I thought I’d give everyone a teaser, so here is the prologue and first chapter of The Curse.
The Curse: Origin of the Vampires
Copyright © 2016 Kethric Wilcox
Following the Great Upheaval in 2084, the great shifter and vampire hunter Richard St. Martin vanished in the ensuing chaos as civilization crashed back to pre-World War II levels of technology and Victorian ideals of morality. Following the conservative triumph of the Papacy and Evangelical movements, they overturned the significant civil rights victories of the past century. In the aftermath of the electromagnetic pulses that leveled the playing field between the industrial nations and the former third world, new nations arose from the wreckage. The Holy Accord of 2094 banned the redevelopment of all air and space technology to prevent a repeat of the mass missile launch that brought about the Great Upheaval. The new nation states imposed travel restrictions both international and internal. A few organizations were given unrestricted travel permits because they serve as law enforcement on a global scale. One of these agencies, the Order of St. Hubert from the new Holy Roman Empire, investigating leads on the discovery of Richard St. Martin’s secret library on shifters and vampires traveled to Amsterdam, New York in the United States of America and Canada in hopes of laying claim to this treasure. Sadly, unknown forces killed the team. The last known communications were received here at the Mother House of the Order of St. Hubert on January 25, 2111. Sadly, we have only one of the copies sent out to inform us of the secrets St. Martin kept hidden. The copy we received wasn’t intact, and we’re not sure what the actual proofs behind our agent’s claims are. I’ve attached a copy of the late Father Sebastian’s cover letter for the records. Recovery of these journals is of the highest priority to all members of the Order.
Alexander Le Roux,
Order of St. Hubert
Liege, Belgium, Holy Roman Empire
December 10, 2110
To Whom It May Concern:
I am sorry that I cannot call you by name, but I’ve made and sent so many copies that do not know who will receive these pages. If you have received this package, then know that I am dead or worse, and any further communications after this one are suspect and not to be trusted. I beg you to take all precautions available to you to ensure that these documents reach either the Grand Master of the Order of St. Hubert or the Holy Father in Rome. You must warn Mother Church that an ancient enemy still exists. We of St. Hubert’s Order have always counted Richard St. Martin, better known as Lord Hunter, as an ally. I fear that our trust is misplaced. When Lord Hunter vanished in the middle of the terrible war over a decade ago, we felt the loss deeply. Now that things have settled down enough to allow travel once again between the Holy Roman Empire and the United States of America and Canada, the Order sent my team to recover what we could from Lord Hunter’s last known residence in Amsterdam, New York. What we found horrified us and challenged our faith in our Lord and Savior. This attached copies from one of the blasphemous tomes purport to be from the Journal of Cain, first-born son of Adam and Eve. His vague claims and twisted history challenge every tenant of our faith. His claims to be the first vampire strike terror in our hearts. Worse are the additional notes in the hand of Lord Hunter, which argue that numbered among his early kills was a vampire claiming to be Cain and that he received Cain’s curse as foretold in the Bible.
I beseech you to pass this package on quickly. Whatever the truth maybe vampires have started to come for us and I am the last of my team left as I write this. Warn Mother Church.
Father Sebastian Drummond,
Order of St. Hubert of Lieges
The Atlanta Theological and Archaeological and Conference of 2120
Dr. Jeremiah Banks stood in the line in front of the registration table for the conference. He’d been anticipating this conference for ages and had waded through the reams of paperwork required to get permission to travel from the University of Arizona in the Republic of Texas to Atlanta, Georgia in the Confederate States of America. These two new nations in North America weren’t the best of friends, but they weren’t bitter enemies either. Getting the permission and permits to travel hadn’t been as difficult as he’d expected it to be once he’d presented the invitation to submit a paper on his research on the earliest city-states of ancient Mesopotamia. He was also excited, as he’d learned that one of his idols was also attending the conference and presenting his latest research on biblical archaeology revolving around the legendary city of Enoch. Much of his research into the region used Professor Juan Di Vargas’ work as its base. Jeremiah sincerely hoped he could get a few moments of the man’s time to ask him some questions. Finally, the line moved forward bringing Jeremiah to the front of the table. He brushed back a long strand of copper hair as he handed his paperwork to the registrar.
“Dr. Jeremiah Banks, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Arizona in the Republic of Texas. I’m on the presenter list.”
