"Monsieur Arnaud, is that you back in the stall beyond Cleo? My, but you gave me a fright."
"Come closer, Henri. I have something to show you."
"It is so dark back here, sir. This is just where we keep the feed for the...Oh, Monsieur. What?"
"Come sit by me on this hay bale, Henri. Oh, don't...now I have you. No, don't struggle. Sit here beside me."
"Oh, Monsieur. We mustn't."
"I know you have wanted it, Henri. I can see the looks you give me. See how big it grows. Feel it. Here, don't resist. That is what you do to me. No, don't struggle. You are such a beautiful young man. It wants you. Neither of us can fight it anymore."
The stable lad was trembling in the overpowering embrace of his master's second son. But when next he started to speak, Arnaud Van Briand covered his mouth with his own, and while holding the younger man in thrall in the embrace of one arm, his other hand started unbuttoning and opening, gliding, searching flesh on increasingly yielding and revealing flesh. And encircling and slow-pumping to sounds of gasps and moans and shuddering as Henri, not so unwillingly now, gave up his seed.
"And now me," Arnaud whispered in the young man's ear.
"Oh, Monsieur, I don't think I could."
"Oh, I'm sure you can, Henri. But not like that. Me inside you."
"Oh, ohhhhh," Henri whimpered. "OHHHH!"
Arnaud had pushed the stable lad belly over on the hay bale and was crouched behind him now, his mouth plastered to the young man's virginal ass.
"Ohhhh," Henri gasped as he writhed under the older man's attention. He panted and groaned, but his hands went back to cup the back of Arnaud's bobbing head in acquiescence.
He shuddered and began to babble incoherently as Arnaud rose and pushed his chest into the young man's back.
Arnaud's lips were next to Henri's ear. "I'm going to give you now what you have been showing you wanted for weeks."
"Pleaaasse," Henri moaned.
"Please what, Henri?"
But Henri was at a loss for words. He didn't himself know what he wanted to happen now - or was too frightened and shocked to speak the truth.
So Arnaud spoke it for him.
"You want me, don't you, Henri? I saw you watching me do it to Didier. You want what I give to Didier, don't you?"
"Say it, Henri. Or better yet, say that you don't want it. Now, in your next breath."
A pause, and then, "Oh, Monsieur, plea.... Oh, god, ohhhh, gooodd!"
And then Henri could do no more than cry out and pant and groan and moan as Arnaud's cock bulb made purchase and then pushed in, in, in, followed by a thick and deep journey that took Henri's breath away and reduced him to tears and babbling again.
And then, when Henri's channel was completely open to Arnaud's invasion, the gasps and moans began to change texture and tone, and soon Henri was working with Arnaud and turning his head and returning kiss for kiss.
"There. That's what you wanted, Henri. Admit it. You only needed to be freed of your burden," Arnaud whispered in the stable boy's ear when he had taken what he wanted. "You wanted it. Admit it."
"Yes," Henri whispered, full of shame, but somehow buoyant from the release of the mooning about he'd done these weeks. Curious and envious of Didier.
"And you are mine now?"
"Yes, Monsieur. Oh, yes."
"And you will remain loyal and faithful to me as your family has to mine for centuries?"
"Yes, Monsieur. Oh, yes."
"Do you feel me rising again?"
"And do you want it again?"
* * * *
Arnaud Van Briand most likely would have been pushing on to new endeavors and climes anyway. A second son in a rich, clever, and ruthless French merchant family in which the father never intended to die and the robust first son inhaled every bit of responsibility and privilege he could - and both keeping the second son in their sights and at a distance - had few prospects in the family business.
For that reason Arnaud had been trained in electrical engineering. And he had just finished his involvement in a project that electrical engineers dreamed of. It was 1889, and the Eiffel Tower, the centerpiece of the Paris Exposition Universelle, had just been dedicated. It almost missed its dedication date, though, a near-fatal delay that was put to Arnaud's debit. So, whereas such a project should have made his career, it actually choked it off in the bud.
