The carriage slowed to a halt on the uneven road and Hadrian peered out through the dusty window. The road seemed as desolate as ever in the setting sun, turning the unfamiliar countryside a burning red. The only building in sight was his destination, looming tall above him in the shadow of the mountainside: Hieron Manor.
The driver knocked on the carriage roof to catch Hadrian’s attention. “My apologies sir, the driveway’s too steep for the carriage.”
“Here will be fine,” said Hadrian, “I’m sure a short walk will do me good.”
His driver leaned down, their face half-hidden by the carriage roof. “Are you sure this is the right place?”
Hadrian nodded. “Yes, thank you.”
He opened the door of the carriage, taking a moment to look up the manor. It was oddly situated - even in the glow of sunset, so much of the building was in shadow, leaning ever so slightly against the mountainside as though it were seeking shelter from the sun.
“Not many visitors to the old manor these days,” said the driver, unloading Hadrian’s worn leather travelling case from the carriage. “You family of some kind?”
“No,” said Hadrian, absent-mindedly, dusting off the case as he picked it up, “I’ve never met them.”
The driver gave him an odd look. “Long way to travel to see a stranger.”
“I suppose,” said Hadrian, “I have worked for Mr Samothes for many years, and he has never had cause for me to travel to a destination that was not well worth it.”
The driver looked up at the manor. “Well. Hope this trip will be the same, sir.”
“I’m sure it will be,” said Hadrian.
He tipped the driver as well as he was able, shifting his grip on his case before he began the walk up towards the manor. The driveway was indeed steep, less cared for than Hadrian would have expected for someone of Mr Samothes’s means. Despite the heat of the day, the air in the shadow of the manor was cold, making Hadrian glad for the walk. His traveling jacket did little to help warm him.
The manor loomed above him, its large windows dark, the intricate plaster that decorated each window chipped, entire sections of the curled design missing from the western wall. The garden was a little overgrown, but perhaps it was just the spring getting the better of their gardeners, after all, the countryside surrounding the manor bloomed with life.
The wind howled as it blew around the mountain. Hadrian shivered, drawing his jacket tighter around him. He glanced back down the driveway. The carriage was already some way down the road, the cloud of the dust in its wake catching the orange-red sunset light.
Hadrian took a breath, turning back towards the front door, looking up at the curling metal that surrounded the entryway. In truth, he was a little nervous - in all his years working for Mr Samothes, he had never so much as seen a glimpse of him, and even their correspondence over the years had been limited to a handful of telegrams.
The letter he had received inviting him to dine with Mr Samothes and his husband had been quite a surprise, to say the least.
He took another deep breath in and out, straightening his jacket before he raised a hand to the heavy iron door knocker. He could hear the sound echoing through the manor followed by footsteps, light and fast.
The door opened to reveal a short woman, her blue dress gleaming in the manor’s lamplight. She blinked at him from behind large, round glasses, tucking her short hair behind her ear.
Hadrian cleared his throat. “Hello, I am Hadrian, traveling secretary of Mr Samothes-”
“Oh, yes!” said the woman, “We’ve been expecting you! Did you travel well? I believe you were coming from quite a length away, although most places are quite a length away from Hieron Manor, and I expect that you’re quite used to traveling great distances as Mr Samothes’s request.”
“I don’t mean any offence by that, of course,” continued the woman, too quickly for Hadrian to properly consider a response, “I’m Aubrey, Mr Samot’s personal assistant. I apologise for not having anyone to meet you at the station, we’re quite a small staff here and we couldn’t spare anyone for such a long carriage ride.”
“I understand,” said Hadrian.
“I expect you’ll want to refresh yourself before dinner,” said Aubrey, “the guest wing is, uh… being renovated at the present time, but Mr Samothes and Mr Samot have had a room prepared for you in their personal wing of the house.”
She led him through the halls, thick carpet cushioning their footsteps. Hadrian tried not to stare at the paintings that lined the walls - portraits and scenery in glit-gold frames, huge tapestries that took up entire walls, heavy, carved wooden doors, all closed. He could hear the sound of a clock chiming the hour from somewhere deep inside the house, but otherwise the house was silent. Hadrian cleared his throat.