“Dr. Banks, yes here you are.” The man said handing Jeremiah back his paperwork. “Here’s your conference badge, please make sure you have with you at all times. Now this bag contains all your conference materials including a schedule of events. If you should need assistance in finding your way to events, please ask any member of the conference staff. Green badges and sashes identify all the staff, so please don’t hesitate to stop us. Do you have any questions?”
“No, I think I have everything I need now,” Jeremiah said.
After a quick nod of acknowledgment, the man sent Jeremiah on his way. The young doctor of archaeology headed back up to his room to organize himself for the evening events and to stow the items he wouldn’t need to carry around with him. When he got to his room, he realized he hadn’t asked the man at registration if Professor Vargas had checked in yet. Oh well, they probably wouldn’t tell me, he thought. I’ll just have to hope I run into him during the conference.
In his room in a different part of the hotel, Professor Juan Di Vargas, Doctor of Ancient Theology at the University of Madrid in the province of Spain in the Holy Roman Empire, was just settling down with a glass of wine before heading down to the opening banquet. He relaxed in his chair, sipping the wine and reading over the schedule of events. Several names caught his attention, either because of a rivalry in the field of ancient religions or because of fascinating topics. Two names leaped out of the program at him. The first belonged to Dr. Gerard Chevalier, a professor of theology at the University of Paris and a rival in Old Testament studies. The other name that popped out at him belonged to Dr. Jeremiah Banks the young archaeologist who’d discovered the tablets, which finally broke the secrets of Linear A. At the time of his discovery, Dr. Banks had only recently received his Ph. D., and was on his first private expedition. His Alma Marta had quickly given him not only a teaching position but tenure as well. Other universities from around the world had offered him almost anything he wanted to come and teach at their schools. Even the University of Madrid had jumped in on the feeding frenzy to gain the reflected glory of Dr. Banks’ discovery. Juan decided that he would have to catch the man’s lecture on those tablets. Setting down his program and wine glass, Juan rose and crossed to the room’s mirror, where he adjusted his suit, straightened his tie, and checked his hair like he was thirty years younger and getting ready for a date. For an ancient academic, I’m in decent shape. Refusing to sit in dark libraries doing all my research in books helps. Nothing keeps you trim like being out in the field chasing down leads of ancient scrolls or tablets. I think I went into the wrong field. I should have been an archaeologist instead of a theology major. Oh well, I do get a thrill out of making Chevalier look like the pompous idiot he is. I hope that I’ll encounter Dr. Banks, and we can spend time comparing notes on the ancient cultures of Mesopotamia.
Professor Di Vargas made his way to the elevator and downstairs to attend the conference’s opening reception. In the hotel’s grand ballroom, several colleagues from various universities met him. They fell to chatting about a variety of topics when a bright head of long flowing copper hair caught Juan’s attention, and his eyes tracked the owner’s progress across the room. At first, he thought he was watching a woman, because of the length of the hair and the way the person glided as they moved. Juan let his vision scan down from the intriguing hair to the broad shoulders, defined chest, and tapered waist to the delicious looking ass and sturdy legs. All man that one Juan thought as he watched the redhead turn and caught sight of the neatly trimmed beard and pale skin. Quite a prize this one would be, especially if that hair goes further than his head. Juan took in the man’s attire and noted the uncomfortable way he wore the tailored suit. Someone made him dress up for the occasion. He doesn’t usually wear suits or at least not ones tailored to show him off. Wonder where his keeper is?
From behind, the redhead Juan watched as Professor Susan O’Grady glided in and slipped her arm through the young man’s arm as if claiming him as her property. Juan glowered before returning his attention to the conversation around him. He dismissed the redhead as a mere ornament brought to make Professor O’Grady look more important than her colleagues. Across the room, the redhead was caught off guard as a female arm slipped in and latched on to his arm. He turned to find one of his former instructors taking possession of his arm and slipping into his conversation with his old classmate, Dr. Eugene Lanister on the recent decision of the Republic of Texas to attempt the preservation of the Alamo from further decay. What the hell is the professor doing? I just know that Professor O’Grady leaning on me looks totally unprofessional. Jeremiah pondered as he tried to act as natural as possible. Dr. Lanister addressed a question to their professor.
“Professor O’Grady, Dr. Banks and I were just discussing various preservation methods under consideration for use at the Alamo site. Do you prefer an aggressive method or a more holistic approach?”
The woman on Jeremiah’s arm smiled at Eugene like a shark about to feed on a seal pup.
