, we are all sounding like each other. Lovely :-D
DAY 4 - LABADEE, "HAITI"
- Small corner of Haiti rented out by Royal Caribbean to make a private beach resort that bears no resemblance to actual Haiti, from which it's separated by a mountain range, a giant fence, border guards, and several thousand instances of cholera. Many Haitian merchants set up on the island selling beautiful wooden carvings and vases and trinket boxes and such. They were so aggressive, I was vaguely surprised they didn't haul me out of my cabin to peddle their wares. Bought some trinket boxes shaped like turtles while sweating out all my sunscreen and the last three or four weeks' worth of fluids I'd drank. It's winter, Labadee; stop being so hot.
- Decided Labadee was much prettier from a short, air-conditioned distance. Finished Finding Zach from an ultra-comfortable loungish-type chair on Deck 14 overlooking the island. 4.5 stars to Finding Zach, btw. Woulda been 5 but for some structural and pacing issues that a more ruthless editor would have found and handled. Read it. Seriously. Now.
- Got in my 1,500 words on Crescendo, decided I was on vacation, and went back to my Kindle. Started my dear friend Aleksandr Voinov's Test of Faith.
- See another show. More mostly-excellent singing and dancing, and some unbelievably lavish and complex sets. For some reason, the lead-in music to every show is "Jump!" Average age of cruisers on this vacation? 85. Nobody's jumping, Royal Caribbean. Stop pushing.
- Dinner's really starting to get fun. Brooklyn and I are talking about where we've lived in New York, and I mention my brief stint in the taint of Times Square (39th and 8th, if you're curious). Neighborhood was pretty damn shady, but at least if I ever needed lube at 4am, I had half a dozen places to get it. Kerrie and Steve are scandalized--scaldalized!--by the word "lube." Those two are so adorable it hurts. Aren't Americans supposed to be the prudes about sex? Ah well.
- First towel animal. God knows what took them so long. And then only a swan? *iz dissapointed*
DAY 5 - SAMANA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
- Read the back half of Test of Faith over breakfast. Bad idea; it's seriously fucking hot (like, Steve hot), and nobody likes getting squishies in public.
- The ship (Explorer of the Seas) has an indoor ice rink. They also have a troupe of ten or twelve world-class figure skaters who put on two different shows during the cruise. Watching from the front row is way different (and much more mind-boggling) than watching on TV. I was beyond impressed; god knows how they do it on a land rink, let alone on a rocking boat.
- Finished Test of Faith. It's a teeeeeeeeeeeeny bit on the improbable side, but who the hell cares. It was that hot. Also, it featured Aleks's typical mastery of historical fiction. 4.5 stars for me. Go read it.
- KARAOKE! Somehow, they don't have Don't Stop Believing. Brooklyn is relieved; I'm crushed. Don't have Livin' on a Prayer or You Give Love a Bad Name, either. WTF, Royal Caribbean? Did you and the 80s have a fight? Settled on The Rose. I believe Brooklyn has video, but I require copious bribes to post it.
DAY 6 - CHARLOTTE AMALIE, ST. THOMAS
- I've been here half a dozen times, and the weather's sketchy, so I don't get off the boat. Brooklyn, however, snaps this photo from a cable car:
- I spend my afternoon working on Crescendo from my lovely Deck 14 perch overlooking the island, and then start Stealing West by Jamie Craig. Premise is PATENTLY ABSURD. Writing is excellent. Sex is hot beyond belief.
- While working, meet a whole table full of ladies who ask for my business card (which features Hot Topless Guy's torso) and then my autograph on said business card. Was a bit surreal, but I can think of worse ways to spend an afternoon.
- Catch the show before dinner. It's excellent, despite it's focus-grouped-to-death name ("Vibeology").
- Learn Andrew is a penetration ("white hat") hacker, which is awesome to me because Aleks and I just wrote a story about a guy who does the exact same thing and I'd never met one in real life before. (We also learn that the entire city of Newcastle is apparently one giant ongoing soccer riot.) He's also a soft-spoken Geordie, which makes hearing and understanding his awesomeness something of a challenge. I do so love the accent, though.
