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In a world where everyone has their place, Amaranth & Ash belong together.
Amaranth is a vasai, born with both male and female characteristics, and a soul that can reach out and touch the souls of others in order to heal them. But a vasai’s services are only for the Elai, and they demand sexual satisfaction as well as healing from their beautiful servants. Frustrated with these constraints, Amaranth wants to use his talent to help those who really need it.
Ash is a chel. Considered devoid of souls, chel are the lowest of the low. Not content with his lot, Ash steals from the middle class pel. One night he’s caught and brutally punished. A soul in agony calls out to Amaranth from across the city. When he discovers that it belongs to a chel, it only confirms his worst suspicions about the lies of the Elai. Amaranth takes Ash home and heals him, an act of rebellion that could cost both their lives. Amaranth's compassion for Ash soon turns to passion. Ash treats him like a person, not an instrument of sexual gratification. Neither of them have much experience with mutual pleasure but together they embark on an exploration of intimacy and desire that carries them to the heights of passion and love -- and shakes the very foundation of their world.
The first thing Ash became aware of was that he wasn’t cold anymore. Then he noticed that the cardboard he lay on had somehow gotten much softer. He rubbed his face against it and realized it wasn’t cardboard at all. It was much too smooth and soft. While his sleeping brain puzzled over that, it dawned on him that he was able to notice these things because the pain that had overwhelmed all other awareness was now a distant, dull throb. He tried to crawl his way up out of the languorous stupor that wrapped him in warmth and comfort. He didn’t really want to wake up. He hadn’t forgotten what had happened to him and he knew he should be feeling far worse than he did. Perhaps this was all a dream that would fade the moment he opened his eyes, and he’d be in his little lean-to in the culvert again, cold and naked and hungry.
Except the more he lay here, the more certain he became that what he felt beneath his cheek was a pillow. That meant he wasn’t in the culvert. He was somewhere else. He couldn’t have gotten anywhere else under his own power which meant someone had brought him here, wherever here was. His eyes flew open and he forced himself up with his hands.
He blinked in the bright morning sunlight. It reflected off whitewashed walls. The room he found himself in was simple. He lay in the only bed. It stood in one corner and had an iron frame. The headboard had bars that ran vertically up and down it. Good for tying people to, he tried not to think. He sat amid a sprawl of white sheets and two -- two! -- blankets, one blue, the other green. They were practically the only color in here.
In the wall above the worrisome headboard was a window, deep set, with little panels of glass set in a metal frame. The window stood open, letting in the morning light and a fresh breeze scented with some sort of heady flower. On the same wall stood a simple wooden table with a chair drawn up to it. There was a pen stand, and a writing tablet there too. Against the wall opposite the table was a wooden chest. Above it, several garments hung from pegs.
The fourth wall had two doors, one on the end near the chest and the other almost directly across from the bed where he lay. Like the floor, they were made of wood, dark brown and beautifully polished. Between the two doors stood an overstuffed couch upholstered in a rich, dark brown velvet, and on the couch, asleep with his… her… head resting on the arm, was the most beautiful person Ash had ever seen.
The individual was dressed in white -- loose trousers of some sort of slightly shimmery material, and a tunic of knitted fabric that looked nubby and at the same time, indescribably soft. The hair was blond and long, cascading down the arm of the couch. Stray wisps clung to the long neck and the perfect, oval face: a long, delicate nose, lips as pink as rosebuds, chin and brow and cheekbones all balanced on the knife-edge of androgyny.
Ash barely dared breathe. This was a vasai! The beauty of the creature made his cock stir. Desperately, he tried to quell his response. He was in equal parts mortified at his reaction, and astonished that his misused body was capable of it.
As he stared at the vasai, the almond shaped eyes opened, revealing glittering golden irises. The vasai blinked, once, twice. A smile transformed the face from pristine perfection to a much more irresistible living warmth.
“Ah, you’re awake.” The voice was as beautiful as every other aspect of the individual, and equally unhelpful in terms of determining gender. The vasai sat up, stretched, pulled a few wayward strands of golden hair from his face and leaned forward, fixing Ash with a piercing look from her scintillating golden eyes. “How do you feel?”
Ash gathered the covers more tightly around his body and said, “What do you want?”
The vasai gave a little shake of her head and smiled, then stood and approached the bed. Ash backed up to the wall. The languor of sleep faded, reminding Ash just how badly he’d been hurt. Even that small movement made his muscles scream in protest. He stood no chance at all of fighting him… her… off. Helplessness brought tears of frustration to his eyes and that only intensified his humiliation.
“I’m Amaranth,” said the vasai, stopping the moment he observed Ash’s reaction. Now she stood halfway between the chair and the bed, arms loose at her sides. “I found you last night and brought you back here. This is my apartment. Nobody is going to hurt you here.”
Sweet words, but Ash wasn’t dumb enough to believe them. This was a vasai. He was a chel. Why would a vasai help a chel other than to get some use out of the chel? “Just tell me what you want.”
Amaranth tilted his head to one side and pursed his lips. “I want to help you, if you’ll let me.”
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