“Dr. Lanister, if you’d paid better attention in my classes as an undergraduate you wouldn’t have to ask such a silly question, you’d know my preference has always been a holistic preservation of archaeological sites and keeping visitation to a minimum. Dr. Banks was always the better student. Come, Dr. Banks, let me introduce you around to some of the prominent attendees at this conference.” Prof. O’Grady said.
Jeremiah extracted himself from Prof. O’Grady’s grip on his arm and turned to face the woman directly.
“Thank you but no thank you, professor. I can manage to introduce myself, although I’m sure most of the gathering thinks I’m some gigolo you hired to look more important. Neither Eugene nor I am your student’s anymore Professor but colleagues so please have a little respect for both of us in the future.” Jeremiah said before turning back to his classmate. “Eugene, I’ll catch up with you later in the conference, I think I’ve had enough socializing for the evening.”
Jeremiah made his way out of the ballroom, once again catching Juan’s attention briefly as he made his exit. It looks like the fluff piece got his feelings hurt. O’Grady won’t look as good without him on her arm. Well, he was likely in over his beautiful head. Juan thought dismissively. The rest of the evening was the usual boring whirl of academics trying to prove themselves to their colleagues and the few wives or husbands in attendance. As he made the rounds, Juan didn’t see or meet anyone who knew Dr. Banks, nor did he cross paths with the man himself. Perhaps he hasn’t arrived yet, or came late and went to his room for the evening. His lecture is after mine tomorrow afternoon so I’ll just have to see if I can catch him afterward.
Back in his room, Jeremiah fumed. I was hoping I could get a chance to be introduced to Professor Di Vargas, but O’Grady had to ruin the evening. I can’t believe she’d insult Eugene like that. No wonder he changed specialties after the first semester of undergraduate classes. If she didn’t hold an endowed chair, I’d file a complaint about her behavior here. Jeremiah picked up his program schedule to make his list of lectures he wanted to attend around the slots where he was either presenting or part of a panel discussion. Oh good, Professor Di Vargas gives his talk before mine tomorrow, and there’s at least an hour in between. I hope I can catch him for a couple of questions before I have to give my lecture. Jeremiah’s thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door. He crossed the room and opened the door to find a tipsy Eugene Lanister in the hall outside.
“Lanister, good gods man you’re drunk.” Jeremiah grabbed the man before he could collapse in the hallway. “Get in here and sit down, while I put on coffee.”
“Didn’t come for the coffee, Banks, I came for kind of comfort only another guy can give.”
“What are you talking about, Lanister. Surely, you didn’t get shitfaced because of O’Grady and her stupid comments. You were a top-notch student, and she forgets you changed specialties because of her crappy teaching methods. Hell, I made sure I didn’t take any more of her classes after that first semester.”
“Yeah and got nice and cozy with Professor Adamson. The old man fawned over you and guided your career all the way to your doctoral thesis. Was he any good in bed? I guess it doesn’t matter you’re so fucking beautiful he’d have done whatever you wanted to have you.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Jeremiah growled. “I never had such an unhealthy relationship with Professor Adamson. Hell, the man was a slave driver, and I almost quit school twice because of him.”
“Oh come on, Jere, I know you’re one of those fucking liberal faggots that helped bring down the old United States. I bet you’re gagging to suck my cock. So why don’t you…”
A vicious right hook to the jaw, which sent him crashing to the floor bleeding from a broken nose and missing teeth, silenced Lanister. Jeremiah picked the man up and carried him to the door. He opened the door and then tossed Lanister out into the hall.
“Don’t ever call me Jere again Eugene. Only my friends call me that and you’re not one of them. If I were you, I’d check out in the morning and go home before you embarrass yourself further or end up getting arrested in a foreign nation for unnatural acts or whatever they call it here in the Confederacy.”
Before Eugene could pick himself up or speak, Jeremiah slammed his hotel room door shut in his face. Inside Jeremiah leaned against the door panting in anger and fear combined. How the hell did anyone ever figure out the Adamson had made advances on him. Only by turning the older man down repeatedly had Jeremiah finally earned the man’s respect and patronage. Professor Adamson had made sure Jeremiah had a safe place where he could explore his sexuality and discover his enjoyment of other men’s bodies. Jeremiah knew the older man likely had spied on him with his few liaisons but figured it was the least he could do to repay the man for everything. I wish Adamson could have lived to see me graduate and mount my first expedition. He would have been so proud of what I accomplished. Dr. Banks pushed himself away from the door and stripped down to take a shower and wash away the sweat of fear and anger. Jeremiah let the water wash over his athletic body while he tackled washing his long red hair. Once all the shampoo was out of his hair, Jeremiah toweled off and slipped naked between the sheets. He tossed and turned for a while trying to get used to the hotel bed, but eventually drifted off.
