Allen waited until the car started to move, then threw open the door and bolted into the crowd of people packing the city square.
Like fucking hell he was going to yet another one of his father’s dinners. He was tired of it all. One more stupid fucking glad-handing dinners with all those backstabbing barracudas and he was going to have a fourth murder to his name.
Grimacing, he walked faster, ducked down an alleyway, then down a side alley. He tested doors as he went, finally hitting pay dirt when one opened. He slipped inside what proved to be some storage room, dusty and neglected.
Locking the door behind him, he pushed through the junk-ridden room, wondering what in the hell kind of business he was in that allowed so much crap just to pile up, and why they would use a room connected to the back exit for storage. Sloppy work.
Reaching the door that led to the main part of the building, Allen paused, pressed his ear against the door, listening intently. Nothing. He grasped the knob, twisted it, pulled the door open the barest bit, and then listened again. Still he heard nothing.
He continued the process for several minutes, opening the door a little more, listening, eventually adding looking, until he was confident he would not be immediately caught. Slipping out of the musty storage room, he slipped into a room of dim but clear light, showing off a collection of portraits.
Exceptional portraits, exceptional enough Allen wondered why he did not know the artist. He examined a few, unable to resist such exquisite work. Every portrait was of a man or a woman, a rare pair, captured in some idle moment. A woman brushing her hair, a man reading a book, another man working on a car, a man and a woman dancing.
But they all looked sad, somehow. It was nothing obvious, they were smiling or relaxed or focused on their work—but the sadness was there, deep down. Like…Allen frowned thoughtfully. Like they were waiting, he decided, and had been waiting for so long they were beginning to lose hope.
Shaking off the strange thought, reminding himself he needed to keep moving or he risked being found and dragged back to the Land of Political Fuckwittery, he walked onward, through another gallery, and another.
Eventually, he was forced to concede he was lost. All he had found was a labyrinth of galleries, and a single door that was marked ‘permanent exhibits, closed until further notice’. That door was sealed with magic so heavy it had left his skin tingling and his hand numb for an hour after he had tried to open it.
Really, he should have caught on faster than the entire damn place was magic.
Sighing, Allen sat down on a plush bench in a secluded little corner gallery that he had not managed to come across before, though he swore he had seen every room in the place at least three times. But this room, he definitely did not recognize.
It had only three paintings in it, and the lighting was darker than usual. He half thought someone had wanted the room to be forgotten, overlooked. Allen sighed again, and leaned his head against the wall, ignoring the paintings even as curiosity nagged him. Though he loved art, and normally would be more than happy to examine each painting for hours at a time, right now he was acutely aware that if he did not get a move on soon, he would miss his flight and be back in his father’s grasp before morning.
And though he had no qualms with killing, he did not want to go to jail for it—at least, not because he finally snapped and shot his father point blank in the face. His hands curled into fists briefly, before he made himself relax.
He looked at the paintings more closely, because he was not thinking clearly. He would gain nothing by worrying about what might happen, and would only tire himself if he continued to worry and wander. So he would rest here, then try more methodically to get out of the labyrinth in which he had lost himself.
The first painting was of a well-formed man chained to a wall. He had pale skin, white hair, long and lustrous, falling to his waist. Slender, but with beautifully hone muscles. Heavy chains of some greenish-toned metal secured his wrists to a white-stoned wall. More chains secured his ankles, holding him spread eagled against the wall. He was also blind-folded, the livid red silk a stark contrast to all the bright, sharp white. It almost seemed obscene, somehow, that strip of red. The man was completely naked, save for that blindfold. His lips, as pale as the rest of him, were curved in a small smirk that seemed a challenge.
Shaking his head, intrigued now, Allen turned to the second portrait. Two were on this wall, only one on the adjoining, the remaining two walls bare of paintings. The second portrait was of a man tied to a table. No, Allen realized. An altar. A black marble altar. This time, the man’s hands were bound together, his ankles as well, bound by dark violet ribbon to the ends of the altar. His hair was shaved close to his head, and intricate tattoos covered damn near every last inch of his body. He seemed to be asleep, or perhaps meditating.
