Read Duende Online

Authors: E. E. Ottoman

Tags: #M/M romance, #fantasy, #Mechanical Universe

Duende

Table of Contents

Title Page

Book Details

Dedication

Duende

About the Author

Duende
E.E. Ottoman

Famed opera singer Aimé has a lot in common with Badri, the Royal Ballet Company's most popular male lead. They have both dedicated their entire lives to their art, and struggle to be taken seriously among the Empire's elite. And both harbor a secret admiration and desire for the other.

This year for his birthday Aimé treats himself to a night at the ballet seeing Badri perform, and after the show decides to meet Badri and confess his admiration for Badri's skill. But when that first awkward meeting turns to more, they are left wondering if there is room in their lives for both career and romance...

Book Details

Duende

Mechanical Universe 2

By E.E. Ottoman

Published by Less Than Three Press LLC

 

All rights reserved.  No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission of the publisher, except for the purpose of reviews.

Edited by Amanda Jean

Cover designed by Aisha Akeju

 

This book is a work of fiction and all names, characters, places, and incidents are fictional or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people, places, or events is coincidental.

 

First Edition September 2014

Copyright © 2014 by E.E. Ottoman

Printed in the United States of America

 

Digital ISBN 9781620044230

 

 

 

Roughly translated 'duende' means spirit or fire of an artist, musician or dancers, their ability to connect with their work, something that is felt throughout the whole body. The feeling of profound awe that one encounters through the experience of art, that affects and changes ones very soul.

 

To artists who find each other

Duende
E.E. Ottoman

Aimé tossed the paper across the room, watching the pages flutter down against the far wall. Really, if he read one more article talking about his 'dark eyes', 'olive complexion', or how his voice was 'as girlish as his figure', he would personally hunt down the journalist responsible. There would be hell to pay.

They could write anything: about how he was the only castrato to be invited to sing at the Royal Opera House, or how he had played roles in more performances this season than any other single performer.

But no, always they wrote about his appearance: how exotic he was, how feminine.

After another moment of sitting and scowling at the paper now on the floor, he stood and headed for the door that separated his sitting room from that of his flatmate.

Sabers greeted him. The emperor gave a finely-engraved saber to those honored for particular bravery in battle or other military service to the crown. Collette boasted a full wall of them.

"Collette," he called, and she stuck her head around the doorway that led to her study.

"Yes?"

Aimé frowned again, crossing his arms over his chest. "I thought you were taking me to the ballet? Why aren't you dressed?"

"I'm sorry." Collette rubbed at the long scar that crossed the bridge of her nose. "I have to appear in court tomorrow with Jacqualine D'Arras, representing the defendant, and God only knows what she will do. Go for the throat, most likely. Could we do it another time?"

Ordinarily Aimé understood that in Collette's world, work and duty to the Crown always came first, but now he just frowned harder. "You promised."

Collette shrugged, turning back to her paper-strewn desk and shuffling through some of the sheaves. "You can admire Badri Mukherjee's groin without me."

"I admire all of him," Aimé said, with as much dignity as he could muster under the circumstances, "and you promised you would go with me, because it is my birthday."

Judging by her guilty expression, he guessed she'd forgotten that small detail.

"All right." She ran her fingers across her scalp, where her hair was cropped so short that it made her look almost bald. "When does the ballet start?"

"Eight o'clock, I believe. But we should be ready to leave much earlier if we want to dine out." Aimé gave her another pointed look.

"Very well, I'll get ready." Collette disappeared back into her room again, and Aimé headed for his own.

*~*~*

The steps to the Royal Theatre were crowded by the time Aimé and Collette got there, now properly wined and dined for the evening.

Aimé was in a shimmering, silk, dark silver jacket and waistcoat with a striking black shirt to match his breeches. The silver enhanced his dark hair and eyes, and made him stand out in the sea of pastels. The close cut of the jacket showed off the rounded curves of his hips and backside, but Aimé liked that, liked the way it made people take notice. Let them look: his figure marked him as a castrato, and he had only ever been proud of that. Tonight, unlike his other trips to the ballet, Aimé carried a moderately-sized bouquet of wild roses.

Beside him, Collette was all long, elegant lines in her own jacket and breeches, closely tailored to show off the wide width of her shoulders and her long legs.

She took his arm as they descended from their carriage and moved up the steps. His dark brown hand seemed tiny and pale against her much darker, larger one. She was a good five inches taller than he was, and she held her head high.

They swept through the crowd of nobility, turning heads as they went. Aimé heard whispers of both their names and ignored them. He procured them wine once in the building, and brought her a glass.

"Commander."

She took it with a slight nod of her head. "Shall we go up to your box?"

He nodded and followed her.

Aimé did not often have time to watch ballet and plays, but he loved both, so he maintained a season pass just the same. Their box seats allowed for a spectacular view of the stage, and Aimé settled himself before taking out his opera glasses, ignoring Collette's small, amused snort.