Juan had also returned to his room for the evening and had gone through his usual routine before slipping on a pair of silk boxers and then settling into bed with a copy of Jeremiah’s journal article on his Mesopotamian expedition. Juan had hoped there would be a photo of the archaeologist, but the only images in the article were a few shots of the tablets discovered by the expedition and a diagram of the Linear A characters. Juan’s rugged chest above the edge of the sheets sported a spray of black hair, which like his full head of thick black hair and beard showed traces of silver. He set the journal aside and turned out the lights, settling down to sleep.
Jeremiah surveyed his clothing choices for the conference and grimaced. He hated suits, but Dr. Sinclair, the dean of his department, and Mrs. Pike, the dean’s secretary and sort of a second mother to Jeremiah, had both insisted he must look the professional academic. You’re representing the University of Arizona and the Republic of Texas, Dr. Banks. We can’t have you looking like you’ve just gotten off the boat after an expedition. Jeremiah recalled Dr. Sinclair saying as he handed him all of his clearance to travel. Mrs. Pike had said pretty much the same thing when he’d been to her house that night for dinner before she rang her late husband’s tailor and made an appointment for Jeremiah to have some new suits made. Jeremiah wasn’t comfortable in suits, preferring sturdy field clothing, but Dr. Sinclair had been firm no wild field archaeologist attire. He’d finally given in to almost all of the dean’s requirements, only refusing when it came to cutting his long copper locks. Jeremiah ran a brush through his hair to tame it enough to twist into a quick tail and slid a little sapphire encrusted leather tube over it to hold it in check at the base of his neck. The hair binder had been a gift from the Emir, who’d overseen his dig on behalf of the Caliph’s government. The man had been fascinated with Jeremiah’s copper hair and its silky texture. With his hair under control, Jeremiah dressed to impress in a navy blue suit with a subtle white pinstripe. Sapphire cufflinks and tie tack finished the ensemble. The cufflinks were a second gift from the Emir after a night of admiring Jeremiah’s body in all its naked glory. The combination of Jeremiah’s pale skin and fiery fur across chest and torso and pubic region also covered in copper hair, plus the impressive cock and balls in their natural state fascinated the noble. The emir hadn’t touched him or asked for contact; he’d just wanted to see if the red hair was natural or if Jeremiah was darker haired down below. The tie tack he’d purchased recently to complete his ensemble. All three pieces of jewelry helped to highlight his bright sapphire eyes. Jeremiah checked himself in the mirror before picking up his notes and slides for his lecture and heading down to breakfast. During the evening, the staff worked their magic transforming the ballroom from reception hall into a dining room. A waiter led Jeremiah to his assigned table and seat, which was right next to Prof. O’Grady. The rest of the table filled with other scholars from universities in the Republic of Texas. He couldn’t fail to notice that Dr. Lanister’s seat was next to his own was vacant.
“Prof. O’Grady, I’d like to apologize for my rude comments last night at the reception.” Jeremiah began, “I was…”
“No, Dr. Banks if anyone was out of line last night it was me and I should be the one apologizing. You were right to correct my attitude towards Dr. Lanister. I was way out of line. I only wish I could apologize to him in person, but the hotel informed me that he’d checked out late last night claiming illness and was returning home.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. He stopped by my room last night, and I thought he’d had too much to drink so encouraged him to retire for the evening. I didn’t realize he’d caught something.” Jeremiah replied as a waiter came by and filled his coffee cup. “I was wondering professor if you know Professor Juan Di Vargas from the University of Madrid.”
“Only by reputation, Dr. Banks. I know he’s presenting today on how the story of the Great Flood developed in several early cultures.” O’Grady replied as she signaled the waiter to take her plate. “Aren’t you presenting today as well, Dr. Banks?”
“Yes, about an hour after Prof. Di Vargas. I’m hoping I can get a couple of moments of his time between our lectures. He’s mentioned the possibility of a lost city-state in Tigris-Euphrates delta in a couple of his recent papers and I think it may be part of the culture that produced the tablets I found, and I’d like to compare notes.”