Interesting. Allen started to turn away, when he noticed there was writing beneath the painting—beneath all of them. The painting of the man on the altar was titled The Sacrificed Priest. The portrait of the blind-folded man was called The Basilisk Betrayed.
Allen turned to the last painting, hanging alone on the farthest wall, almost easy to miss in the barely lit room, eyes going first to the scripted letters on a plate of gold beneath the painting. It said simply The Assassin Surrendered.
Curious snared hard by the strange title, Allen finally looked up at the portrait, and felt his breath catch in his throat.
His father had three assassins on the payroll. Plain, unremarkable men, save for the frigidness in their eyes. There had been four, but John’s body had been fished out of a river one day. No one ever figured out who finally put a bullet in one of the finest killer’s on the east coast, but then again, no one asked many questions when killers got killed.
All to the good, Allen had always thought. He didn’t need his father knowing he’d been the one cap John. That had been his first intended kill, but not premeditated. No, Allen had saved premeditation for his backstabbing, black-hearted, cradle-robbing girlfriend.
Like the other two paintings, the man in this portrait was tied up. He was in a dark cell, moonlight or something streaming through the bars to cast faint threads of light upon his naked body. Slender, extremely so, lithe and long and sinuous. Any thinner and he’d be too skinny, but then again, Allen had no taste for bulky men. He was already too much like his tall, broad father, and men of such builds reminded him too much of everything he wanted to escape.
Soft-looking brown hair fell in the man’s face in gentle waves that could almost be actual curls. He was neither blind-folded nor asleep, but stared directly out of the portrait with the most vivid green eyes Allen had ever seen. His expression was blank, as though he did not care about a single thing, not even the fact that he was on his knees, arms stretched up, spread apart, chained to the ceiling.
There was something about those eyes, the careful lack of anything in them, that called to Allen. He knew all too well what it was like to pretend to feel nothing, until you started to fear you were no longer pretending.
He reached out, almost unthinkingly, to lightly touched the painted face—and gasped, jerked, when he touched flesh. Stepping back, he froze at the sound of his shoes scuffing on stone, on the moonlit-dark surrounding him, the smell of mold and damp.
Looking around, he realized he was in the portrait. Magic. Why could his family not be normal? He often wondered how many other Righteous, Upstanding Congressmen practiced demonology the way his father did, if they practiced other things. He’d always longed, growing up, to live in a home that knew nothing of demons and sacrifice and everything else that had driven him to the breaking point.
“A visitor,” the man rumbled, some strange accent to his voice. “I never thought Silenus would permit anyone to see me.”
“Who is Silenus?” Allen asked, then shook his head. “Who are you?”
The man looked at him with something that might have been amusement, though his expression never really changed. “Silenus is king of the Satyr, he owns the Gallery in which you found me. You have not met Silenus?”
“No,” Allen said. “I wandered into the Gallery by chance, escaping my father’s goons.”
The man laughed that time. “No one comes to a place such as the Gallery by chance, though I admit I know not why you are here, in my painting, my prison.”
“Why are you here?” Allen asked, moving closer again, curiosity getting the better of him. He wanted to touch the man again, trace his pale lips with one finger, then sink his hands into the man’s hair—
He forced the distracting thoughts aside; this was no time to be thinking with his dick.
“Because I was hired to kill Silenus, and Silenus did not find it amusing,” the man said, moving his shoulders briefly in an obvious attempt to shrug, before he remembered the chains made that impossible. “He bound me here, and no doubt did far worse to the man who hired me.”
“The title of your painting indicates that you surrendered,” Allen said, moving to more closely examine one of the bound wrists. He was surprised to find there appeared to be no damage the man’s skin, no damage at all, but perhaps that was part of the magic.
The man shivered at his light touch, giving Allen pause. He touched the man again, and the shiver repeated.
“Did you surrender?” Allen asked.
“Yes,” the man replied, a sliver of tension in his voice that hadn’t been there before. “I was under orders, and attempted to follow them, but I had very little interest in obeying. Silenus defeated me, and I surrendered.”