- Kerrie starts telling embarrassing stories about her husband, one of which involves him getting so blind-ass drunk on his honeymoon that he puked in the fucking sink and then just went back to bed. (I will spare you the story of the crusted-over stinkpile awaiting her in the morning.) She's a sharp one, and probably the life of every party she attends, even if she is scandalized by lube :-D By now they know I write gay erotic romance for a living, so I set to work scandalizing her some more. Halfway through the cruise, she's flashing a dirtier mind than I am. My work here is done.
- But I still spend the whole vacation hitting on her husband (whom I have no interest in sleeping with but would love to tie up and tickle 'til he cries), and so does Brooklyn, who swings both ways. Fortunately, Kerrie seems to find this hilarious. So does Steve, who I think had no concept of how adorable he is. Offered to teach Kerrie the literal ropes of a little BDSM fun. Don't think she realized I wasn't kidding. Shame, that.
- I discover a pitch-black, private little spot on deck 5, all the way at the front of the ship, from which to stargaze. Snag Brooklyn and drag him out there. We lie back on the deck in like 40-mile-an-hour winds, huddle up, and stare at the sky for an hour. It's so clear we see shooting stars. Best. Night. Yet.
DAY 7 - BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS
- Raining, boo. Sleep past breakfast; boo again.
- Crescendo's really gaining momentum. Write for hours. Finish Stealing West. Hot enough to set off the smoke alarm, but I still can't get over how absurd the premise is.
- Formal night. Was gonna skip it again, but by now, dinner with our UK friends is the highlight of the day. Brooklyn didn't bring any dress clothes, but Royal Caribbean foresaw this and offered tuxedo rental. He doesn't know what a cummerbund is. When I'm done laughing at him, I help him with it. They gave him a clip-on tie. Nobody can tell but him, but he's so offended by the concept of it that he calls up Steve (who owns his own tux and who wore dress shirts to dinner even on casual nights) to borrow one. The tailor mysteriously gave Brooklyn cufflinks, even though the shirt didn't have French cuffs (which, boo, because French cuffs are easily one of the sexiest things a guy could ever put on) and did have buttons. Also mysteriously supplied fancy buttons for his shirtfront, despite there being no place to put them. Brooklyn spends the rest of the cruise desperately trying not to lose them.
- I'd somehow not realized this before, but Johanna is a fucking knockout--a stylish little porcelain doll in a drop-dead gorgeous dark green evening gown. (Pictures to come.) Hilarious contrast to her new hubby, who isn't even wearing a tie. Kerrie's dress is full of ruffles I can't stop touching, and seeing Steve in his tux (and French cuffs!) is worth putting stockings and high heels on for.
- I've asked our room steward to bring extra blankets with the intent of taking them out to deck 5 for stargazing again, since we froze our assess off last night. Inform dinner-mates that I have a surprise for them after dinner, and to dress warm. They get increasingly but jokingly nervous. I think Steve thinks this might end up painful for him ;-p When we get up there, the deck is unfortunately wet from rain, and it's a bit overcast, but we decide to stay, laying down both blankets on top of each other to make a dry spot and then puppy-piling all six of us on top of them. (All this, of course, following the inevitable Titanic jokes that seem to come whenever someone walks up to the prow of a ship.) Cue orgy jokes. I may or may not give in to the urge to bite someone on the flank. (*shifty-eyes*) We're out a good long while, the moon is gorgeous against the clouds, and eventually the sky clears. Just perfect.
- Andrew and Jo hop off to do whatever it is people do on their honeymoons when they're not hanging out with me. I'm not ready to go to bed, so I decide to hit up the Texas Holdem table. Hadn't been in the mood for poker before now, which is odd because I won $1,200 on the last cruise playing. The table is predictably full of crusty older gentlemen, several of whom are Scots with super-sexy accents, and nearly all of whom turned out to be bang-up guys that I really loved playing with. The table closed about 90 minutes after I got there, but I was up about $100, so I wasn't complaining.
- Towel animal! This one's slightly cooler: a cobra.
DAY 8 - ST. JOHNS, ANTIGUA
- Raining again, boo. And slept through breakfast again too. As I'd been here before and had no excursions scheduled, I stayed on the boat again to work on Crescendo.
- Headliner show featured a truly excellent comedian paired with a truly awful "musician." His jokes were terrible, and he didn't sing, he shouted. He opened the first 10 or so minutes of the show, and was so bad that Brooklyn got up and left. Sadly, that meant he missed one of the most hilarious stand-up guys I've ever seen.
