He felt his shoe strike something as he settled behind his desk, and frowned. Pushing back his chair, Joss ducked down to look at what he’d kicked.
Stooping, he retrieved and saw it was not simply a book—it was a writing journal. Just smaller than his hand in size, made of costly, butter-soft black leather. Strange. Had someone dropped it during an interview? Had Sorrel dropped it while they—
He coughed. They really needed to stop using his office; it was the one place he needed not to associate with such distraction.
Still, that did not answer the current question. If Sorrel, or anyone, had dropped it, surely he would have been back by now to retrieve it? Unless, of course, he had not yet noticed its absence. It must be one of his recent appointments, because he had never known Sorrel to carry a journal about.
Well, maybe there was a name inside, and he could simply return it himself.
Flipping it open, he was immediately struck by two things – the first page, which simply said Poetry, or Attempts At. The second was that the words were written in Sorrel’s hand.
Since when did Sorrel write poetry? He couldn’t even comprehend that. Sorrel sneered at such things; he would have nothing to do with the literates of society, save to sneer at their melodramatic displays during the popular readings and playacting.
Perhaps there was some joke here.
He hesitated briefly, because it was Sorrel’s book—then remembered how often the bastard poked and nosed through his desk like some high and mighty lord entitled to know everyone’s business. Scowling, he flipped to the first poem.
And found his breath caught in his throat.
It was a traditional sonnet—much more difficult to write than the more modern style, in terms of meter and rhyme, even the order in which content must be set out. Modern sonnets were much more flexible. Back home, Joss knew, the poets loved to rage about which form was best, and what made a real poet.
Though he had only read the one, he already knew he was looking at the work of a real poet.
Several minutes later he was torn between awe and hurt—how did Sorrel keep such talent quiet? Why had the bastard never told him about it? He had thought…did everyone else know? Well, of course they did. Sorrel would not hide such a thing from his friends. Yet no one had told him?
He suddenly felt wretchedly depressed; here he thought he had managed to fit in so well, and something as important as this had clearly not been told to him.
Still, the words were beautiful. How long had Sorrel been writing these? The journal did look that old, so maybe he had others filled and simply had started a new one, recently? Were any of them about him? Joss winced at how insufferably vain that sounded.
Trying to ignore the raging hurt he felt, he settled more comfortably in his chair and began to read more, work completely forgotten.
“Give that back.”
He jerked at the soft words, and looked up to see Sorrel looking pale and strained.
Joss frowned, confused at why Sorrel would look—if he did not know any better, he would almost say Sorrel looked terrified.
Not that it would gain the bastard any leniency. “No,” he snapped, and closed the book and held it against his chest when Sorrel snarled and reached for it.
“Give it back!” Sorrel said again. “That’s none of your business.”
“Just like my reports are none of yours,” Joss retorted. “I thought you—trusted me.” Loved me, he thought bitterly. “Why didn’t you tell me you wrote poetry. You could have told me, if it was some secret amongst you and your friends. Damn it, Sorrel—you know I can keep a secret.”
He bolted away from the desk as Sorrel reached for him again, tucking the book away inside his jacket, and almost got away—but at the last Sorrel snagged him, and shoved down into the bench cushions, so his head knocked against the glass.
Sorrel’s eyes were the color of winter clouds right before the snow began to fall, the deep gray of river water beneath a sheet of ice. His fingers were buried in the soft fabric of Joss’ jacket, but he didn’t reach for the book as Joss expected. He drew a breath, and said in a voice that for Sorrel was remarkably unsteady, though it was said in his tone of voice. “No one knows.”
Joss frowned. “No one?”
“No one,” Sorrel repeated. “I do not believe in torturing the world with my drivel. I write it down merely because it gives me a headache if I do not.”
“Drivel?” Joss stared at him in disbelief. “Did you, the Lord of Arrogance, just call your own poetry drivel? Are you mad?”
Sorrel’s face clouded—but for just a moment, and only because he was watching so intently, did Joss see the real answer. Fear, the oldest and most common reason for anything. The most confident, arrogant man in the palace had none of that when it came to his own poetry.
Joss tried to stay angry, but couldn’t, instead, he reached out and yanked Sorrel closer, then kissed him hard and deep. When he finally broke it, they were close enough their breaths mingled, and those gray gray eyes held the faintest flecks of blue this close. “You could have told me, you idiot,” he said softly.
“Shut up,” Sorrel muttered, then kissed him again.
He’d never met anyone who kissed the way Sorrel kissed. He had plenty of talented kisses in his history, but none that made them an art form all their own. It was not hard to understand why so many had surrendered easily to Sorrel’s considerable charm, and Joss was heady with the knowledge the kisses—the man—were his now, and forever.
Fingers slipped into his jacket, and Joss caught them, giving Sorrel a shove back. “No,” he said firmly. “You’re not getting it back until you tell me why you wouldn’t tell me—you could have told me, Sorrel.”
“I never told anyone, even back when I used to do it. I’m certainly not going to tell anyone now,” Sorrel snapped. He grimaced. “I cannot believe I dropped it.”
Joss shrugged and pulled the book out. “That will teach you to—” He coughed, “make inappropriate use of my desk.”
Sorrel’s mouth curved into its more familiar smirk, but his gray eyes were hot, smoke to some deeper, burning fire. “Do you mean to say, darling,” he drawled, “that it will teach me not to bend you over your desk and fuck you into it?”
“Do not be crude,” Joss said reprovingly, rolling his eyes and ignoring his flushed cheeks. “And yes, that’s what I meant.” He flipped the book open randomly, and landed on a poem about stars that had particularly caught him. “You should get these published, Sorrel. As with everything, you are better than anyone else. Insufferably so, I should think.”
“I don’t want them published,” Sorrel said curtly. “I didn’t want anyone to even know about them.”
“Not even me?” Joss asked, hurt all over again.
“Especially you,” Sorrel snarled, and yanked him close, the force of his kiss bruising Joss’ lips, making his head spin for want of air. “I’d given up such nonsense until four months ago.”
Four months. That’s when they’d become lovers. Joss realized he was still having trouble breathing, but did not much care. He would choose kissing Sorrel over breathing any day, especially in light of what Sorrel had just revealed.
“So are you going to read it aloud for me?” he asked when they broke apart, gasping at the finger which had worked their way beneath his clothes at some point.
Sorrel gave him a scathing look. “You’ve already entirely too much of an ego, I’m not going to worsen it by reading my bloody claptrap aloud for you.”
“You’re a fine one to harp on me for ego,” Joss replied, even as his own fingers began to work upon the buttons and claps of Sorrel’s clothes. He paused only to kiss Sorrel softly, in sharp contrast to the harder kisses of before, and the explosive ones he knew were shortly coming. “Will you let me see any others you write?”
“No,” Sorrel said, and touched him in a way guaranteed to make him forget what they were talking about.
Almost forget, anyway, and Joss decided that ‘no’ meant ‘yes’ and he’d make Sorrel read at least some of them aloud, because he bet there would be nothing in the world that compared to that.