Allen touched the man’s face, unable to stop, fascinated by the way the man’s stoicism seemed to be melting away simply at a few light touches. “Why?” asked. “You’re an assassin, yes? Why would you surrender instead of doing your best to kill?”
The man said nothing, only looked straight ahead. When Allen touched him a fourth time, he did not shiver.
But Allen knew this game, knew it very well. Perhaps it was just his fucked up life that made him like it, but then again, maybe he’d been born wanting it.
Whatever, the reason, he stopped resisting the heat pooling low in his belly, the want already starting to make his cock harden in his jeans. He might be fleeing his father, he might be trapped in a damn painting in a fucked up gallery, but he’d learned long ago that very little stopped want.
He cupped the man’s jaw, tilted his head up, pushed a thumb into his mouth, smirking at the way the man tried to jerk but couldn’t, the noise he made. The man’s mouth was wet, warm, teeth sharp as he bit down on Allen’s thumb.
Withdrawing it, Allen sank his hand into the man’s hair and forced his head back, forced their eyes to meet. “Why did you surrender? Why did you not kill true?”
The man stared at him, then something like surprise filled his eyes for the barest moment. “You’re a killer, too.”
“I’ve only killed three men. The first was an accident, the second one I meant to do but it was spur of the moment, the third one I planned. My father thinks he can use me as he likes,” Allen replied, and released the man’s, making a soft noise of approval when the man kept his head up, kept meeting Allen’s eyes.
“I do not like being misused,” the man replied. “I am a tool, but all tools have a way they should and should not be used. Being a killer is not the same as being a mindless killer. So I surrendered, and here I have remained ever since. How long I have been a prisoner, I do not know.”
“What’s your name?” Allen asked.
The man continued to stare at him a moment, then seemed to come to some conclusion. “Benito.”
“Italian,” Allen said. “That’s your accent—Italian.”
Benito laughed. “More or less. All of Europe was my home once, but I was partial to places in Italy that I doubt still exist. Benito was one of my names, and I no longer remember which one I had first.”
“Benito,” Allen said, tasting it, liking it. He stroked Benito’s face again, learning it, wishing there was more light. “So how long are you to be a prisoner here?”
“I do not know,” Benito replied. “I assumed it would be forever. Now I am forced to wonder why you are here.”
Allen traced Benito’s mouth the way he had been aching to do since finding himself in the painting—since seeing Benito, really. “There are only three of you in a small, dark gallery. All bound, on display, like you are being shown off—as trophies or as wares?”
Benito snorted. “Both, perhaps. A Satyr is a Satyr after all, and they seldom stop thinking with their dicks.”
“I wonder what your painting would cost me,” Allen murmured.
“The paintings are not for sale,” Benito said, openly amused now. “Do you not know anything?”
Allen laughed. “Not a thing. I was fleeing my father, got lost here, then found myself in your painting, as I said before. I thought you were beautiful, fuckable. Now here I am, stuck in the painting with you.”
“Silenus is the king of satyrs, as I said,” Benito replied. “But he’s soft-hearted. His gallery is a collection of souls waiting for true love,” he sneered the last two words, “and powerful creatures of magic who have thrown their lot in with his. If you listen hard enough in the right places, you’ll hear whispers of him. He is one of the most powerful creatures in existence, but he uses his powers for his frivolous, idiotic pursuits. There are many who would destroy entire kingdoms for a chance to possess Silenus’ power.”
“Power is only good in small doses,” Allen murmured. “At a personal level.”
Benito let out a sharp laugh, but something hot flashed in his jewel green eyes. “Is that what this? Power at a personal level?”
Allen held his gaze, surprised and yet not by his own reply. “I think I would surrender my kingdom in a moment, but fight quite ruthlessly to keep my new painting.”
“Your painting?” Benito repeated.
Reaching out, Allen fisted his hand in Benito’s hair, drew his head back even farther, then bent and bit down sharply on Benito’s throat, tasting sweat and musk. “Mine,” he said, very sure of that, though he could not say why precisely.
Benito jerked as far as his chains would let him, a rough noise escaping him.
