Dark by M. Lee


Darkian Vanderbelt’s vacation from the Earth Service Protection Agency was not supposed to include a band of isolationist orcs with insider information traipsing through his hotel. On the other hand, without the orcs, he never would’ve met Jaime, a part-fairy hotel employee willing to give him access to the establishment’s records… among other things.

Knowing there’s a mole at the ESP, Dark is on his own to track down the orcs and their contraband weapons until his lover and sometime partner, Julius, shows up—and not a minute too soon: the orcs have kidnapped Jaime, and Dark will need all the help he can get to save his new flame and expose the terrorist cell.

Cover ArtistShobana Appavu
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Read an Excerpt:

IT WAS supposed to be a fucking vacation.

He could picture his boss, hands waving as he smiled jovially. Take a week somewhere, Dark, relax! Everyone needs time off. Dark, properly Darkian Vanderbelt, scowled and flattened himself against the wall. His vacation plans hadn’t included running into a clan of orcs. That was bad enough, but Dark knew this particular clan of orcs. He had last seen them as he was fleeing through the window of their homestead, carrying a questionably legal amount of enriched uranium. As far as the orcs were concerned, it was a sacred artifact. According to Dark’s sources, it was a vital piece of the advanced weaponry being built by a warlord. Dark hadn’t stayed to debate the matter.

Who thought they would need a disguise on vacation? It wasn’t, he acknowledged wryly to himself, as though the orcs were going to mistake him for someone else. Well over six feet tall, Dark’s skin was so black there were blue undertones, with hair and eyes to match. The spiraling blue tattoo that covered most of his right arm made him even more distinguishable. When he’d first joined the Earth Service Protection Agency, there’d been talk of having it removed, but Dark had refused. He wasn’t sure he believed in magic, in the power of the designs inked on his skin to protect him, but he did believe in psychology. He’d invested too much energy in thinking of his tattoo as safety to have it disposed of.

The orcs hadn’t seen him yet. It was possible they would go the other way. The Vicouer was mammoth, closer to being a resort than a simple hotel. Chance was practically a swear word in his line of work, though. Dark kept his ears tuned to their conversation and slid his eyes down the corridor. His room was on a high-end wing. There were only five doors in this hallway. He might be able to hack his way into another guest room. His own was a level down. And if the orcs spotted him, he’d be leading them right there.

His eyes latched onto the door at the end of the hall. Unmarked, it didn’t look like the entrance to a suite. Perhaps a janitor’s closet? He ghosted down the hall, lightly touching the handle. It was locked. Sparing a quick look behind him, Dark pulled out the lock picks he’d stored in his belt automatically. Thank the gods for old habits! The sound of voices got closer. He could hear footsteps now. Any minute—there! The lock opened, and Dark darted inside, shutting the door behind him. He crouched and set his ear to the door. There was no outcry. After a long moment, Dark breathed a sigh of relief and straightened.

From behind him, a low, amused voice asked, “Can I help you?”

Dark spun, hand going to his hip. He stopped short of drawing a weapon. The man who’d spoken was perhaps a foot shorter, skin the color of caramel, black hair cascading loose down his back. He was also damp and wearing nothing but a towel.

This was not a closet.

Dark thanked his ancestors for the skin that hid his blush. “Sorry. I… think I’m lost.”

“Mmm,” the man answered. “I am fairly certain I locked the door.”

Dark fought not to shuffle his feet. “Oops?”

He spent an uncomfortable minute under the man’s regard.

“Jaime,” he said, extending a hand.

Dark reached out and took Jaime’s hand in his. “Dark,” he said. Jaime’s eyebrows started inching up. “Because of my sense of humor.” A small, startled laugh slipped past Jaime’s lips.

“Of course,” Jaime said. “Clearly.” His eyes slid over the form-fitting black clothes Dark was partial to. “You’re in the on-call chamber for this wing, in case you were wondering.”

Dark took a moment to take in the bed, couch, and food heating unit, as well as the bathroom that was obviously attached. Something caught his eye, and he stepped forward before he could help himself. “Are those books?”

Jaime nodded. “My secret vice,” he confessed.

“Not at all,” Dark said. There were nearly fifty of them lined up neatly on three shelves. Mostly hardbound, they looked well cared-for. “I’ve never seen so many in a private collection. They’re lovely, aren’t they? The weight, the feel, the smell….”

Jaime smiled shyly. “My father’s a librarian,” he said.

Dark felt his eyes widen. “Really? That’s amazing! Which collection?”