No one in French society at the Van Briands' level cared two figs that Arnaud liked to debauch young men, so that wasn't what put him on the ship to Africa. And at that level, they certainly didn't care when he decided to dabble in the lower classes - and even very close to his family's own chateau.
But, despite the many generations of service of the family of Henri, the young man who served the Van Briands as a stable boy, to the Van Briand family who lived in the chateau a half day's ride from Paris, Henri's father, a florid man with a deep sense of pride and justice, decided that neither Arnaud nor Henri should live for what they were found doing. The Van Briands barely noticed any hint of scandal - indeed, it wasn't any form of scandalous behavior at the heights at which they lived. But they did notice the murderous looks and brandishing of knives Henri's father was putting on display.
So, just because it was easy for them, they simply booked Arnaud passage to Central Africa and quietly saw to it that Henri's father suffered a fatal accident in the field several weeks after Arnaud was gone.
Arnaud took Henri with him - in service as both a body servant and a body to service.
If Arnaud had not been a slightly superstitious man, his whole life may have taken a different casting.
Although he was fond of Henri and Henri was a convenient bed companion when Arnaud was unable to debauch another young man along his path, Arnaud didn't think that his father and elder brother had been as generous as they might have been in the monetary support they had given for his journey and his setting up a new life in Central Africa. So, having heard there was a lucrative trade in young, well-formed European men, Arnaud's plan had been to sell Henri in the slave markets of Dakar in the French West African colony of Senegal to which Arnaud was sailing.
However, there was a gnarled old gypsy woman on the ship who accosted Arnaud and insisted that he must have his fortune told - or he would be cursed. Arnaud believed just enough to think it inconvenient to be cursed for not taking a half hour's entertainment on a ship moving ever so slowly down the African coast.
"You do not travel alone," the old crone said after examining Arnaud's hand for moments - moments that he found considerably dismaying as the woman did not appear to have washed in the previous decade.
Her statement, however, took Arnaud aback. He had not allowed Henri on deck, and the gypsy woman would not have been permitted in the cabin area where Henri was being kept either. Arnaud had only encountered her because he was searching below decks - slumming, as it were - in search of the wine room other passengers had purported the ships officers were keeping to themselves.
"No, but what does my lady have to do concerning my fortune?" he asked.
"Mistress it may be, but I see no lady," the old woman muttered. And then she cackled. "But mistress you must keep beside you - always. This one is your luck. It will be folly to part with this one."
"Why would I...?"
"It is what you plan, is it not?" And then, before Arnaud could react, the old crone snapped up the coin he had laid down but had had no intention of actually giving her, and had disappeared into the shadows of the below decks.
Arnaud did not believe the old woman, but the small sliver of superstition that lived within him made him decide that Henri would be much more valuable to him working in the diamond mines that Arnaud had the notion to explore in Central Africa than to be some tribal chieftain's catamite. Besides, Arnaud had just remembered that he never had developed the knack of dressing himself.
* * * *
Two years hence, Arnaud was to congratulate himself for keeping Henri with him - by that time having convinced himself that neither an old gypsy crone nor his own slight superstition had a jot to do with his decision. While Arnaud lolled on the veranda of the Gentlemen's Club in Dakar, Henri had found and brought back an amazingly large cache of uncut rough diamonds.
Arnaud's own efforts, however, had not been totally absent. For one, he had managed to woo, bed, and acquire another young man, by the name of Bertie, who had been left adrift at the Gentleman's Club by an inconsiderate titled British ne'er-do-well, who had, through no effort of his own, outlived his hardnosed father and been begged to return to the side of his indulgent mother in a cold castle near the Scottish border.
Arnaud took Bertie for a young man abandoned, innocent, and vulnerable, which is the way Arnaud liked to take young men. In this particular case, it was also just how Bertie wanted to be taken.
When Bertie's titled momma's boy was saying his good-byes and his somewhat shallow regrets to Bertie at the coach entrance of the club, Bertie made sure all saw the plight he was in by morosely climbing the steps, entering the bar, and collapsing at a table in suppressed sobs.