- Dinner hilarity has reached the point where we are just about the last people out of the dining room every night, though alas, Jo and Andrew are off selfishly enjoying their honeymoon without us this evening ;-p We're all starting to notice an aging hipster walk past our table each evening in a different zoot suit with matching hat. Same suit every night--wide vertical black and bright stripes--just a different color. His aging hipster wife would wear a matching dress and hat straight out of the 1920s (complete with giant tacky ribbon-flower at the waist). Cannot comprehend how many suitcases these people must have packed.
- KARAOKE! Dinnermates said they'd sing if they were drunk enough. Plied them with vast quantities of liquor, but alas, the only one who got up was Brooklyn. Steve said he'd rather take a beating than get up and sing, so of course I told him I'd hold him to that. Tragically, I don't think he realized I was serious. Fortunately, Brooklyn had the stones to perform. He's truly, truly awful, but he has a great time, so everyone (and boy do I mean everyone in the whole place) ended up laughing with him instead of at him. He claims he was "warming up the crowd" for me--a gesture much appreciated. I sang "I Will Survive," complete with walk-out to the audience--"Go on now go!" right to Brooklyn, and "saving all my loving for someone who's loving me" right to Kerrie; the whole group was laughing hysterically. Again, there is video of this. Bribes begin at $50 or a new hottie for my basement.
DAY 9 - PHILIPSBURG, ST. MAARTEN
- Valentine's day! More sleep-through-breakfastage. More work on Crescendo.
- Show is bleh. I get up and leave five minutes in. Don't remember where I went.
- Dinner is quiet tonight, as Kerri and Steve are off being nauseatingly affectionate with each other, and Jo and Andrew are both fairly subdued as a matter of course.
- Wandered off to poker after dinner. Won $350. Suddenly feeling a little more charitable toward Valentine's Day than I had this morning.
- Brooklyn and I order room service (yum, spinach and artichoke dip!) and watch four hours of Deadwood. I've somehow never seen this show before, and am instantly in love. I bring up Rule 34, which Brooklyn seemed previously unaware of. Now excuse me while I wander off to find Seth/Saul slashfiction . . .
DAY 10 - AT SEA
- Yup, slept through breakfast again.
- Ice show #2. Even better than the first one. Seriously, seriously amazing.
- Kerrie's birthday! (28th, I think?) Sadly, she's wrecked by seasickness, as we've caught the tail end of a storm and the waves are high. I suggest Dramamine to Steve, who's been poor Kerrie's errand boy all day fetching oranges and crackers and soda and such. Apparently, they don't have this in the UK; he'd never heard of it. They give it out free on all the ships though, so she gets some and it seems to help; she shows up at dinner.
- We find out that one of our new friends' last name is Cox. Cue several adults behaving like twelve-year-olds, followed by stories all around of traumatic childhood teasing.
- Brooklyn and I had been contemplating arranging a cake for Kerrie but then didn't because we weren't sure she'd be able to get out of bed. Turns out that Steve is the sort of romantic we all write and read about, as he'd planned the same thing way ahead of time. Arrived to dinner to find a table full of balloons. For dessert, the waiters all came out singing Happy Birthday and brought a chocolate cake. Kerrie feels better enough after Dramamine and food to actually eat said chocolate cake, yay!
- Sometime over dinner (or possibly in the days prior to), Kerrie and Steve get it in their heads that Brooklyn and I are destined to get married. Cue three solid days' worth of jokes, wiggling eyebrows, loaded looks, and threats of violence that are answered sadly often with giggles. Ah well . . . at least Kerrie's got a contagious laugh and Steve's adorable when he's cringing from me.
- Back up to deck 5 with the whole group to stargaze. Alas, the deck is closed because of high winds, so we head up to Deck 12 instead, which is the next-darkest place on the ship but sadly still quite brightly lit. Puppy-pile on the blanket and chat for a while. Kerrie bows out early--she's had a rough day. Andrew, Jo, Brooklyn, and I pile into a hot tub around midnight and stay there until we prune. The night was quite chilly; getting in was lovely, but getting out was a godawful bitch.
