Zen is a darkling -- half human, half dark elf -- in a world that hates him, protected only by having been raised by the Order of the Sun to become a priest. He continues to fail to rise above being an acolyte despite having come of age and longs for a different life, one he only glimpses in dreams when he is with a mysterious, beautiful man he wishes was real.
After encountering an adventuring party made up entirely of other half-races, Zen is drawn to accompany them on their quest to find and destroy a fabled vampire lord. However, the pull he feels toward those lands might be more fated than he realizes.
That night, before falling into an exhausted sleep -- in his tiny, wooden bed with minimal padding and coarse blankets -- Zen gently touched the scar that ran full circle around his neck. He tried ignoring it during the day, hidden by the high collar of his vestments, but in bed, out of his robes, his fingers often strayed there.
He didn’t know what had caused the wire-thin line. He’d had it all his life and often wondered if it had been a failed attempt to kill him as an infant. Like Father Lewis had said, he’d been abandoned on the steps of the temple.
No one wanted a darkling child.
Zen’s existence, his life, was most people’s nightmare, which was why it amazed and yet soothed him that he never experienced nightmares himself. His dreams were sweet. There he had no scars. In his dreams, he was whole and wanted.
A warm, human hand trailed slowly across Zen’s unmarred neck and down his naked body. Here his bed was plush and opulent, or perhaps it belonged to the man he imagined himself with. Zen had never met anyone like him in waking life, yet every dream he’d had since he first knew he desired men starred the same mysterious figure.
Zen never saw his face clearly, but he was still a vision of noble beauty. Skin pale as cream with soft color in his cheeks, neatly trimmed black hair that occasionally fell into his eyes -- and oh, his eyes. Some might think them haunting or eerie, being such a rich, ruddy brown that they almost looked red, but Zen adored them. He adored the smooth, flawless form laid out beside him, trim but well-muscled, and as naked as he was.
Still, all those features painted an incomplete picture that he could never quite bring into focus.
The man’s sex was impressive though, no doubt conjured from Zen’s most carnal fantasies, as ruddy as his eyes, swollen and leaking wetness onto the sheets. Zen had often longed to know the feel of it in his hands, his mouth, and deep inside him, but his dreams never allowed more than a tease.
Zen didn’t know the man’s name and had never made one up, but he thought of him as an angel, giving him pleasures where real life never could.
“You are a beautiful crystalline snowflake, my love, silver and blue and pure blinding white.” He kissed Zen’s cheek, his fingertips tracing mischievously down Zen’s stomach. His other hand ran blunt nails through Zen’s short white hair.
That wasn’t right. Zen kept his snowy-white locks tied back, but his hair fell well past his shoulders. Like the missing scar, he was different here in the dreamworld.
“I miss you,” his angel whispered and bent to kiss Zen’s lips.
Then touch me, Zen thought, pressing upward and opening his mouth to connect them more deeply, while instantly wanting more.
He didn’t know why his mind created a human man instead of someone more like him. Maybe because humans were all he’d ever known. The man was stunning regardless and saw Zen the way he’d always wished someone would.
“Come, my love.”
Zen wanted to --
“Come to me. Come for me, my beautiful darkling, but come to me as well.”
Zen didn’t understand. How much closer could they get? His angel was between his legs, warm hand curling around him and squeezing with promise. Still, for all the lust that stirred in Zen, it was the intimacy of another kiss to his cheek that filled him with the most want.
“Please, love, come to me. Come ...” He stroked Zen firmly while licking up along one of his pointed darkling ears, inducing a deep shudder from low at the base of Zen’s spine. “Come… my Zenos.”
That wasn’t --
Zen’s eyes snapped open as if triggered by a spring, his sheets sticky and damp atop him from how he’d come before waking.
Damn it. He rarely did that, usually waking hard and unfulfilled, and then taking himself in hand. Today he’d made a mess, and it wasn’t even morning.