A young monk is given the chance to redeem himself from scandal when he is called upon to train a young woman and her two bonded mates in the orgasmic arts. But what starts as a simple ritual soon turns carnal when the monk’s heart begins to yearn for the woman, and hers for his.
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Chanyn’s heart pounded rapid fire, like the percussion of a woodpecker’s beak, as she glanced up at what opportunity brought to her door. Two men stalked into her home.
In all her twenty years, she’d never seen a man in the flesh. The unexpected guests could be her salvation. Or they could cause her serious harm. Crouched behind a shelf, Chanyn watched the two figures thumb through her belongings.
Just an hour ago, the sound of their conveyance startled her from her work in the garden. Their solar car glided over the city limits and parked on her street. Diesel cars and trucks littered the decayed streets of the city, but none of the centuries old relics were remotely operational. It marked the third time a solar car skirted the edges of the city. The first occurrence happened when she was seven years old, the second, shortly after her fourteenth birthday. Each time, the protective windows of the conveyances had been up, and Chanyn, too far away to see in any case, couldn’t glimpse the occupants inside. Neither of those two cars ventured into the deserted city. Why would they? No one would want to try to survive in these ruins.
The two men had opened the doors and disembarked from the vehicle. From the rooftops of the city, Chanyn tracked the men. To her utter surprise, they wandered around for a quarter of an hour before making purposeful progress towards her home.
Trying the door and finding it locked, one male climbed in through a window. A moment later, he let the second one in through the door.
Chanyn climbed down from the roof and let herself into her now occupied home. There had never been more than two people inside her home in all her life, and never any males.
Her mind told her she should be afraid. Men, her mother taught her, were dangerous creatures. But Chanyn’s jammering heartbeat slowed as she watched the two males skim through the pages of her mother’s beloved texts.
The first one, the window prowler, stood taller and broader than his partner, his skin the deep brown of the fertile earth. His broad shoulders strained the cotton shirt that clung to his back. Chanyn saw each movement of his muscled bicep as he pinched the pages, and then long, capable fingers followed each piece of parchment down as he perused the words. The oddly sensual movement awakened something deep inside Chanyn. The man’s eyes, the cloudless blue of the sky, kept looking up and peering around. They had narrowed on a spot near Chanyn’s hiding place, twice now; looking directly at the shelf behind which she’d concealed herself.
Certain he could sense her presence, Chanyn held her breath. But each time she thought she’d been caught, his attention was drawn back to the book in his hand.
“This is a waste of time, Khi.”
Chanyn’s attention switched to the other man. Her breath caught and she shoved her fist into her mouth to quiet herself.
“We’re not going to find anything in here,” the second man continued.
His voice was what Chanyn imagined music sounded like. The tone reverberated through her body and left her senses humming. But it was his face that made her heartbeat speed up to a woodpecker’s tempo once more. He was golden. Just like the man on the covers of her romance novels. A golden mane of hair radiated from his head, like the rays of the sun. His eyes were light, like his companion’s, but not blue. From this distance, Chanyn couldn’t quite tell which color. Maybe green? Maybe golden?
Whatever their color, Chanyn clearly saw the sadness in them. It mirrored the downcast lines of his lips.
To be sure, the man wasn’t frowning; his face seemed incapable of the scowl required for the expression. Chanyn was an expert on the frown. It was the only expression her mother wore. It came in a myriad of minor quirks of the lips.
There was the Chanyn-I-can’t-believe-you-don’t-understand-this-simple-concept frown.
Or the Chanyn-please-calm-your-excitement-over-the-colors-in-a-flower frown.
“I’m not giving up,” said the other man, Khi. “I’m never going to give up, Dain.”
Khi turned from Dain and grabbed another book off the shelf.
That’s when Chanyn noticed that the men stood in the reference section of her home. Specifically the medical reference section. All these tomes contained information of chemical and procedural remedies from the twenty-first century. Ancient prescriptions no longer used, all these centuries after The Great Destruction. The section was small. Only a select few titles had been copied from the brittle, wood-based paper of the twentieth century onto the durable, alkaline-based materials that could last for centuries.
Dain walked over to Khi. Chanyn could see that Dain, who still would easily tower over her, was perhaps an inch shorter than Khi, and a degree less broad. Dain’s hand came to rest on Khi’s shoulder, another hand on Khi’s hip. It brought to Chanyn’s mind the dance called the waltz. In the novels she read, of times long past, men would dance with women at arm’s length, and twirl them around the room in circles. This is how the two men looked, but in reverse as they were front to back.
Dain leaned in to speak quietly to Khi. Khi wore a determined scowl on his face as he continued to peruse the books.
“Khial,” Dain said softly in that lyrical voice of his, but loudly enough for Chanyn to hear. “This is one fight you can’t protect me from.”
Khial pinched another page, muscles tense.
Dain rested his golden head against the back of Khial’s shoulder. The spun gold making a lovely contrast against the rich brown.