“That’s… I’m honoured,” said Hadrian, “I hope my visit isn’t an imposition on them.”
“I shouldn’t think so,” said Aubrey, “they have been looking forward to you coming, Mr Samot especially.”
“I… really?” said Hadrian, heat rising to his cheeks.
“Oh, yes,” said Aubrey, “He was telling me just this morning that he was excited to meet the man his husband spoke of so often.”
Hadrian’s steps faltered. “I… I wouldn’t have thought to make such an impact.” On Aubrey’s curious look, he added, “I have only ever communicated with him through telegram.”
Aubrey nodded. “He does favour modern methods over meeting people in person, but rarely is someone in his employ as long as you. Primo, I suppose, but Primo has worked for the family since they were both children, so I suppose he escapes any special notice.”
The hallways darkened as they went upstairs, towards what must have been the centre of the manor. The lamps flickered as they walked past.
Aubrey drew out a set of large iron keys. “Here is your room.”
She opened the door. The room was as dark as the hallway outside, any light that remained from outside blocked by the thick curtains, the furnishings made a dark wood, slightly dusty from disuse. A fresh water jug and bowl had been left out for him, steam rising from it in the cold air.
“I’ll leave you to freshen up,” said Aubrey, “Dinner is at 6pm, if you don’t hear the bell I’m sure someone will come fetch you.”
Hadrian set his case down. “Thank you.”
Aubrey nodded, turning to leave.
Hadrian cleared his throat. “Uh, Miss Aubrey, might I ask you a question?”
Aubrey turned back towards him. “Of course, what is it?”
“You are quite close to them, are you not?”
“Well,” said Aubrey, shifting her feet a little, “I suppose one might say that.”
“I wonder if you might... “ Hadrian paused, taking a breath as he considered his words. “I have never met Mr Samothes before today, nor have I ever had any cause to believe I would meet him.”
“As I said,” said Aubrey, “he is quite a solitary figure.”
“Yes, I have heard,” said Hadrian, “Which makes it all the more mysterious as to why I was called here. Perhaps there is a particularly delicate business venture he would like me to undertake?”
“I don’t know anything about that,” said Aubrey, “My understanding was that Mr Samot simply desired to meet you.”
She dropped a half-curtsy, heading back own the hall, leaving Hadrian to puzzle over the reason for his visit alone.
He had heard that Mr Samothes was devoted to his husband, but to be invited the dine with them for that reason alone seemed beyond the realm of mere curiosity. There would surely have to be a deeper reason. Perhaps there was to be a private business dealing, and a telegram could not be trusted, or perhaps… Hadrian’s stomach twisted. Perhaps Mr Samothes was unhappy with his work.
He hurriedly put the thought out of his mind, turning to wash his face before the water went cold.
He washed the dust of the road from his face, grateful that the water was still warm and more grateful still that Rosana had insisted upon him packing something slightly nicer than his usual travelling clothes. He shook out the suit, hanging it up so that it could air a little before he changed. The cut of it was a little out of date, and the shirt a little tight, perhaps, but it would do. It was certainly preferable than wearing his current attire, mud from the city streets still on his boots.
He ran a hand over his head, considering his reflection. He was grateful that he had thought to visit the barber before his journey. He wasn’t as presentable as he would have liked, but he doubted he would ever feel presentable enough to dine with Mr Samothes.
His thoughts from earlier returned, squirming in the pit of his stomach. Aubrey was correct, he had worked for Mr Samothes far longer than most people, and he had never wanted for any other path in life. Normally Mr Samothes dismissed people via telegram, but perhaps Hadrian’s long stead in his employ had given his cause to meet with him face to face.
He was jolted out of his thoughts by a knock at the door. Hadrian swallowed, looking at the handle for a moment before he opened the door.
It was a short man, dressed in a suit made of similar glossy blue material to Aubrey and similar large, round glasses.
