Saturday, 3 March 2012
Alike As Two Bees Giveaway
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Horses, love, and the tang of thyme and honey...
In Classical Greece, apprentice sculptor Philon has chosen the ideal horse to model for his masterpiece. Sadly, the rider falls well short of the ideal of beauty, but scarred and tattered Hilarion, with his brilliant, imperfect smile, draws Philon in a way that mere perfection cannot.
After years of living among the free and easy tribes of the north, Hilarion has no patience with Athenian formality. He knows what he wants—and what he wants is Philon. Society, friends and family threaten their growing relationship, but perhaps a scarred soldier and a lover of beauty are more alike than they appear.
Given an appreciative audience, the horsemen were bound to show off a little. They raced toward Philon almost knee to knee, but parted neatly to pass him by. He turned on his heels to watch them go, but they pulled up, setting their horses to prance. The youth on the black horse made his mount rear, forehooves pawing, his eyes on the brown-bearded man on the gray who laughed and called him to his side. The man on the chestnut laughed too, then trotted the mare back and pulled her up a pace or two away from Philon. He smiled. “Hello, sculptor. A fine day for swimming.”
“Hello, rider,” Philon said. The man was fine-boned and lightweight, but well muscled in his chest and shoulders. On his left thigh was a long, pale pink scar, curving like a smile against the brown skin—a sword cut?—suggesting his horsemanship had been gained on the battlefield rather than just the riding square. The brief exomis he wore was frayed at the edges where the embroidered braid, once expensive, was threadbare, and it had fallen from his shoulder to gather in sodden folds in his lap. The sparse hairs on his chest looked like fine wires of gold.
“A good day for a gallop,” Philon said. “Your mare is beautiful.”
“She is,” the man agreed and gave her a little nudge so she arched her neck, sidling closer. Philon raised his hand to place it on the mare’s glossy hide and stroked down her neck to her shoulder until his hand was an inch or two from the rider’s sweat-sheened thigh.
“Her name is Charis,” the rider said, reaching forward to tug one of her ears.
“Charis,” Philon said. He grinned as the mare turned her head to lip at his chest.
“She won’t bite. She just likes the salt,” the rider assured him. “I know your name too. I asked about the sculptor’s apprentice. I said, ‘No, not the boy. I want to know the name of the youth.’”
The warmth in Philon’s face was suddenly not just due to the sun. “I don’t know who to ask to find out your name,” he admitted.
“You won’t need to ask if I tell you. I’m Hilarion.” Hilarion’s smile was very white, aside from the missing tooth just below the scar at the left side of his lip. He didn’t seem at all self-conscious about either. Philon returned the smile and patted the mare’s neck again in lieu of thinking of something to say.
Hilarion’s eyes crinkled still further at the corners. “Can you ride? My mare will take double on the sand.”
“I…I don’t know.” Philon felt himself flush again. “I’ve ridden a mule sometimes on the way to collect something.”
“A mule?” The rider of the gray horse shouted a laugh, echoed by the youth on the black, but Philon felt they were laughing at Hilarion rather than him.
Hilarion grinned. “Linos,” he called. When the brown-bearded man looked at him, Hilarion made a gesture to his friend Philon had never seen before. Linos laughed and made it back. “Charis is not a mule,” Hilarion said, hitching himself farther along his horse’s back. “Come. You can sit in front of me. Don’t worry. I won’t let you fall.”
He offered his hand and Philon stared at it, imagining the sleek chestnut hide under his thighs and Hilarion’s arms supporting him, holding him tight. He had been warned that there were some men who might take liberties. Hilarion’s gap-toothed smile seemed genuine enough but…