Although Arnaud wasn't the only one who was quite willing to give Bertie succor, he was the first one to the table. He sat down by the young man and put a reassuring palm on his shoulder. "There, there, are you all right, young man? Have you lost someone? Nothing is worth those tears on such a handsome face. Anything I can do to help? May I stand you a drink at least?"
"You're too kind, Monsieur," Bertie responded in a weak little voice. He placed a hand on Arnaud's knee. "Yes, if you wouldn't mind. Maybe a small sherry - or a beer. So that I can think about what is to become of me."
Arnaud signaled to the bartender, who didn't need to be told what Bertie liked to drink. He took only the best Scotch, and he took it neat.
Arnaud was running his fingers through the thick, blond curls of Bertie's head. He'd wanted to do this for weeks, ever since the young man and his self-possessed sponsor had arrived.
"My...friend has been called home - back to England. He is in grief over his father's death. And when he was in that condition, I couldn't possibly tell him that my own funds haven't arrived as scheduled. Oh, I don't know what I'm to do."
"Perhaps I can be of assistance," Arnaud murmured. "You could stay in my rooms if you wish...just until your funds arrive, of course."
"Oh, Monsieur, I couldn't possibly..."
"Well, perhaps we can talk to the hotel management and see if there are other possibilities - extension of credit, perhaps," Arnaud said as he started to rise from the table, but Bertie clutched at the older man as if in desperation.
"Oh, Monsieur. I feel so faint. Perhaps we could just sit here for a while more."
"If you feel faint, why don't you come to my room just for a lie down?"
Once in the room, Arnaud helped Bertie to his bed and stretched him down on his back.
"Air. I could use some more air," Bertie murmured in a breathy voice.
"It's these tight clothes. Here, let me help you." Arnaud unbuttoned Bertie's shirt and exposed a fine young chest. He also loosened Bertie's belt.
"Oh, you are so kind, Monsieur. My heart is still palpitating so. Here lay your hand on my breast, you can feel it beating madly. This is such a nice room. Is this the only bed?"
The rest unfolded as it naturally would, both Arnaud and Bertie willing it to move in that direction, and Bertie proved to be an expert at the fuck - to Arnaud's great delight, although Arnaud hadn't been fooled for long concerning the nature of Bertie's "friendship" with the departed Englishman.
Bertie cried out best in passion when Arnaud laid him sideways on the bed, on his back, and spread the young man's legs and crouched over Bertie's torso with his own and pumped his ass hard and deep at the side angle. And they tried several positions before they arrived at this "favorite."
Now when Henri returned on his brief visits from the diamond fields, he was made to sleep on the floor of Arnaud's room, as there was room in the bed only for Arnaud and Bertie. Still, if Arnaud was feeling especially affectionate, after he'd fucked Bertie to sleep, he'd slip out of bed and pull Henri up on all fours on the oval rug in the center of the room and take him like a dog.
All of this changed when Henri brought his first handful of large, rough diamonds back to Dakar. Then Arnaud booked a separate room for Bertie - and when Henri was in town, he slept with Arnaud and was attended to when Arnaud returned from Bertie's room.
When Henri had collected a small fortune in diamonds, the three of them booked for a return sail to France. Bertie and Henri registered as Arnaud's two sons - for Arnaud's convenience.
Arnaud hadn't been a complete lump while Henri was gathering him a fortune in the diamond fields. He'd spoken enough with the gentlemen at the club - many of them diamond merchants or assessors - to have picked up some knowledge of the diamond trade. He'd learned at least enough to bluff his way in the diamond trade as he - and, indeed, his whole family back through generations - had done in all of the trades and skills they had dabbled in.
Thus fortified, Henri was enlisted to sew the raw diamonds he had collected in the seams of Arnaud's great coat and decided that, along with Henri, who served him, and Bertie, with whom he was now totally sexually besotted, Arnaud would rejoin his family and set up a diamond merchant operation in Paris.
* * * *
"But surely you've seen them, Monsieur...with the sheik who came onto the ship in Morocco...and his son."
"Nothing of the sort, Henri. Stop speaking of Bertie this way this very instant. You've had nothing good to say about him from the start. You're jealous, that's all. Stop it this instant and go fetch my tea as I asked."