“Hello,” said the man, “I’m Primo, Samothes’s manservant.”
“Hello, I am Hadrian, travelling secretary of-”
“Yes,” said Primo, “I know.”
Hadrian felt himself flush. “Oh. Yes. Of course.”
Primo’s expression gave nothing away. “Samot would like you join him for apéritifs.”
“I- I’m not dressed for dinner yet,” said Hadrian.
“I am sure Samot can wait a few minutes for you to change,” said Primo, “I will wait outside, to escort you. This is a large house, and we would not want you getting lost.”
Hadrian dressed hurriedly, his heart pounding as he followed Primo through the maze of hallways to the lounge. Primo knocked on the open door, drawing the attention of the man standing by the fireplace.
Hadrian’s mouth went dry. The man was dressed in a fine green suit, the tailoring skimming the lines of his figure. He turned towards them, the firelight catching on his cheekbones and making his violet eyes seem to glitter.
“Ah,” said the man, “you must be Hadrian. I’m so glad you could join us for dinner.”
“Uh, it’s my pleasure Mr Samot, sir,” said Hadrian, glad that his voice sounded steadier than he felt.
Samot laughed, a sound almost as beautiful as he was. “Please, there’s no need to be so formal - just Samot is fine. After all, my husband has spoken of you so often I feel as though I know you.” He smiled. “And I’m sure you have heard plenty of things about me.”
Hadrian had heard, many things. Wild tales ranging from social scandals to tales worth of inclusion in the penny dreadful novel Benjamin liked to read and a few more Rosana wouldn’t allow him to.
“No story I have heard truly does you justice,” said Hadrian. He felt himself blush.
Samot smiled, setting down his wine glass on the mantelpiece and stepping forward before Hadrian could apologise. “My husband never said that you were so skilled at flattery.”
“I apologise,” said Hadrian, “I’m not sure what came over me-”
Samot’s smile deepened. “No need to apologise. It’s always refreshing to hear that I am still able to top any of the tall tales told about me.”
He stepped closer to Hadrian, and closer still. Hadrian caught sight of the door closing - he hadn’t even noticed Primo leaving his side. Samot grinned, the firelight glinting off sharp teeth.
“I, uh, I try not to listen to gossip,” said Hadrian, trying not to stare but unable to look away.
Samot hummed. “A wise man indeed. Although, you should know-” he leant in closer still, voice lowering to a murmur. “-not every piece of gossip about me is false.”
Hadrian wondered if Samot was close enough to hear the pounding of his heart. “I-”
Samot put a hand on Hadrian’s chest. “You can ask me which ones if you like. I might even tell you.”
Hadrian felt himself flush, the heat of it spreading down his neck, and yet he couldn’t bring himself to step away from Samot’s touch, couldn’t look away from Samot’s lips.
The clock on the mantle began to chime. Samot stepped backwards half a step, no longer touching Hadrian but close enough that he could have. Hadrian fought the urge to lean towards him, his hands curling at his sides.
“I suppose we should head to dinner,” said Samot, “I know Primo has put together something special for you, and I would hate for it to go to waste.”
Without thinking, Hadrian offered Samot his arm. Samot took it, smiling at him as their bodies slid closer. The close contact made Hadrian feel almost dizzy with the heat of his blush.
“As I know the way, I will lead,” said Samot, “If that’s alright with you?”
“Of course,” said Hadrian.
Samot slid in closer, his hand loose circling Hadrian’s wirst. “Wonderful.”
Samot led them down the hallway towards the large dining room, three places set at one end of it. Samothes was already seated at the head of the table, rising as they entered. Hadrian’s breath caught in his throat - the few photos he’d seen of Samothes didn’t do him justice.
Samot chuckled. “Yes, I feel much the same way myself.”
“My love,” said Samothes, moving towards Samot.
Samot let go of Hadrian, stepping into Samothes’s arms. Hadrian looked away, cheeks flushing.
Hadrian’s head snapped up. Samothes was looking right towards him, a warm smile on his face.
“It is good to finally meet you in person. I hope my husband wasn’t keeping you too long before dinner.”