“Earth 301-Z.”

Dark nodded knowledgably. “That’s the one with medieval scripts, and the oral traditions from Africa, isn’t it?”

Jaime looked at him with astonishment. “I know there are only a hundred or so libraries left, but how did you remember that?”

The adrenaline from his escape tilted on the axis of Jaime’s beauty, softening into something else. He managed to keep his tone light when he spoke. “I learn fast, and I needed to research libraries a few years back.” The details of the arson were best forgotten. “Plus, Africa.” He gestured at his face. “Five generations back or so, before the Blending.”

Jaime blinked. “Well, this is the last place I expected to run into a fellow book lover. We don’t get many here.” He paused. “To be honest, we don’t get many humans here. Orcs, fairies, elves, goblins, but not many humans.”

Dark shrugged. “Everyone wants to go somewhere exotic for vacation.” Considering the amount of world-hopping he did, Dark didn’t particularly feel the need. Jaime must have sensed something, because he didn’t ask the obvious question.

Instead, Jaime turned toward the small bureau next to the bed. “Well, I came out to get some clothes, so….”

Dark trailed his eyes over Jaime and the bed. “Do you want some help with that?”

There was a flicker of surprise in Jaime’s eyes, but he gave Dark a vixen’s smile. “With getting dressed?” he teased.

Dark returned the smile with interest. It wasn’t all that rare for someone to catch his attention, and he’d grown confident in his ability to pick out who would respond well to a casual suggestion. “Something like that.” Jaime laughed and tilted his head invitingly. Dark stepped forward into his space. He could smell the faint scent of damp skin rising off Jaime. He set a hand lightly on Jaime’s waist. His eyes lowered to the beginnings of an erection tenting Jaime’s towel. “Or perhaps you need help with something else?”

Jaime’s laughter was musical. Dark wondered if he had fairy blood somewhere. “That is an awful line.”

Dark leered comically. “I suppose, given your position, you should service me.”

Jaime groaned, shoulders shaking with mirth. “Stop, stop! Please, I’ll do anything.”

Dark bent down and crushed their lips together. Jaime met him eagerly, opening his mouth and sliding his tongue along Dark’s bottom lip. Dark hummed his approval, giving up his initial dominance and letting Jaime lead the kiss. He was a fantastic kisser, moving his hands into the tiny braids covering Dark’s head and angling their heads closer together. A soft scrape of teeth made Dark’s breath hitch. Jaime proved he was paying close attention by doing it again. Dark felt blood pool lower in his body as Jaime experimented with pressure. He didn’t seem satisfied until Dark was gasping noisily into his mouth, hand clenched at his waist. Dark desperately wanted to see how Jaime’s boldness extended to other activities.

When Dark pulled back a fraction, Jaime looked pleased. His eyes glittered in the low light spilling from the bathroom. Dark could tell his lips were swollen, bruised from Jaime’s attention. He took the moment without distraction to loosen his grip and run both hands up Jaime’s naked chest. Jaime was sculpted and slim. The muscles and skin felt lovely under his hands, a welcome joy after months without this sort of contact. Pleasure, Dark had always thought, was there to be sought after. He fully intended to enjoy its arrival in his life. Carefully, Dark lowered himself so he could set his lips to work. He trailed lazy kisses over Jaime’s shoulder, watching his eyes go half-lidded. He moved lower, circling Jaime’s nipples before licking over them one by one. Jaime gasped, arching his back. His towel slipped lower. With a predatory smile, Dark dropped properly to his knees.

Jaime’s hand tightened in his hair, and Dark leaned into it. Arousal shot down his spine. He palmed his crotch lazily, watching Jaime watch him. Jaime licked his lips.

“Tease,” he said. His voice was thick with lust. Dark wanted to roll in it.

“Only if I don’t follow through,” Dark said. He left off, moving both hands to bracket Jaime’s waist again. “So,” he said, thumb toying with the knot of Jaime’s towel.

Jaime’s breathing went heavy. “So,” he said. “I’m clean, but there’s a medical station here if you’re worried.”

Dark raised an eyebrow. The AIDS virus that had plagued his ancestors was thankfully a thing of the past, and nothing had arisen to take its place. The wave of illnesses that had swept through the five worlds when they first Blended left people either dead or immune. The few remaining diseases were only nuisances, so even if Jaime harbored some fairy blood, it wouldn’t affect them. This wasn’t time to dwell, though.

“Likewise,” he said. “Now, about this towel.”