Not only had Henri seen Bertie with the two Arab princes, but he stopped along the deck en route to the kitchen and looked into the porthole of the sheik's cabin now, and he saw them at it still. The sheik's son was reclining on the fainting couch and Bertie's head and shoulders were invisible under that robe-like tunic the Arab was wearing and a globular orb could quite clearly be seen between the young prince's legs were his crotch was, bobbing up and down. The expression on the young Arab's face left no doubt what Bertie was doing under there. And there was even less doubt what the old sheik himself was doing. His pelvis was presented at Bertie's bare behind and he was holding both of Bertie's hips and was thrusting at Bertie with his midsection.
But no matter how often Henri tried to tell Arnaud that Bertie was not being loyal to him, Arnaud just was not willing to listen to that.
Nor did he claim to believe it once they were at the Van Briand chateau outside Paris and Henri espied Arnaud's older brother pumping his meaty pelvis in and out between Bertie's spread legs at the edge of the brother's bed one afternoon while Arnaud was in Antwerp.
That Arnaud was getting wise to this himself, though, could have had something to do with his sudden decision that he wanted to be a diamond merchant in the Americas - in New York City, he hoped - rather than in Paris after a mere four weeks of trying to ply his trade in France.
There were other contributing factors, of course. Arnaud had hoped to enjoy some backing from his family, but as soon as he had stepped foot in France, they had all tried to borrow money from him. The Van Briands hadn't been completely honest - or clever enough in this generation, for that matter - in their own business and financial dealings. And the French had reached the end of their tolerance of these erstwhile nobles.
And beyond that, Arnaud had found the diamond traders of France, Belgium, and Holland to be far more knowledgeable than he had hoped.
"I can get three times that amount for this stone in New York," he had told one merchant in Bruges, having had to search that far afield in short order as he quickly exhausted those who would deal with him.
"No doubt you can," the man had said dryly. "The Americans aren't the brightest stars in the sky concerning the diamond trade yet."
It had been meant as an insult, of course, but Arnaud saw opportunities wherever there was a glimmer of them, and he started planning his move, with his two "sons," to America. Arnaud could not bring himself to part with Bertie and the possibility that Henri was to be his lucky charm someday just could not be shaken out of the back of his mind.
There was another factor that impelled Arnaud to move on from France, but he was so enthralled with Bertie that he hadn't seen the real danger of that factor until he was almost run down on his horse in the Cherbourg forest and murdered by a man he recognized as a relative of Henri's but, too late, saw the hate and murder in the man's eyes.
It had been twenty-three years since Arnaud had hurriedly left France for Central Africa three steps ahead of Henri's father and the suddenly combined ire of the families of the many young men Arnaud had debauched in his early sexual career. And although Arnaud considered himself a new man when he returned to France after an absence of two decades, the young men he had debauched - some mostly because he had then cast them off and deserted them - had not left France or escaped the gossip about what they had let another man do to them.
Thus, there were families and no-longer-young men aplenty ready and willing to take their long-festering revenge on Arnaud Van Briand.
Four weeks after arriving in France, Arnaud and his two "sons" were on the move again, booked on the maiden voyage of the passenger liner "of the century," which departed from Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912, and would pick up passengers later that evening in Cherbourg, France, and push off ultimately for New York from Queenstown, Ireland, on the afternoon of the 11th.
At 10:00 p.m. on the 10th, after a hectic two hours of boarding at Cherbourg and the bands-playing, confetti-flying steam away of the new passenger ship from the pier at Cherbourg, Arnaud called Henri to him.
"Bertie is in the bar at the lounge, Henri. Kindly fetch him to my side, please."
"Bertie is not in the lounge, Monsieur," Henri patiently replied.
"I left him there myself."
"Bertie departed right after you left. He went with one of the ship's officers to the crew's quarters. I am quite sure that the ship's officer is already fucking Bertie right now - and that Bertie is quite pleased that he is doing it."
"I'm sorry, Monsieur. I can't take watching you being taken for a fool anymore. You must wake up to the fact that Bertie opens his legs for anyone who he fancies or who can provide him advantage."