Khial’s deep voice, when he spoke, was matter-of-fact. It betrayed the emotion on his face. “I’m not giving up on you, Dain. I’ll find it. Then I’ll make you take it. And you will like it.”
Dain chuckled at that, a light rumble rolled across the back of his shoulders.
Chanyn saw Khial’s face. She saw through the young man’s bravado. Whatever was wrong, it affected Khial deeply. These men clearly had come here searching for help. Specifically, for information. Chanyn had grown up in the stacks of these books. If there was anything her mother taught her well, it was to find information. If she helped them with their salvation, perhaps they’d help her with her own.
Decision made, Chanyn rose from her hiding spot. Before she could make her approach, a loud squeal cracked the air.
The men had left the barred door open to the outside wild. Every human head turned to the entrance as a wild boar charged into the room.
Before Chanyn could move, Khial shoved Dain behind him, then grabbed a chair and swung it at the boar. The flimsy plastic made contact, but it was flimsy plastic, and only served to irritate the large animal.
The boar charged, its horned snout catching Khial in the thigh. Blood spilled. Khial went down to a knee. The boar retreated.
Khial clutched his bleeding leg looking up at the boar, now on eye level.
The animal grunted. Khial did the same, a murderous look in both animal and man’s eyes.
Dain stood beside Khial, but Khial held him back with his forearm.
The boar charged.
Two gunshots rang through the air. The boar went down. Its head crashed not four feet from the men. Both men looked up at the direction of the gunshots and their eyes landed on Chanyn.
There was far more shock on the men’s faces as they eyed her than when they’d faced the wild animal. Chanyn took this as her due, certain she appeared wilder than anything they’d seen in the ruins she lived in. She hadn’t bothered to run a brush through her hair in days. Her leggings were caked with dirt from her morning tilling in the small garden out back. And in her hand, she held a weapon she knew was outlawed in the civilized city these men came from.
Chanyn lowered the firearm. Her aim hadn’t been true and the boar squealed in agony. She put the gun in its holster and withdrew a dagger from her boot. An audible gasp escaped from Dain. His eyes -they were green by the way- opened wide at the sight of the blade.
Great! Chanyn had come face to face with the man of her dreams and, instead of swooning like a Victorian heroine, she’d dispatched of the danger herself. Completely emasculating not one, but two, men. Aw, well, at least she was now certain she faced no danger from these two males. And she didn’t have to go out and hunt for tonight’s dinner. It had been delivered.
Chanyn approached the boar. Khial’s muscled forearms spread out protectively before Dain. She slowly dropped to her knees and plunged the dagger into the heart of the animal. Once the animal stopped clinging to life, Chanyn raised wary eyes to the men. Khial’s forearm stayed stiff in front of Dain, his leg still oozing blood. Khial’s eyes, though no longer suspicious, were clearly on guard. Of course they were; she was another wild animal.
Chanyn chanced a glance at the golden haired Dain, expecting more of the same.
What she saw caught her breath. Dain looked at her in awe, a slow beam of light glancing off his up-tilting lips and shinning across his face. His voice, when he spoke, brimmed with wonder.
“Are you an angel?” he asked.
Chanyn blinked. She opened her mouth, but to her utter horror and further embarrassment, only a grunt came out.
Khial narrowed his eyes at her, like she was a fool.
Dain’s wonder dimmed.
Chanyn’s shoulders slumped.
Her entire life her mother had called her a chatterbox and demanded quiet from her. If her mother had truly wanted quiet, she wouldn’t have taught Chanyn to talk or read, and then brought her out into the middle of nowhere with no one but herself as company.
Chanyn tried to clear her throat, but it seized, and more unintelligible, unladylike, sounds emanated from her person. Her voice hadn’t been used in months. And apparently, it had no intentions of working any time soon.
“She’s just a girl, Dain.” Khial’s statement rang as an accusation. His blue eyes, when Chanyn met them, threw crystal daggers at her.
But Dain continued to gape at her in wonder. She decided to focus on that glorious face that filled so many of her fantasies while she read at night, and daydreamed all morning. The sight of blood oozing from Khial’s leg stole that intention away.
Chanyn reached into her side pouch, which contained a kit of bandages and healing ointments. When she reached towards Khial with the materials, he jerked from her, suspicion once more in his eyes.
Dain reached out his hands and took the materials from her. His soft fingers lingering on her rough skin as he did. “I thank you for this,” he said in that quiet, lyrical voice of his.
Chanyn’s lips still wouldn’t let out sound but they did rise in a smile.
Dain mirrored the movement.
Khial sat up, the movement causing Dain’s attention to break from Chanyn and travel back to him. Dain made quick work of Khial’s injuries, while Chanyn knelt nearby, helpless.
The damsel in distress didn’t work for her. Neither did the nursemaid. Having no way of impressing the men with her missing gift of gab, Chanyn decided she could take a clue from the heroines of her twentieth century romance novels and prepare the meal. Food was the way to a man’s heart; she’d read that over and over again.
Chanyn took her dagger and began skinning the boar.