DAY 11 - AT SEA
- Actually get my ass up for breakfast. Alas, the crew was doing some sort of power-outage drill that turned from a drill into an actual power outage, so I had to get dressed by the warming glow of my laptop (inside room = pitch dark with no power, even during the day). And then there were no hash browns at breakfast (which, let's face it, are by far the most awesome food ever) because no power = no hot oil. Boourns. Shoulda slept in.
- More work on Crescendo out on the deck, since today is our last warm day. Sit out and work for hours. Come back in and watch a couple eps of Deadwood with Brooklyn.
- Dinnermates all arrange to try for stargazing on Deck 5 again, since this'll be the last tolerable night for it. Of course the damn moon is nearly full and it's completely overcast. But Deck 5 forward is open, so we stay out a pretty good long while, hanging beneath the blankets on a bench instead of lying on the deck. Somehow, this turns into a game of charades (in the cold, in the frigging dark). It's a bit of a challenge thinking up movies, shows, and books that both the US and the UK folks will recognize, and also pretty much every single one of us sucks balls at charades. Except once, when Brooklyn stood up and mimed "TV show, two words," and I shouted out, "Doctor Who!"; he gave me the stink-eye and sat down. There's another hilarious charades story involving Steve trying to do the movie Elf and Brooklyn eventually grabbing him by the ears and miming making out with him in an effort to help us get it (I refer you to the Counterpoint cover art for his thinking on that one . . . or maybe he just wanted to make out with Steve; god knows I wouldn't blame him), but alas, said hilarity doesn't really translate to the written form.
- It's still pretty early when we all decide we've frozen our assess off long enough and go inside. I wander off to poker, can't win a hand all night. Kept calling all-ins with clearly dominant hands and losing on the river to two-outers or flush draws. Boourns. Back to room service and Deadwood with Brooklyn.
- TOWEL ANIMAL OF AWESOMENESS! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Flappy:
DAY 12 - LAST DAY, AT SEA
- Get up for breakfast again, but just barely; I show up at 10:30 and they stop serving at 11. This time there are hash browns, huzzah! I'm on like four hours of sleep and soooooooooooo not ready to talk to anyone, so of course I run into Andrew and Jo while getting my coffee, and then Steve and Kerrie--normally quite early risers--as I'm sitting down with Andrew and Jo. And then Brooklyn shows up like ten minutes later, even though he'd already eaten breakfast (apparently, he was looking for me). But it was all good--they were very understanding of my pre-coffee grumpiness and, frankly, that crowd could pretty unfailingly make me smile, even in the morning. That's a compliment of the highest order, my new friends :-D
- I'm supposed to be working on Crescendo, but Brooklyn and I watch more Deadwood instead.
- The guys have asked me to teach them to play Holdem, so Brooklyn and I go down to the casino in the hopes of buying a big wad of $.50 and $1 chips. They won't sell them to us--apparently, too many people have done that in the past and then just stolen the chips--so I end up getting $150 in quarters. They're skeevy, so Brooklyn washes them in the sink.
- Meant to go to the towel-folding class to learn how to make a herd of Flappys, but somehow lost track of time. Not even sure what I was doing. Ah well. Fortunately, Brooklyn does go, and records the class on his iPhone. Flappys coming up!
- Off to teach my new mates to play Holdem. Andrew's played before, but the rest of them don't even know the hand order, so I've got my work cut out for me. Andrew and Jo bring champaign. (Sadly, I don't drink, so I'm the only one in the picture-that-will-eventually-be-posted who's holding an empty glass up to toast with.) Steve and Kerrie bring the remainder of the birthday cake. Much fun is had by all, especially Jo, who may or may not actually be a hustler. (I'd suspect her much more if we weren't all playing with my money.) I'm not hungry, but I allow Steve to talk me into having a slice of cake when everyone else does. This decision had absolutely nothing to do with me knowing he'll lick all his fingers clean again after he cuts my slice. Honestly. Not a thing.