The sounds of a packed theatre and the preparations of musicians in the pit made his heart pound with excitement, even though he knew it was not for him.

Everything grew quiet finally, the lamps dimmed among the audience, and the orchestra began to play their overture.

The curtain rose as the music died away. Pale light spilled over the stage from the new stage lamps designed by Professor Sushil Mukherjee, twin brother to Badri. Aimé had heard that Professor Mukherjee was one of the inner circle of the new science. The lights were his greatest contributions. They were still too costly to be widely used, but they were installed in both the Royal Theatre and the Royal Opera House.

Badri himself entered the stage almost immediately, as he played the lead. He was dressed in dancing shoes, stockings, and breeches: the shirt, waistcoat, and jacket were all made from some soft, supple material that clung to every inch of him, tight like a second skin. His fashionably long, dark curls were pulled back from his face as he spun across the stage.

He was the pride and joy of the Royal Ballet Company, and one of their two lead men. He did not falter even once, Aimé thought with amazement, not in all the productions he had seen him in and most certainly not now. Everything Badri did on stage looked light and effortless, although Aimé knew full well that it was not. More than that, Badri could act and dance at the same time, which in Aimé's opinion, set him head and shoulders above Désiré, who was the company's other male lead. Badri acted with his entire body: more than just performing the ballet moves, he danced the emotions.

There was no part of him that was not lovely, Aimé thought from where he sat in his box, glasses pressed to his face.

The story was a sad one. Badri embodied grief with every line of his being in the final scene in such a way that it made the hairs on Aimé's arms stand on end.

The curtains fell and the audience rose as one, applauding and calling encouragement. Aimé applauded as hard as he could, ignoring Collette smirking beside him. How she remained unmoved by something so beautiful was beyond him.

"I will see you back at the carriage?" he asked, as he picked up the bouquet again.

"Or the apartment, if you'd rather." She threw him a teasing smile, and he rolled his eyes before making his way down from the balcony and towards backstage.

Aimé had never performed here, but the building was originally constructed under the same reign as the Royal Opera House, so the layout was almost eerily familiar.

He saw the crowd of admirers as soon as he was close to Badri's room, his heart sinking, although he had expected it. In his dreams his and Badri's first meeting took place in private, away from prying eyes and culminated in passionate love-making, but that was hardly realistic and most certainly would not happen tonight.

"Excuse me, excuse me." He pushed his way between a group of women in long, flowing, jewel-colored dresses, with panels of lace up the front, each with her hair piled on her head and held in place by gold and silver pins.

"Oh! Aimé De Verley," one of them said, voice gone high with excitement.

"Really?" her companion asked.

"Yes! I saw him perform at the opera just last week; isn't he adorable? I could just steal him away now."

Aimé ignored them and kept pushing through the crowd towards Badri's dressing room.

"Aimé. Aimé De Verley's here." The news went through the crowd in a slow murmur that made Aimé want to put his head down and retreat as fast as possible.

The people in front of him parted as if by magic. Everyone turned to stare at Aimé, and even Badri turned from the young woman he'd been speaking with. In the crowd, Aimé caught a glimpse of Lady de la Valois, who always treated him like a little girl, no matter how many times he asked her not to. There was also Lord de la Falaise, who had once referred to him as an "exotic attraction" at one of his dinner parties right along with the peacocks he'd had in the garden. He'd then expressed outrage when Aimé declined to have anything more to do with him.

 Aimé took a deep breath and started forward.

"Monsieur Mukherjee." Aimé bowed when he was close enough, actually inside the room and standing in front of Badri. "My compliments on a superb performance, I am a great admirer of your work."
And the rest of you
, Aimé thought, suppressing a sigh. No, this was not how he'd imagined their meeting at all, surrounded by a full audience of most of the cultured elite of the empire.

He held out his bouquet of delicate, wild roses and heard a titter go through the crowd behind him. Probably because the flowers meant something he did not know or care to know in that idiot secret flower language that was popular now.

Badri took the flowers with a small incline of his head. "Thank you," he said, his voice deep with a hint of an accent behind each word. "I feel greatly honored to receive such a compliment from you, since I, too, am a great fan of your work."

Aimé thanked God his skin was dark enough to hide the blush.

This close, Aimé could see how muscular Badri was: his body built solidly, every muscle beautifully sculpted and taut. He was also sweating, curls sticking to his neck and face. Aimé felt a pang of sympathy at that. The new lamps might light the stage to perfection, but they were almost unbearably hot to work under. Aimé found them so, and he was never as active on stage as Badri was.

"I look forward to attending more of your performances," he said, not sure what else to do when watched by so many.

"I hope you enjoy all of them." Badri bowed to him, and Aimé bowed again as well and began backing away.

As soon as he was back into the crowd, several ladies swooped in with large bouquets of their own, heading for Badri. Aimé felt someone tug at his sleeve but ignored it, pushing back through the throng and heading towards the closest exit as fast as possible.

At least, he thought, stepping out into the cool night air, he'd been able to give Badri the flowers and exchange a few words.

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