“What’s a female doing out in the Wasted Lands, alone?” Dain asked. His eyes queried Chanyn as he tightened the bandage on Khial’s leg. The blood didn’t seep through the bandage, a good indication that the wound would close and heal quickly.
When he finished, Dain came closer to Chanyn as her knife made steady work of the skin on the boar’s hide.
Dain reached his hand out for the knife. “This is no work for a woman.”
Startled, Chanyn glanced up. This had always been her job. Hunting fresh meat for her mother. Tending the garden. Preparing all the food. Scouting for supplies in the ruins. Her mother never once extended a hand to help.
Dain’s eyes were both earnest and eager. Chanyn handed over her dagger. With strong hands, but clumsy fingers, Dain took up the skinning.
Chanyn watched the play of his muscled arms. They weren’t as big or defined as Khial’s, but they were lovely just the same.
“My name is Dain,” he said.
“Dan,” she repeated. The word came out rough on her ill-used tongue.
Dain looked up, joy etched into his sculpted face. “Yes, that’s it. And that’s Khial.”
Though leery of the way her voice sounded, Chanyn tried the other man’s name. “Kyle,” she grumbled.
Dain let out a gleeful laugh and looked back at Khial. I taught it to talk, his grin said. Khial looked none too impressed.
“And you? What’s your name,” Dain asked.
Chanyn took a deep breath and told him her name.
“Shannon?” Dain tried.
Chanyn nodded liking the way her name sounded on his lyrical tongue. She wished she had more names, as women in her books did. First, middle, and last names. But last names denoted which patriarchal lineage you belonged to, and men no longer ruled the world.
“Are you here alone, Chanyn?”
“Yes,” Chanyn nodded, enthused now that the power of speech had returned to her. Then she froze as she caught the glint of the dagger in Dain’s hand.
Stupid girl, she chastised herself. She couldn’t remember the story of the heroine who gave the big strong man, who just happened to have broken into her home, her dagger and then told him that she was all alone with no hope of rescue. No, she couldn’t remember that story, because that heroine never lived to tell her tale.
Dain’s hand stilled in its motion of slicing the boar’s hide. The enthusiasm drained from his face as he watched her expression change.
“You know, Chanyn,” he said. “I’m not as good at this as I thought.” He turned the dagger around so that the blade faced his gut and the blunt handle faced her. “Perhaps you should take over once more.”
Looking into transparent green eyes, Chanyn took the dagger back and began skinning once more. Dain continued his line of questioning.
“How did a woman come to be alone in these ruins?”
“I wasn’t always alone. My mother was here with me.”
“And she is no longer?”
“No. She is no longer.”
Chanyn allowed the weight of those words to sink in. Her mother returned to the Goddess five months before. In the months since, Chanyn debated whether or not to leave the ruins. She possessed no conveyance. The vehicle she and her mother arrived in nearly two decades ago had long been defunct. Chanyn wasn’t certain which direction to travel. Her mother would never tell her exactly where they were located, nor from which direction they had originated. Her mother had never wanted to go back and, while she lived, Chanyn had no choice in the matter.
“How is it that there are no men to protect or provide for you?” Dain asked.
Chanyn shrugged. Her mother had an absolute distaste for men and preferred to live in solitude than anywhere near the foul creatures. All her life, Chanyn heard tales of the horrors of men. Men caused the wars that killed millions of people centuries ago. And worse, men upset the delicate balance of the ecosystem that put holes in the sky, caused the waters to rise, and brought on Mother Nature’s wrath.
Everything was men’s fault, Chanyn’s mother insisted.
Chanyn spent much of her time in the non-fiction section of their home and learned the truth of much of her mother’s words. Men did cause untold destruction on the world. Destruction, her mother told her, that it took women centuries to set right. But men hadn’t always been that way. Men had been capable of great love.
At night, Chanyn would crack open novels from the fiction section, a section of their home her mother paid no attention to. Between the covers of those banned books, Chanyn learned different tales of men. Gallant men. Chivalric men. Alpha men. Beta men.
Chanyn looked up into Dain’s kind eyes. He’d thought she was an angel. It was the way many of her romance novels began. The lovers would see each other from across a crowded room and there would be a spark.
That’s what she was feeling now. A spark.
“Dain,” Khial called from across the room. “The sun’s going down. We’ll need to be leaving soon.”
Chanyn’s heart sped up again, as though danger were approaching. “You can’t leave,” she protested. “It’s not safe to travel at night.” She pointed to the boar that was now relieved of its skin. She saw that the door remained opened.
Chanyn leaped up and closed the door, pulling the bar in place that locked it. It was for all their safety, of course.
She turned back and faced the men. “This beast was nothing compared to what’s out there in the darkness.”
Khial glared. But it wasn’t his attention Chanyn was after. She looked to Dain.
“Thank you, Lady Chanyn. We are honored to have your hospitality and the safety of your domicile.” Dain smiled.
Chanyn’s heartbeat slowed and nearly came to a halt. The halt, she determined, was her heart skipping a beat.
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