- We pack up around 7 to go change for dinner. Meet everyone back at 8pm. Give one last go at stargazing afterward. At this point, the six of us have literally spent the entire day together, pretty much from the accidental group breakfast onward. I'm usually the typical writerly type: solitary and antisocial. And yet somehow I ended the day not wanting to punch them all in the throat. Not even in the shoulder, actually. Perhaps I'm growing as a person ;-p
- Last poker night. I get down to the game late because of abovementioned group activities, so I get stuck on a waiting list. By the time I get to the table, it's close to midnight. Brooklyn's hanging around like a lost puppy, and I feel kind of bad leaving him alone on the last night of the cruise, so I tell him I'll come up at 12:30 and watch more Deadwood with him. Now he's a happy puppy. I cash out about $70 up on my very short evening (win total for the whole cruise = $760, which just about paid for the entire vacation) and head upstairs at 12:30, only to find that he'd packed the DVDs, so we just end up going to bed.
- But that's okay, as we have early debarkation the next morning. As much as I loved the ship and the vacation and the service and the whole nine yards, there is absolutely nothing Royal Caribbean did right about debarkation morning. For one thing, we didn't have to get off the ship until about 10, but they stopped serving breakfast at 8:30 (and thus the group's plan to meet for breakfast at 9 went out the window). The mini-bar guy let himself into our room at 8am--us soundly sleeping until that moment, btw--to check the contents of our minibar. Why they could not do this AFTER we'd gotten up and left the frigging room, I can't figure. There wasn't even a place to get coffee. On the plus side, we had excellent company to wait with. We all started passing around our passport photos for a laugh (most definitely not to be shared in future). Hugged goodbye in the terminal, exchanged emails, and dragged our asses home.
And thus concludes my agonizingly long, boring, and detailed recap of my most excellent vacation. Which, presumably, will learn you right good to never ask again ;-p Pictures hopefully coming soon, though most of them are on Jo and Andrew's camera, and they don't get home for four more days, so it may be a week or two before stuff gets emailed my way. If you're reading this, Jo and Andrew, I hope you're enjoying the last of your honeymoon in Manhattan. And Steve and Kerrie, I hope your trip back to London wasn't too exhausting. Thanks to all of you for being great sports (Steve especially, the poor dear, whom I've no doubt made blush and laugh yet again if he's reading this) and offering up such fabulous company! :-D
Oh, just realized I forgot to explain why calling Andrew #1 "Brooklyn" was so hilarious. You see, Aleksandr Voinov is writing a story in the Belonging world about a slave champion heavyweight boxer named Brooklyn. Whereas Andrew #1 is a fey middleweight mostly-gay urbanite foodie who appreciates $100 shots of aged scotch. So, yeah. That.
Anyway, back to my dear readers . . . If you've stuck it out this far, you deserve an excerpt. So here:
Ayden jolted awake and instantly wished he hadn’t. Hissing insects still burrowed through his brain, trailing noise and venom in their wake. He knew not where he was—a bed, he thought, from the warmth and softness of it—nor how long he’d lain here, vulnerable and insensate beneath the starfall’s barrage. The urge to vomit competed with the urge to scream. He indulged neither, but only because his exhaustion was stronger.
“The sickness passes, Ayden barn Vaska.”
Ayden scrambled upright (more or less), head turning toward the unexpected voice, one empty hand shooting out in reflex. ‘Twould have been much too late to stop someone who’d meant him harm, gods curse this cracking starfall. But the man who’d sat beside him—wrinkled, gray, draped in linens and furs and silks—seemed to harbor no such intent, nor did the retinue of attendants standing at ready some feet from the bed. The human merely studied Ayden, brown eyes incongruously sharp and youthful in a face that seemed to Ayden to be nearing its useful end.
“Who—” Ayden’s voice broke over raw throat, and with it any hope of projecting strength—assuming such was even possible as he half-sat, half-lay, naked and sweating in a foreign bed.
“I am the Aegis Exalted, Divine King of Kings, Man’s Ear to the Gods and the Gods’ Mouth to Man, Holy Ruler of the Empire and Binder of the Sixteen Realms.”
The man cast out his titles as if crumbs of bread into a river. They washed from Ayden just as surely, though he supposed he should feel grateful to be able to hear them at all. “Where is Freyrík?”
“Your master is yet feasting. I thought to come while he was occupied, to learn for myself what manner of creature infatuates him so.”
The Aegis reached a hand out to Ayden’s bare chest, touched fingers to his skin. Ayden grit his teeth and bore it, for he could not seem to muster the necessary coordination to push the man away. Besides, he might well be separated from his arm if he made to use it against the most important human in the empire.