“I wish you luck in that endeavor; Di Vargas doesn’t usually deal with those of us who are more physical in our researches. At least that’s what I’ve heard. If you want to speak with a scholar of the period more open to using archaeology, I can introduce you to Prof. Chevalier from the University of Paris.” O’Grady said.
She didn’t notice Jeremiah’s grimace of distaste, which he was quick to hide behind a sip of coffee. Chevalier’s research clashed with every line of the investigation he was currently pursuing while Di Vargas’s was headed in a similar direction if from an entirely different angle. Jeremiah wiped his hands on his napkin, picked up his notes and slides, and rose from the table.
“Thank you for the offer, Professor O’Grady, perhaps another time. If you’ll excuse me I need to make sure; the media team has time to get my presentation set up before my lecture. I’m confident that we’ll see each other at dinner.” Jeremiah said.
“I think they’re planning to mix things up for dinner tonight, but I’m sure we’ll cross paths during the conference. It was a pleasure to see you again, Jeremiah. You were one of my more promising students, and I’m glad to see how well you blossomed under Adamson’s direction.” O’Grady said offering Jeremiah, her hand. “I look forward to hearing your lecture this afternoon.”
Jeremiah shook her hand and then left to track down the media team to get his slides set up before going to attend the other lectures he wanted to hear this morning. For Prof. Di Vargas the morning seemed to drag as it ticked away to his presentation on the Great Flood and its impact on several ancient cultures. When the time finally came to present, he rose from his seat and crossed to the podium while surveying the audience. He spotted the young redhead in the crowd. He must be one of O’Grady’s grad students if he’s attending a lecture. Interesting he chose mine considering O’Grady is in Chevalier’s camp when it comes to the impact of the Great Flood on the cultures of the period, mainly that it was God’s way of resetting the world back to a pure state.
“For centuries faiths and cultures have argued over the myths of the Great Flood. Was it divine retribution for sin, a way for the gods to reduce the population to a more manageable level, or was it just an exaggerated cautionary tale about the seasonal flooding repeatedly occurring in the cradles of civilizations. The Judeo-Christian-Islamic idea of a divine reset is canceled out based on evidence in the Bible itself. Based on lineage records in the preceding chapters of the Book of Genesis, Noah’s family isn’t worthy of the salvation offered by God. While the account proclaims Noah a righteous man, his wife is a descendant of the first great sinner, Cain. The biblical claims contradict themselves in the story of the Great Flood for they say that the flood destroyed the descendants of Cain and their wicked ways, which they clearly did not considering Noah’s children inherit this heritage from their mother.” Juan paused and took a sip of water listening to the gasps from the audience. He let his gaze drift over to the red head and saw him making notes and nodding his head in agreement. “If the Great Flood was God’s method of population control it was a temporary fix at best considering how rapidly humanity has spread across the face of the earth. We need only look at the Greek version of the myth and how so many of the major Greek cities survived the destruction.”
Jeremiah was taking lots of notes as he listened to Professor Di Vargas lecture about how most of the accepted versions of the ancient flood story didn’t play out. It wasn’t until the professor got to the meat of his lecture on the records of ancient cultures detailing the rising rivers and telling stories to caution future generation that Jeremiah focused in on the points the man was making. This theory had led to his discovery of the minor outpost and the tablets that unlocked Linear A. There were hints in the professor’s lecture about the city-states of the lower Tigris delta, which seemed to match up to some of the information contained in the tablets from El-Isin, which referred to a greater city-state. Sadly, the section of the tablet with the name of that city-state had been damaged. All too soon Professor Di Vargas was wrapping up his lecture and leaving the stage. Jeremiah worked his way around to where the professor seemed to be taking questions and tried to get closer to the man so that he could ask a question regarding biblical references to the city of Enoch and its location. For some reason Jeremiah couldn’t fathom, Professor Di Vargas seemed to ignore him deliberately. Juan for his part was trying to see how persistent the young red head would be. Would he follow along hoping he could get his question in along the way to whatever lecture the young man was attending next or would he give up?