“No,” said Hadrian, “No, not at all.”
“I would never keep him without you my dear,” said Samot.
Samothes’s smile turned to Samot, his expression deepening into something Hadrian couldn’t read.
“That is good to hear.” Samothes turned back to Hadrian. “I hope you are hungry - Primo tells me he has curated a menu especially for you.”
“I, Mr Samothes, it’s an honour that you’ve gone to so much trouble-”
“It was no trouble at all,” said Samothes, “and, please, just Samothes is fine. We’ve worked together a long time.”
“I- Yes, and it’s been an honour, sir-”
Samothes waved a hand. “You have done admirably.”
“Well I…” Hadrian looked down, feeling his cheeks burn. “Thank you sir.”
“Ah,” said Samot, “the food.”
Hadrian’s eyes widened, and they stayed that way until long after the meal had finished being laid out, familiar dishes, local dishes, and a great many he’d never heard of, and all delicious. Samot swirled his wine glass, his food still mostly untouched.
Samot caught his eye. “I never have much of an appetite at night.”
“Well.” said Samot, “Not for food, at least.”
Hadrian took another bite, mainly to avoid having to make conversation. Samot and Samothes carried on without him, shooting each other looks that he couldn’t even begin to parse. Their hands would occasionally find each other’s on the table, fingers tangling together in a way that made Hadrian flush with heat to look at.
They were nearing the end of the meal before Hadrian gathered the courage to ask why Samothes why he had been invited there.
“Was there…” Hadrian braced himself, “perhaps something you wanted to ask of me, sir?”
Samothes blinked. “No I…” He huffed a laugh. “I’m afraid it is nothing so dramatic as you are imagining. I merely thought it was time for us to meet.”
“What my husband means is,” said Samot, “Is that I finally convinced him to send you an invitation.”
“That’s not how I recall the conversation,” said Samothes.
Samot laughed, his body leaning towards Samothes.
“Well, I… However it came about, I am grateful,” said Hadrian, “This has been a lovely evening-”
“You aren’t thinking of going are you?” said Samot, “It’s much too late now to bother with a carriage ride. You should stay, and we’ll have Primo drive you back to the station in the morning.”
“Well, I… if you insist,” said Hadrian.
“We do,” said Samothes, “We have the guest room in our wing that you can make use of.”
They both walked him to his room, a journey slowed by Samot stopping every few paces to tell Hadrian the history of this portrait or that vase. His hands fluttered as he spoke, gesturing through the air or touching Hadrian’s shoulder lightly to get his attention. Hadrian tried not to lean into his touch. Samothes stood on Hadrian’s other side as Samot spoke, and indulgent smile on his face. Hadrian tried not to lean into him either, although Samothes seemed to stand closer and closer the further they walked together.
Despite the chill Hadrian’s skin felt overheated, sweat prickling along the back of his neck by the time they finally reached his room. He let out a breath as his door came into view, hoping that he’d be able to get inside before he made a fool of himself.
Samot put a hand on his arm. “We’re right down this hall if you need anything.”
Samothes nodded, putting a hand on Hadrian’s shoulder.
Hadrian opened his mouth, then closed it again, swallowing around his dry throat before he tried to speak. “Thank you, I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
Samot squeezed Hadrian’s arm, sending a jolt of heat through him. “Still. Just in case.”
He kept his hand on Hadrian’s arm a fraction longer before he stepped back, Samothes’s arm sliding around his waist. Hadrian felt himself flush, toes curling inside his stiff leather shoes.
“Goodnight Hadrian,” said Samot.
“Yes, uh,” said Hadrian. “Goodnight.”
Hadrian carefully closed the door behind him. He waited until he heard their footsteps fade before he let out a breath, quickly stripping off his jacket and throwing it onto the back of a chair, followed by his waistcoat and shirt, sighing in relief at the cool air on his skin. He ran his hand over his arm where Samot had touched him, feeling the phantom sensation of Samot’s fingers gripping him.