Allen lapped at the marks he left, then mouthed his way up Benito’s throat, along his jaw, then finally kissed him. Benito bit his lip hard, making Allen grunt, drawing blood—but he didn’t break the kiss, only pressed it harder, the coppery tang of blood mingling with Benito’s sharp, spicy flavor.
It made him think briefly of all his father’s demonic workings, the blood that always needed to be offered to seal the spells, close the bargains made with creatures that Allen always thought were best left alone.
Drawing back, licking traces of his own blood from Benito’s mouth, he undid his pants and drew out his cock. “No more biting,” he murmured, and tightened his grip on Benito’s hair, pushed his cock into Benito’s mouth.
Something like laughter filled the air briefly, vibrated on his cock, and then Allen could only focus on the wet heat of Benito’s mouth, his not inconsiderable talent as he sucked, tongue working, throat working, taking it all when Allen began to fuck his mouth hard.
It was nothing like the twinks he paid from time to time, the spoiled little brats at the dinner parties and charity balls who let Allen get them drunk and high so they could excuse the things they let Allen do to them upstairs while their fathers schmoozed and bribed and bullshitted downstairs.
Benito…he didn’t just passively let Allen do anything. Even chained as he was, Benito was not passive, he was not weak. He gave what he wanted, and took what he wanted. He had chosen to surrender, not allowed himself to be taken by force. He had walked instead of killing. If he ever got free of those chains, Allen did not doubt that one day he would wake up to find himself bound, and subject to Benito’s wants.
He came hard at the sudden image, he and Benito playing somewhere, always equals, controlled only by each other, no one else pulling their strings.
Benito swallowed him down, every drop. Allen withdrew his cock, then dropped to his knees, wrapped his arms around Benito’s neck, kissed him hard and deep. He shuddered as Benito returned it full measure, and wished only that he could feel Benito’s arms around him. He would have to find a key or spell or something—
But then he heard the hard crash of metal on stone, and Benito made a rough, ragged surprised noise.
Then the air changed, the smells changed, and Allen pulled back only to realize with a start that they were once more in the gallery. He blinked at the wall over Benito’s shoulder—blank, with no sign of a painting of a man in chains, bathed in moonlight.
Instead, Benito stood with him, dressed in jeans and a dark green sweater. He was looking around the gallery in wonder—then froze.
Allen half-turned, drawing and lifting his Beretta in one smooth, easy move. He stared coolly at the handsome man in the doorway, able to feel the magic that radiated from him. “Are you the Silenus about whom I’ve heard so much?”
“I am,” Silenus said with a smile, then added with clear amusement, “Are you going to shoot me?”
“The bullets in this gun can and have made demons cry,” Allen replied. “They may or may not kill you, but they’ll hurt.”
Silenus laughed again. “You’ve no reason to shoot me. I was coming to see you, wondering who had managed to sneak into my gallery, when I realized where you had stopped.” His gaze flicked to Benito. “How does it feel to be free?”
Benito grunted. “I think I know the real reason people want to kill you, you nosy, manipulative, interfering bastard.”
Laughing again, Silenus swept them an elegant bow. “Thank you for visiting, I hope you enjoyed my gallery. I suggest you use the front entrance to leave, you will find a car waiting to take you where you want to go. Farewell, gentlemen.”
Then he was gone, as suddenly as he had appeared, leaving them alone.
Allen holstered his gun, and turned back to Benito—who slammed him into the wall, pinned him to it with his body, and kissed him hard. Whose lip split that time, Allen wasn’t certain. He clung tightly, nails digging into Benito’s arms.
He was panting when they finally broke apart. “I was going to leave the country, hide in Europe. What do you say to revisiting what’s left of your favorite parts of Italy?”
Benito grunted, and withdrew slightly. “Why not? The magic of this place keeps us up to date on some aspects of the world, but not all of it. I do not even know what that weapon was you just pulled. I would like to relearn the world, now that I am free. And I believe that you owe me.”
Allen smirked. “Do I?”
“With interest,” Benito said, the tone of his voice making Allen shiver.
“We’ll see,” Allen taunted, then pushed away from the wall and led the way from the gallery, through the labyrinth of rooms until they found their way out.