BOUND BY BLOOD (Sons of Britain #2)
Novel (52,000 wds) · Historical ⋅ LGBTQ
After their first summer as shieldmates, Arthur and Bedwyr finally find a private moment to explore the attraction that’s been building for months. But the arrival of a stranger changes everything.
Issued a challenge by Uthyr that pits him against his brother, Arthur discovers a chance to protect Bedwyr’s future. If Arthur is willing to do the unthinkable, the bond he and Bed share will be tested as much by blood as by the unspoken truths in their hearts.
Note: This story was originally published in 2016 as two novellas, Etched in Stone and Bound by Blood. I’ve combined and lightly expanded these works for republication as a novel.
Excerpt: Chapter 1
Cymru, 515 CE
“Are we there yet?”
Arthur grinned at Bedwyr over his shoulder. “Are we still walking?”
“Yes,” Bedwyr said. “Unfortunately.”
Arthur turned around to walk backward along the valley path. “What would you rather be doing?”
Bedwyr raked his gaze down Arthur’s body, lean and hard from a summer of patrols and skirmishes. What skin he could see had been kissed by the sun until it looked as warm and golden as one of Gwen’s freshly baked sweetcakes. His shirt bore the sweat stains of the season’s work, the lightweight wool darker now under the arms, in a slash down Arthur’s chest where his shield strap had lain, and across his waist under his belt. If Bedwyr were to strip him of his shirt and belt, he could have all the man’s flavors—sweet, salty, and sharp.
Arthur chuckled, low and knowing. “Hungry?”
“Starving,” Bedwyr growled.
Arthur reached into the pouch at his belt and tossed him an apple.
“We don’t have to walk this far,” Bedwyr said. “My father’s not due back for a couple days.”
“Lord Uthyr isn’t the only person in the village with eyes to see.”
“No, he isn’t,” Bedwyr said, aiming a hot look at Arthur’s crotch.
“You aren’t letting your bodily urges get the better of your caution, are you, shieldmate?”
He was, damn it all.
“Almost there.” Arthur cocked his chin. “Eat your apple.” He winked and turned around again.
Bedwyr tore into it, crunching his discontent loudly for Arthur’s benefit.
But he wasn’t unhappy. In fact, he’d felt almost giddy for months. In the dark days of winter, when his father first sent him away, Bedwyr had thought he was finished. Even when Arthur had appeared with Bedwyr’s armor and an insane scheme to rehabilitate him, he’d still felt it would be impossible—that he would spend the rest of his life one-handed and useless.
He would spend his life with one hand, but the man walking before him now had made him prove to himself that he could still serve. Incredibly, Arthur had pushed him until he’d discovered he could serve as a warrior, something he’d thought gone forever.
He owed Arthur his life.
They had fought together during the summer campaigns, and it had been as if he and Arthur had been shieldmates for years. Their instincts seemed woven together until he hadn’t had to think at all. He had done, but that was because Arthur continually surprised him. Kept from battle until he finished his eighteenth year, Arthur had launched into fighting like an arrow loosed from a strained bowstring. He had trained hard before, but his improvement over the past few months…well, Bedwyr would admit to some pride in being part of it. Sometimes, when they’d finished a fight, sending a raiding party into retreat, yelping like wounded dogs, his pride in his shieldmate had gripped him so hard it had taken every scrap of restraint he had not to shove his fingers into Arthur’s hair and lick the blood spatter from his grinning face.
He hadn’t, of course, because his father had always been there. The man seemed never to sleep. He’d always been that way—retiring late, rising early—but it had never meant much to Bedwyr other than that he, too, had often been expected to rise early.
When a man was trying to find a private moment with his shieldmate, however, it was frustrating.
They’d managed only a few such moments, the briefest of clutches in the forest surrounding a camp. To Bedwyr’s surprise, Arthur had been more cautious than he himself had been, staying at the fire to talk to the other men when Bedwyr rose to piss in the woods. Once, he’d walked well into the trees to relieve himself. He heard the footsteps as he was finishing and muttered, “About fucking time,” over his shoulder, only to discover his father there.
“For what?” Uthyr had asked, unlacing his own trousers to piss.
Bedwyr had scrambled for something to say. “It’s been burning,” he’d said.
“You should see the healer for it.”
“I did,” he said. “He gave me a remedy.”
He’d walked back to camp with his heartbeat in his ears.
He’d been more careful after that, but his father’s sharp eyes seemed to follow him. On the night before Uthyr left to visit the neighboring chieftain, his woman Eira had approached Bedwyr at the story fire.
“Bedwyr.” Her soft purr accompanied the light scratch of her fingernails on his forearm. “More ale?”
One fingertip circled on his skin. “Something headier, perhaps? Something…more private?”
