FOR TWO WEEKS, he awoke long before dawn. Khalid didn’t mind the loss of sleep. His love sleeping calmly in his arms was what stirred his soul. His insomnia was the maker of these moments when the sun wasn’t there yet to wake Toshio. Each morning the predawn sky cloaked their bedroom in its ghostly light. During those moments, secure in their love, Toshio and Khalid enjoyed quiet solitude. Toshio turned in his lover’s arms to press his sleeping body closer to Khalid. Smooth and warm. His heart beat strong against Khalid’s. The same rhythm.
Sighing, Toshio draped a long slender arm and leg over the torso of his old warrior. Before slipping deeper into slumber. Exhaling softly, his open mouth blew a warm, intimate breath over Khalid’s bare chest. These are small pieces of time that Desert Prince Khalid cherishes most. And yet fear snakes stealthily into his heart. War is coming, threatening to steal Khalid’s reason for living. The thought threatened to push him over the threshold of terror.
Khalid’s lips touch long raven hair inhaling the familiar fragrance of patchouli and tribal herbs. The warrior's big hand slid carefully under the white linen to lightly touch his lover's smooth long back to the curve that bloomed into firm glutes. Toshio moaned and, still in sleep, pressed his morning erection against Khalid’s thigh. Then pressed his lips to Khalid’s chest before snuggling closer. Never had the old warrior known such love.
Today he would tell Toshio that he was leaving him behind. He hoped the surprise he planned would alleviate a little pain and anguish—or, worst, feelings of betrayal. Khalid gently eased from his lover’s arms. He paused at the bedside, fascinated as always by Toshio’s beauty.
My beautiful young, proud samurai. You’ll be heartbroken and maybe hate me. But what else can I do? I love you too much to allow you into a battle that will surely take this life from me. Losing you can’t be.
He watched for a moment to ensure Toshio didn’t wake up. Bending to retrieve his loungers, Khalid brushed a tear aside. Toshio was excited and happy about today’s event. But he didn’t know that tribal royalty was coming to witness their mating. Their Teacher, Athtar, would preside over the joining. Toshio wanted a wedding, so the family organized an elaborate celebration in the rooftop garden. Many would see Tosh for the first time.
But the war was looming. The final objective of this tribal battle was to wrench global chaos from the hands of his niece Rachel. The young Lord Toshio, remembering the last battle, insisted that he’d not be left safely on his family estate with Joshua. The only other human mate in the family. Years had passed since the last battle with Rachel. Her armies were stronger. Khalid’s niece was formidable and committed to the destruction of her family. The tip of her blade was aimed at the heart of her Grandmother, Meretneith, the Protectress. This would be the bloodiest of all battles.
Although he and the Protectress spent the last few years training the young lord, Toshio was not born “Tribe.” His human body would never survive in a blade fight against Rachel’s fighters. Khalid trained many of the fighters he’d meet in battle. And he shuddered, thinking about ending their lives. But they chose to fight at Rachel’s side.
* * * * *
KHALID, THE DESERT PRINCE, went where he allowed himself to let go. To think. To find solutions. His music room.
The seasoned warrior had fought in thousands of wars. He’d fought by his brother, Merneptah’s side, since he was eighteen. At 657 years old, on his last birthday, He’d killed thousands in his lifetime. It wasn’t the thought of killing or being killed that robbed him of sleep and sanity. It was the looming terror of losing Toshio in battle.
After the Protectors’ family acquired the intel that Rachel’s War was finally upon them, Khalid began training his young lord hard every day. Lord Toshio Tokugawa had trained all his life and was a skilled bladesman. But no match for a Hyksos Offspring warrior. Last night after their passion was spent and Toshio slipped into slumber, Khalid had to admit to himself the reality that Toshio would never survive an Offspring fighter.
Their private chambers were one level below the large atrium dome where today’s celebrations would be held. One level below that was Khalid’s private music room and smaller atrium. Where he and Toshio first discovered their love. Barechested, the big fighter descended the stairs that ran along the exterior of his mountain fortress. Chilly predawn desert winds lifted the waist-length tight waves and whipped his loungers. He could hear his cousins and caregivers moving in the rooftop atrium attending to their predawn tasks for the ceremony. They were always aware of his presence and knew not to disturb his solitude.
The stairs ended on a small landing and balcony hanging over the gorge and its rapids. Khalid’s home was flanked by other red mountain crests that held the homes of the Protectors’ families. Each with its own home. His father, Ptah, Merneptah, his mate Aisha, and son Obediah homes further down the gorge at the river’s bend. And directly across from his mountain was his other nephew Seth and his mate Joshua.
Pushing through the glass doors, he walked into the quiet of his green sanctum. Here was peace.