Enraged, Arnaud unbuckled his belt and drew it out of his trousers and began beating Henri with it. Henri sank to the floor under the blows and cried out but did nothing to try to stay the hand of the man who had been his master from childhood. In the process Arnaud's trousers fell off his legs and his rage turned into lust and he set upon Henri and fucked him hard and roughly on the floor of the slightly pitching ship.
Finished, Arnaud fell back on one of the ship's bunks and stared expectantly at the door of the cabin as he panted until his breathing became regular and, at length, he slept.
Henri dragged himself up from the floor, moaning, and collapsed on the bunk opposite to Arnaud's and kept vigil on Arnaud through the night. He didn't bother to look at the cabin door, as he knew it wouldn't open - or, if it did, Bertie would be full of spice and unapologetic. Henri also knew that whether or not Arnaud flew into a rage over this, it would be Henri, not Bertie, who would get the beating.
Now, twenty-two years after Arnaud had first debauched him, Henri was ready to accept that nothing would change here. And suddenly he had no desire to go to America whatsoever. In the wee hours of the morning, as the ship docked in Queenstown for its short, last stop in the old world before sailing to the new world, Henri stood, took up his great coat and bag, and left the cabin.
When Arnaud awoke, he was alone in the cabin. He staggered up and went in search of his "sons." Bertie wasn't hard to find. He was breakfasting at the captain's table and was receiving close, jolly attention from more than one of the ship's officers, who had their arms around Bertie's shoulder and hands on his crotch. Bertie waved jauntily at Arnaud when their eyes met, but his eyes immediately slipped off to devour those of yet another hearty blond in pure whites who had a hand possessively on Bertie's thigh.
Arnaud rushed back to the cabin to see if there was any sort of clue where Henri might have gone. Seeing Henri's bag and great coat gone, it dawned on Arnaud that Henri must have left the ship.
"Well, all right, you ungrateful cur," Arnaud muttered to the four walls of the cabin. "After all of these years, you desert me. Just see if I care."
But then he took another look at the two great coats hanging on the hook on the wall, and his eyes opened wide in fear and consternation. There was Bertie's flamboyant one and there...there was the one slightly too small for Arnaud.
Henri had taken his great coat by mistake. Or was it a mistake at all? All of those raw diamonds sewn into the seams of Arnaud's great coat - by Henri himself. What were the chances that Henri had taken the wrong coat?
Arnaud's mind was screaming, "Thief!" His fortune was on the run.
Instinctively, without a thought to any consequences, Arnaud ran out of the cabin, along the deck, and to the gangplank leading down to the Queenstown dock. Scrabbling down the gangway, he ran into the streets of Queenstown and started searching high and low through the pubs and hotel lobbies near the docks for Henri - and, more pointedly for his great coat.
At a bit beyond 2:00 in the afternoon, Arnaud found Henri in a pub, drinking his third beer and trying to stitch his circumstances back together again.
"Henri!" Arnaud cried out accusingly.
"Monsieur Arnaud," Henri said in surprise, clutching his coat about him. "Why have you sought me out? You have said I am nothing but bad luck and a nuisance for you. You have your Bertie and your new life in America. You must get back to the docks. Your ship will..."
"My coat. You took my coat, thief," Arnaud cried out. "The diamonds. You took the diamonds!"
"Your coat? This is my...oh, Monsieur, you are right this is your coat. In my haste...I did not know."
Henri's last statement came in a totally silent drinking room that, until Arnaud had cried out the word "diamonds," had been filled with boisterous talk and raucous laughter.
All eyes were turned to Arnaud and Henri, the interest of all was piqued, lips were wetted.
And above all, floating out over the sounds of the street outside, was the great blast of the horn as the greatest passenger ship in the world, the Titanic, cleared the Queenstown harbor for its momentous maiden - and last - voyage to New York.
Elsewhere in the world there was an old gypsy woman who stopped suddenly in the process of threading her needle, inclined her head at the knowledge that her fortune for Arnaud Van Briand had finely come to fruition, and then cackled a happy laugh and returned to her sewing.