Hadrian shuddered, skin flushing as he felt heat pooling in his belly. He palmed himself through his pants, then stopped, his eyes flicking to the door, to the bed.
He couldn’t- this was Samothes’s house, Samothes’s bed -
He shook himself, stepping over to the jug and bowl and splashing his face with the now-cold water. It was enough to clear his mind, even if it wasn’t enough to fully rid him of arousal. He stripped off his pants, laying them with his jacket before he got into bed, blowing out the lamp.
He would just try to get some sleep. Surely after he’d gotten some rest he’d feel much more clear-headed.
Try as he might, sleep would not come. Every shift of the blankets sent another jolt of heat through him, his mind conjuring the memory of Samot’s hand on his arm, Samothes’s hand on his shoulder, both of them drawing closer and closer, their eyes bright and fixed on him. Hadrian kicked the blankets onto the floor, turning onto his back and trying to shake the thoughts from his mind and the ache between his legs.
The door creaked open, a lamp’s illumination spilling into the room.
Hadrian gasped, sitting up to reach for the blankets to cover himself with and freezing in place when he saw who it was.
Samot, his hair flowing around his shoulders, white nightdress fluttering as he moved closer to the bed.
“Samot?” Hadrian managed.
“I told you,” said Samot, “I told you, some of the rumors about me are absolutely true.”
Hadrian’s voice died in his throat as Samot opened his mouth, his teeth long and sharp. Suddenly Benjamin’s penny dreadfuls didn’t seem so far fetched after all.
Samot stepped forward, putting a hand on Hadrian’s chest as he had before dinner. “I can feel your heart pounding. I could feel it the moment we saw each other.” He closer still, his face inches from Hadrian’s. “You want me.”
Hadrian licked his dry lips. “Yes.”
He couldn’t look away from Samot, dizzy with the heat that had afflicted him since dinner. His body ached to move closer to Samot, to pull Samot on top of him, to do anything Samot wished.
“I promise,” said Samot, “I won’t take too much. My husband likes you too much for me to kill you, and it would be a shame to waste you for mere blood.”
Samot pressed at Hadrian’s chest, pushing him onto his back. He set the lamp on the bedside table, the light making his eyes seem to glow. Hadrian’s breath came in quick pants, his hands gripping the sheet under him.
Samot chuckled. “You may touch me.”
Hadrian shook his head, his eyes flicking to the open door and then back to Samot. Samot laughed, cupping Hadrian’s cheek, his hand cold as ice against Hadrian’s skin.
“You worry so, about displeasing him,” said Samot, “I can promise that nothing we do in this room will cause my husband to think ill of you.”
His hand trailed lower, his fingers lightly brushing the pulse point on Hadrian’s neck. Hadrian gasped, tilting his head to give Samot better access. Samot’s cool fingers stroked down his chest, making Hadrian shudder.
Samot smiled, leaning down. He mouthed at the skin of Hadrian’s neck, teasing the skin between his teeth before Hadrian felt his fangs sink in, the prick of pain rapidly disappearing in a wave of heat. It trickled down his body, pooling low in his belly. He felt Samot smile against his skin, Samot’s hands stroking down his body.
Hadrian whimpered, clutching at the sheets as he tried not to arch into Samot’s touch. He could hear his own ragged breathing filling the room and he bit his lip, trying to quiet the sound.
Samot’s hands reached the apex of his thighs, his fingers trailing along Hadrian’s length. Hadrian moaned, body shaking with the effort to keep himself still, his eyes squeezed shut.
He felt Samot pull backwards, licking over the wound to stop the flow of blood before he leaned towards Hadrian’s ear. “Come now Hadrian. There’s no need for any of us to deny ourselves.”
“But-” panted Hadrian, “But- Samothes, your husband-”
“I doubt he minds,” said Samot, amusement curling through his tone, “You’re our guest after all.”
He wrapped a hand around Hadrian and Hadrian let out a sob of relief. He felt Samot put two fingers under his chin, tilting his face up, soft lips touching his. He gasped, letting Samot deepen the kiss, letting Samot guide him where he wanted him, whimpering at the faint metallic taste of blood on Samot’s tongue.