She tipped her head but didn’t retreat. “Weary from the day?”
Her lips pursed thoughtfully. “Let me do the work.”
“I appreciate the offer, but no.”
She’d withdrawn to the far side of Uthyr’s chair again, and Bedwyr had exhaled with the relief of it.
The relief lasted all of an evening, until they’d left the fire. Outside their house, his father took hold of his arm.
“Eira tells me you turned her away tonight.”
“I need a reason?”
Uthyr looked at him closely for a long moment. “You’ve nothing to be ashamed of.”
“I’m not ashamed.” Bedwyr stepped into the house, hoping that would halt the discussion.
It didn’t. “Eira doesn’t care.”
Gwen and Eira both looked up from the hearth. He turned to his father and lowered his voice. “I’m not ashamed.”
“Then you should get back on the horse, lad,” Uthyr had said, not tempering his voice at all. “A man’s cock needs attention.”
“Take her now. Go to your bed and let her—”
His father stared at him. Gwen and Eira, too, with wide eyes.
He tried to soften his rejection of what Uthyr must have felt was a generous offer. “I can find my own woman.”
“It’s been months.”
His ears had grown hot at the thought that his father had kept track, like Master Philip with his moon scrolls. “I’ll do it,” he’d said and escaped to his sleeping space.
Thankfully, no one had followed him, and his father had left the next morning, taking Eira with him. In the past, Bedwyr had accompanied him on those trips to meet and talk strategy with Black Rhys, but he supposed his father wasn’t keen to show off his one-handed son. Bedwyr was glad for it, as it meant no more talk of women and getting his cock serviced. Rhys was known for the large and varied brothel his wife ran, and there would have been no escaping a trip to it if he’d joined the traveling party.
Besides, his father’s absence had given him what he’d waited for all summer. This day, with Arthur. His hair swung in its plait behind him. Bedwyr couldn’t wait to get his fingers in it.
Until, that is, he realized where they were headed. “Wait.”
Arthur turned to him. “What?”
“I know where you’re taking me, and we’ll get bolt-struck for it.”
He got an exasperated look for that. Arthur grabbed his hand. “Superstitious.”
Bedwyr looked at the hill ahead and its prominent stone feature. “I’m not going to fuck at your grandfathers’ tomb.”
“Don’t have to.” Arthur laced their fingers. “You can watch me.”
“I’ll watch from here.”
The other man leaned close. “But then I can’t paint you with it.”
He groaned, and Arthur chuckled.
“Besides, it wasn’t always their tomb; they came here to be alone.”
It was a pretty spot, about an hour’s hike northwest from their village and nestled among the hills. On a clear day, a fellow could glimpse the sea to the west.
If that fellow wasn’t otherwise distracted.
“Maybe I’d rather watch the waves.”
“Heh.” Arthur gave him a wry glance. “We’ll see.”
Bedwyr tried to imagine them, the two older men who’d made this their meeting place. He supposed Marcus Roman had found it on a patrol. What had made him bring Master Wolf here the first time? Who had walked in front and who behind? Maybe they’d walked side by side. He had a difficult time picturing Marcus Roman as eager as Arthur was just now. Wolf certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed the same sort of view Bedwyr currently had, with Arthur’s arse flexing under summer wool as he strode on his long legs. Made Bedwyr want to push him facedown into the grass and strip him of his trousers. Bite one of those hard cheeks.
He glanced around the valley they were traversing on their approach. It lay empty and quiet.
It would remain empty, at least.
Two years had passed since the second funeral, so he’d forgotten how steep the hill to the tomb was. By the time they came to the level bit of ground before it, he was panting like a dog at midday.
“How did they climb this so often?”
Arthur set his pack on the ground and smiled. “A comfortable bed awaited them in the cave.”
He flicked a finger at Arthur’s pack. “Have you brought one for me?”
Arthur pursed his lips and stepped close. “We’re fifty years younger than they were.”
“So you shouldn’t have had any trouble remembering a mattress.”
“We’ve been sleeping on bedrolls all summer. Not to mention trekking about the domain.” He flattened a hand to Bedwyr’s chest.
The tripping thump there was only partly due to the climb. He pulled Arthur close until their bellies met. “Just admit you forgot the mattress.”
“I’m not carrying a mattress for you.”
“Ungrateful cub.” He kissed Arthur under his jaw, where his pulse ticked against Bedwyr’s lips. Arthur exhaled roughly. Bedwyr smiled against his warm, stubbled skin. “And after I saved your life.”
Arthur grunted. “For the last fucking time, you didn’t save my life.”
“Mmm-hmm.” He pulled aside Arthur’s shirt to lick at the muscle low on his neck. His skin tasted of salt. “That raider’s blade was right…here…”
Bedwyr’s own shirt tightened as Arthur’s hands clenched in it. He eased the press of his teeth against his man’s neck.