Jaime blew out a shaky breath. “Thought you were here to help me… dress?”

“Mmm.” Dark dragged his lips over Jaime’s stomach, just above the towel line. He licked a hipbone, dipping under the towel where a hint of moisture still lingered. Jaime groaned. Dark loosened the knot and let the towel slip to the floor. Jaime’s cock was long and slender, springing up from a nest of silky black hair. Dark buried his nose in the crease of his thigh, opening his mouth to lick softly through the hair. Jaime tasted amazing, hot and perfect. Dark nudged forward, nosing at Jaime’s balls. He wrapped one hand around Jaime’s thigh, to steady him, and brought the other up to roll his balls softly. Jaime panted in response. He tongued them, loving the feel of the delicate skin against his mouth.

After a minute, Jaime tightened the hand in Dark’s hair, pulling him back. Dark went willingly. Jaime’s cock rubbed against his cheek. He turned his head to mouth at it. Jaime’s hand loosened and he thrust forward, making a hungry noise in his throat. Dark kneaded the skin of Jaime’s cock with his mouth, moving from the base back to the tip. He extended a delicate tongue and licked the moisture there, a thousand times better than the water on Jaime’s skin. Dark sank into the sensation, opening his lips around Jaime and swallowing him down. Jaime felt good in his mouth. He worked his tongue down the vein throbbing on the underside of Jaime’s cock, pausing to rub just behind the head. His precome tasted sweet. Either he’d drunk a vat of pomegranate juice recently, or the suspected fairy blood was fact. It would certainly explain the ease they’d had falling into bed together. Most men didn’t have sex so casually in the Earth world, though Dark supposed Jaime might be from one of the other human worlds. Athos, perhaps.

Jaime grasped at Dark’s shoulders, teetering precariously. Dark pulled him closer, hands sliding smoothly down his silky thighs. Jaime widened his stance under Dark’s questing fingers. Dark stopped short of his ass, not wanting to be told “no” but also wanting to prevent any misunderstandings. With Jaime’s cock pulsing in his mouth, stretching his jaw wide, it seemed like a bad time to stop and discuss preferences beyond the immediate.

“Ah,” Jaime gasped. His hips worked in little involuntary thrusts. Dark placed a hand on Jaime’s ass, pushing wordless permission. Jaime looked down at Dark, surprise and desire clear in the slackness of his mouth. Dark met his gaze boldly. Jaime slid forward again, a little harder. Dark groaned in approval, sucking hard. He let his jaw drop that last little bit, making an “o” of his mouth. Jaime panted, knees flexing as he fucked Dark’s mouth. Everything spun, narrowing down to pressure and pleasure. With a strangled cry, Jaime came, spurting sweet on Dark’s tongue. He swallowed, tongue reaching out for more, following Jaime back. Laughing, Jaime stepped out of Dark’s reach. Dark could see the fine tremor in the muscles of his thighs.

“Now my turn,” Jaime said with a grin. He fell to the floor, curling his body over Dark. He kissed him, licking Dark’s lips and into his mouth. After a moment, it occurred to Dark that Jaime was chasing the taste of his come. It made little sparks dance behind his eyes. He lifted his hands to Jaime’s back, but Jaime reached up and pushed his hands away. Dark was confused for a second.

Jaime pulled back, his smile wicked. He used his grip on Dark’s hands to put them on the ground behind Dark’s hips. “Stay,” Jaime said. “I know what you like.”

Dark curled his fingers into the carpet and bucked his hips. He was dizzy with how much he wanted. “Please.”

Jaime cupped Dark’s cock through his clothes. He gave him a long, slow stroke. “I could make this take all day.”

The honeyed words wrenched another groan from Dark. He felt himself pulse under Jaime’s tormenting hand. He licked his lips; let himself slip under a little. His voice was soft when he spoke, less demanding. “Please?”

Something like awe flickered in Jaime’s eyes. He leaned forward for another kiss, hot and deep. “Well,” he said against Dark’s lips, “since you asked so nicely.”

Dark didn’t squirm as Jaime worked his pants down his thighs, moving only as Jaime directed. Jaime grasped him firmly. “This,” he said, “is a very nice cock.”

Dark worked his throat, swallowing around sudden dryness. “Thank you,” he rasped. His eyes closed against the pleasure. He was already close, aching from sucking Jaime off. He registered movement a split second before Jaime’s hair brushed his thighs and wetness surrounded the tip of his cock.

“Aah!” With a sharp, helpless judder, Dark came.

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