When it seemed that he’d never get close enough to the Spanish professor, Jeremiah decided that he’d try a different tactic and called out his question in fluent Spanish over the question of a local Baptist Minister. Juan looked up to see who had spoken as Jeremiah walked past him and made a comment about not ignoring questions from interested parties in Arabic before vanishing into the crowd. Juan was impressed the redhead was more than just somebody’s arm candy of a grad student. There was a brain in that handsome head. Now it was Juan, who wanted to catch up to someone to ask questions. He looked around and realized the man had vanished into the crowd. You’d think a tall man with flame red hair would be easy to spot in a crowd of out of shape academics. Now he’s caught my attention and vanished. With my luck, he’ll be attending some boring lecture on ancient Judean pottery. Still I want to hear what this Dr. Banks has to say about those tablets and the site where he found them. The notes in the journal article said he’d tracked down the location based on something in one of my papers. Juan made his way past one of the many tables set up with water, coffee, and other refreshments, and grabbed a piece of fruit and a bottle of water on his way to the room where Dr. Banks’ lecture would take place. He wanted a seat close to the front so that he could hear and follow the topic. A slide show was running on a loop, showing an archaeological dig going on in what could only be a tributary valley of the Tigris River system. Watching the slides, Juan thought he caught glimpses of the red headed man among the workers on the site. Was he a grad student assigned to Dr. Banks for the expedition? I didn’t think the man was old enough to have student assistants, maybe someone with whom he shared his mentor. Well, maybe I have a chance to see him again here after all. I’m not sure why I’m so fascinated with him, but I want to get to know him better.
The room filled, and if the conference organizers hadn’t closed the doors and turned people away, it would have been packed beyond capacity. Dr. Banks’ discovery had turned the archaeological scene on its head. Linear A had defeated the brightest of minds for over two centuries since it was first discovered on Crete in the first of the Minoan sites ever excavated. Finally, the slide show ended, and a distinguished man came forward to the podium.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to introduce one of the stars of this conference. Dr. Jeremiah Banks of the University of Arizona in the Republic of Texas is new to our distinguished ranks, but he’s earned all the praise heaped upon him. His discovery is changing many disciplines besides archaeology. So, without further embarrassing the young man, please welcome Dr. Jeremiah Banks.”
Juan stood with all the other people gathered in the room to applaud the man who walked out on the stage, and near fell back into his seat as the fascinating redhead walked up to the podium and took the microphone from the man who’d introduced him. Jeremiah waved for everyone to sit, his eyes raking the audience and he seemed to home in on Juan. The professor felt the full intensity of the man’s sapphire eyes, and then came a slightly self-satisfied smirk of a smile as if he knew how much of a surprise this had been to Juan. Once everyone had settled back into his or her seats, Jeremiah nodded to the media crew, and a new slide appeared on the screen. On it was one of the tablets from his find.
Jeremiah began his lecture with a string of words no one in the room could grasp, and then repeated the phrase in English, “On the sixth day, the merchants of El-Isin offered us five slaves in exchange for our pottery. This translation is a rough approximation of what the first line of this tablet says. At this point, the pronunciation of Linear A is pure guesswork as we’ve only been able to decipher a couple of tablets, which have proven to be either trade entries like this one or in the case of this next example a working lexicon of Linear A or Minoan into Sumerian-Akkadian. These tablets found in the ruins of a site we’ve dubbed El-Isin based on other tablets discovered at the same time from a later period in the site’s history that identify the outpost by that name.”
Juan sat transfixed as Dr. Banks continued his lecture on the discovery of the tablets and the mysterious culture, which had built and maintained the site. He caught the mention of his works a few times and was fascinated by the direction the archaeologist had taken his research. When the lecture was over Juan watched as Jeremiah gathered his notes and collected his slides, all while trying to answer questions asked by members of his audience who’d swarmed the stage. He remained in his seat until the crowds began to thin out and that was when he noticed that Dr. Banks headed towards him. The man moved with the grace of a cat on the hunt. He was ruggedly handsome; his square jaw softened by his copper beard, sapphire eyes gleamed with mirth as Juan locked gazes with him. Jeremiah stopped just beside Juan’s chair and extended his hand to the stunned professor.
“We haven’t properly been introduced, Professor Di Vargas. I’m, Dr. Jeremiah Banks, and I’d love to discuss a few research questions I have about your findings regarding the lineage of Cain and the region you suspect he built Enoch.” Jeremiah said.
“Dr. Banks, I’m Professor Juan Di Vargas, and I’m afraid I must apologize from my earlier dismissal of your questions after my lecture this morning. I’d be very honored to compare research directions with you. Will you join me for lunch?” Juan replied while holding Jeremiah’s hand beyond the time required to shake. “I’m not scheduled for any more talks today.”