“Do that again.”
He shifted toward Arthur’s chest, tugging the laces there even looser.
“Don’t rip my shirt. I’ve run out of excuses for the mending.”
“You need someone who won’t question it.” He swirled his tongue in the hollow between the collarbones. “A wife, maybe.”
Arthur grabbed his face and raised it to meet his gaze. “Told you, I don’t want a wife.”
“What do you want?”
Arthur’s eyes seemed to flare.
“On your back, then.”
He dropped to the grass right there and plucked at his laces. Bedwyr gave the great stone face of the tomb a wary glance. Blackberry brambles had woven themselves over the cemented fissure in the rock. Would thorny vines hold at bay the outraged spirits of two formidable men?
He hoped so because he was about to suck off their grandson.
Kneeling between Arthur’s splayed legs, he jerked his trousers down and off one foot, leaving them caught on the other boot. When Arthur made to pull them off, Bedwyr pushed him back with his short arm and crouched over him, exerting pressure on his shoulder. Arthur arched up into him. Bedwyr had come to recognize it not as Arthur trying to push him off, but as him enjoying Bedwyr’s weight bearing down on him. He shoved his stiff cock into Bedwyr’s belly.
Bedwyr gave him a hard kiss. “I want to hear you.”
Arthur grinned. “Why do you think we walked for an hour?”
Rucking Arthur’s shirt up, he licked a straight path down his body. No wending and lingering today. He had a destination in mind, and sometimes a man was best served taking a direct route. His mouth watered in the few seconds he took to lift Arthur’s prick, drawing a sticky thread of moisture between his belly and cockhead. Then he swallowed him down.
When Arthur’s hips surged, he shoved them back down with his arm. Arthur gave an appreciative growl for the forcefulness. He liked to be directed, and when direction failed it was usually because he was hoping to be physically compelled.
Bedwyr smiled around Arthur’s cock. Directed, compelled. Mild words for some of the encounters they’d managed since winter. Almost always at night, and hushed but for the choking breaths of two men trying to be quiet about it.
No need for that just now. He slapped Arthur’s hip.
“Ah! Fuck.” He writhed, panting. “Give me your hand.”
Already did, he thought, as he did every time Arthur begged for it. Sometimes the mood was right to tease him; other times, it dredged up his guilt. Guilt was useless when the thing was done and irreversible. And he didn’t like seeing how it brought Arthur low. He was cocky and brash, and Bedwyr liked him that way.
He wrapped his hand around the base of Arthur’s prick and squeezed.
He drew up to watch the man’s shaft grow plummy with trapped blood.
He tightened his fist and pulled toward the sky.
Arthur arched off the ground. “Nnghh.”
How he could stand to be gripped so, Bedwyr didn’t know. But he also couldn’t explain his own willingness to give Arthur the rough handling he wanted, except that it showed him a man no one else saw, or smelled, or heard.
He took the head in his mouth and sucked on it. Arthur jolted under him, spurring him to suck harder, to try to draw out his voice again. He dragged his beard up the man’s length, causing a yelp he couldn’t remember hearing before. He followed with his teeth, which he used to nibble at the rim of his head.
Arthur’s fingers clutched at his hair. “Bed.”
He pinned one of Arthur’s legs with his arm. He gave his cock a long, tight pull.
He drew back sharply. Arthur’s gray eyes were wide, staring at something over his shoulder. Bedwyr spun around, reaching for his dagger.
A short distance away stood a young woman. Her eyes were wide like Arthur’s but as blue as cornflowers. She seemed to have stumbled upon them while climbing the hill.
Bedwyr rose and turned toward her, glad he was still clothed. Behind him, Arthur was scuffling to cover himself. Neither of them was managing to say anything.
The woman recovered her senses first. “I’m lost,” she said. “Perhaps you could help me find my way again?”
“Where are you headed?” he asked, Arthur’s flavor still sharp on his tongue.
“I carry a message,” said the woman. “For Uthyr ap Emrys.”
“Gods take us,” Arthur muttered.
Bedwyr sent him a warning look before turning back to the woman. “He’s gone to meet with Lord Rhys, at the mouth of Afon Dyfrdwy.”
The woman nodded. “And he did. He left several days ago. I’d thought to catch up to his party, but the directions I was given were…” She frowned at the surrounding hills. “Vague.”
Arthur, fully clothed now, chuckled. “You wouldn’t be the first to lose your way in these hills. Happens to the best of us.”
Bedwyr glared at him to halt his nervous chatter. Gesturing for the woman to follow, he began to make his way down the slope again. He had an hour to conjure an explanation for their presence here.
And an hour to keep Arthur from saying too much.