Thom McDoffrey is shocked when he’s waylaid outside camp by Kaiser, the strange warrior he’d fought a few nights before. He listens as Kaiser speaks of treasure and adventure and freedom. Being the youngest son of a known thief, Thom has worked diligently to live honorably, choosing the hard life of a mercenary in Chieftain Goth’s employ. This, however, is an opportunity too good to pass up. Especially when Kaiser promises that the treasure would be freely given, because the owner needs a boon. Giving in to temptation, Thom agrees. Upon arriving in Karstelle Valley, Thom discovers that he is the boon…Kaiser is completing the favor of bringing a human to a dragon. Feeling betrayed, Thom flees. When the dragon tracks him down, will Thom give in to curiosity, see why the dragon wants him, or keep running?
Thom McDoffrey peered up at the cliff wall and frowned. He looked down at his map, then the wall again. For a few seconds, he toyed with the idea that the stranger he’d fought over a week before had given him faulty directions. Nay, the man, Kaiser, had snuck into camp two days after the fight—at great peril to himself—to speak with Thom.
Remembering the conversation, Thom still shook his head at his body’s treacherous reactions. He’d never gotten hard for a man before, but shite, that breeches-clad stranger had been sexy. When they’d fought and his lean, toned, hard body had hovered over his own, demanding submission…Thom had wanted to give it, in more ways than one.
It’d been…unsettling. He’d overheard men fucking, soldiers far from home for moons at a time, seeking pleasure and release. He’d even thought about doing it himself, but had never found a male that interested him enough to try. Hell, Thom didn’t even know for certain how to go about propositioning another man. Barmaids were easy. Those women knew what was expected.
Remembering fighting Kaiser though, his confusion at his own body’s reactions had quickly transformed into indecision. He’d lost the fight and suffered the wrath of his chieftain for it. The skin of his back still twinged when he turned the wrong way or pressed against it too hard.
Then, to add insult to injury, Kaiser had managed to slip past their watchmen, although, only Thom knew about that. He’d been headed into the woods at the edge of camp to take a piss before sleep when Kaiser had waylaid him in the woods.
Good thing Thom had already eased his bladder.
“Easy, highlander,” Kaiser said.
His back against a tree, Thom just managed to hide his wince—his freshly healing skin reminding him of his failure where this man was concerned—as he stared in shock at the dark-haired, bronzed skin man. How the hell did Kaiser get past the guard? Thom knew the watchman must be only thirty paces to the west.
Knowing if Kaiser was caught, he’d most likely be detained as a prisoner—and Thom didn’t want to think about why he found that thought unsettling—he hissed, “What are ye doin’ here?”
A corner of Kaiser’s lip curved in a cocky smile. “Well, you see, we didn’t get a chance to speak alone the other day.”
“Why would we need to speak alone?” Since when did warriors in opposite armies break bread together? Although a truce had been called between the two groups—and Thom had already overheard Chieftain Goth discussing ways around the wording of their agreement—there certainly wasn’t peace between their groups.
“You see, I think you’re a man who’d be interested in certain kinds of…treasure?” A corner of Kaiser’s lip curved into a smirk. “Would that be correct?”
“Treasure?” Thom’s brows furrowed and he scowled at the man.
Thom’s father had been a small time thief and both of his older brothers had followed in the man’s footsteps. As the youngest son, others had always assumed he’d become one as well. Striving to break away from his father’s legacy, as soon as Thom had been big enough and strong enough, he’d started training with a sword. Being a mercenary hadn’t been prestigious, and he’d often gone hungry, but at least he wasn’t a thief.
Curling his lip, Thom snarled, “I’ll not steal treasure from anyone.”
Kaiser shook his head and this time, his smile appeared more sincere. “Ah, you misunderstand me. We shall not steal anyone’s treasure. The individual in question is requesting a boon, and I believe you will be able to complete it nicely.”
“So, no stealing? Ye’re certain? It’d be payment for something?” Great Gods, could this offer really be true? He’d fulfill a favor for some man and he’d be rewarded with treasure?
Nodding once, Kaiser glanced over his shoulder. “Your watchman draws near. I must go.” He grabbed Thom’s hand and pressed a parchment into it. “Should you decide you wish to accept, follow the instructions on the map. Build a fire where indicated, and I will come to you within three days’ time.”
Instinctively, Thom clutched the paper. Uncertain how to reply, he just stared at the man.
Kaiser looked over his shoulder, then peered at him again. “I hope you’ll accept, Thom McDoffrey.” Seconds later, Kaiser melted silently into the darkness.2