The bed dipped as Samot moved to straddle him, the silk of his nightdress ghosting over Hadrian’s skin, adding to the maddening heat. Hadrian gasped, unable to look away from Samot above him, transfixed as he reached behind himself to fiddle with the fastenings of his nightdress.
Samot hummed, tilting his head towards the doorway. “Help me with this?”
Samothes stepped into the room, shutting the door behind him. Hadrian froze, sweat breaking out over his body.
“Of course,” said Samothes, stepping forward, his richly tapestried dressing gown barely brushing the tops of his knees.
He made swift work of the nightdress, helping Samot pull it over his head and leaving him as bare as Hadrian. He knelt on the bed, moving behind Samot, sliding his hands down Samot’s body. Samot sighed, his eyes fluttering closed, letting go of Hadrian to lean back against Samothes to press his face into the crook of Samothes’s neck.
In the lamplight, Hadrian could see the wound on Samothes’s neck that matched his own.
Hadrian gasped, the sight distracting him from the hold on his body, and he arched towards Samot. He could just make out Samot’s smile, half-hidden where he was pressed against Samothes’s chest. He reached down, taking Hadrian in hand again.
“You’re our honoured guest,” said Samot softly, “let us take care of you.”
He sank down onto Hadrian, guided by Samothes’s hands on his hips. Hadrian couldn’t do much more than arch and moan, clutching at the sheets under him, feeling the wound in his neck pulse in time with his arousal.
Samothes’s hands slid down Samot’s body, teasing across him and making his muscles flutter around Hadrian. Hadrian whined, hips arching and the heat of his body threatening to boil him alive.
“ Husband ,” said Samot, the first time he had sounded anything like unsteady.
Samothes kissed him, his hand moving faster, his other hand gripping Samot’s waist, moving his body against Hadrian’s until Hadrian felt Samot clench around him, moaning into Samothes’s mouth.
Hadrian gazed up at him as he rode through the aftershocks, watching with rapt attention the trembling of Samot’s body, the way the lamplight caught his golden hair. He drew himself off Hadrian, the flush on his skin more beautiful than any sunrise Hadrian had ever seen.
Samot cupped his cheek, his expression soft. “Are you sure you are my husband’s secretary and not his poet?”
Hadrian flushed. He hadn’t realised he had spoken aloud.
Samothes put a hand on Hadrian’s side, touching him for the first time. Hadrian gasped, heat spiking again.
Samot laughed softly. “How rude of us, to forget our guest.”
Samothes hummed, reaching around Samot’s body to stroke up Hadrian’s chest, trailing a finger lightly across the wound on his neck. Hadrian shuddered, moaning as Samothes pressed his finger a little harder. Heat thuddeded through him, blocking out any pain he might have felt, making his hips twitch upwards, desperately seeking friction.
Samot shifted against him, sliding his thigh in between Hadrian’s legs. Hadrian could feel Samothes follow Samot’s movement, sliding his legs further open to accommodate them both, shuddering at the friction of their bodies.
Samot’s hand slid up to join Samothes’s at Hadrian’s neck, pressing in time with the roll of his hips. Hadrian gasped, pleas falling from his lips and dying away as he lost the breath to speak, the heat in his body overwhelming, burning him up from the inside out.
He came back to himself slowly, aware of Samot and Samothes bracketing his body. The heat remained, simmering in the back of his mind rather than an all-consuming wave. He raised a hand, touching lightly over the raised wound on his neck.
“It’s an easy enough this to hide,” said Samothes, “And it will fade in a week or so.”
“Oh,” said Hadrian. He wasn’t sure if he felt relieved or disappointed.
“Unless of course I do it on a more… regular basis,” said Samot, his hand sliding up Hadrian’s chest.
“That would really depend on how often Hadrian visits us,” said Samothes.
“I-” Hadrian cleared his throat, “I am at your service always.”
Samot smiled down at him, his teeth sharp in the lamplight. “Well then. You must be sure to visit again very soon.”