Juan’s Spanish accent was melting parts of Jeremiah’s brain and sending the blood racing elsewhere. The man’s hand was so warm and sent a tingle up Jeremiah’s arm making him reluctant to break the handshake.
“I’d be honored to join you for lunch, Prof. Di Vargas. I will have to watch my time however as I’m part of the discussion panel at two on current trends in archaeology.” Jeremiah replied as the handshake finally ended. “Perhaps we can make arrangements to be seated together at dinner tonight.”
“Were there any additional lectures you wanted to attend before lunch, Dr. Banks?” Juan asked.
“Not really, I would like to put my notes and slides back in my room if you don’t mind. Shall we meet back in the lobby in half an hour?” Jeremiah asked.
“If you don’t mind, I’ll walk with you to your room, and we can talk on the way. I find now that I’ve finally met you, I don’t want to let you out of my sight.” Juan said.
Jeremiah blushed turning almost as red as his hair. Juan smiled at the man’s reaction and made a gesture for him to lead the way. Jeremiah started walking hoping that his face would cool down and that his tongue would become untied. He hadn’t known the professor more than five minutes and already the man had him crushing like a teenager. When they reached the elevator, Jeremiah was struggling to remember what floor his room was on just from feeling the heat from Juan’s body behind him as they walked. It was strange because older men had never excited him before, but something about the Spaniard had Jeremiah wanting to find out what was under the man’s suit. Behind Jeremiah, Juan was watching the younger man’s ass move beneath his suit. The Texan was everything Juan liked in a partner, he was stunningly handsome, and a brilliant scholar and Juan suspected he was a witty conversationalist once he was comfortable. What Juan wonder was if Jeremiah was a passionate lover in bed? Would he be as fiery as his hair or was he a shy and coy lover awaiting seduction? Juan wanted to see if the Texan was even open to the possibility but unfortunately, the Confederacy had reinstated elevator operators in their high-end hotels and so there was no privacy. He did stand closer than he needed to as they rode to Jeremiah’s floor. Jeremiah wished that the Confederates hadn’t decided to revive the tradition of elevator operators because Jeremiah wanted to drag the Spaniard in for a searing kiss to experience the legendary passion of a Latin lover. With my luck, he’s just messing with me, and he’s got a wife and kids back home in Spain. I don’t remember reading anything in his biography about family. I think it said he was a confirmed bachelor. It seemed impossible to believe terms like that are back in vogue. Jeremiah came out of his thoughts as the elevator settled on his floor and the operator opened the doors. Juan tipped the man before Jeremiah could do so and they exited into the hallway leading to Jeremiah’s room. At the door to his room, Jeremiah almost fumbled the key trying to get it in the lock. He felt Juan’s heat even closer against him as the man’s hips pressed against his ass. The door opened, and Jeremiah found himself inside alone, Juan standing in the doorway. He was puzzled for a moment and then remembered his manners.
“Please come in, Professor Di Vargas,” Jeremiah said as he moved to put away his slides and notes. “We don’t stand on such formality in the Republic at these kinds of events.”
“Old world manners, at the University of Madrid we wait for an invitation into a colleague’s private space because we often have a combined set of rooms that act as office and living quarters, Dr. Banks,” Juan said as he closed the door behind him. ” Please call me Juan. I think we can drop the formal titles.”
“If you call me Jeremiah, I’d be honored to call you Juan,” Jeremiah said as he turned and found himself chest to chest with the handsome Spaniard. “I’m not sure how this works in Europe, but I want to kiss you, Juan.”
“I was hoping you would Jeremiah because I’d like to kiss you as well,” Juan said.
Even after the kiss, neither man could say which of them had initiated it. When they broke both of them were panting and leaning in towards each other. Juan’s hands were lightly cupping Jeremiah’s ass, while Jeremiah’s wrapped around Juan’s waist. They molded into each other as Juan captured Jeremiah’s lips once again. The older man broke the kiss when he felt Jeremiah fumbling to undo his belt.
“We do not have to rush anything; mi muchacho hermoso,” Juan whispered in Jeremiah’s ear. “We have plenty of time later to explore each other properly. For now, I just want to enjoy how well you fit in my arms and how you taste.”
“Mi muchacho hermoso, you see me as your beautiful boy already, mi anciano?” Jeremiah teased as he ran his hand over the man’s chest. “Spanish is just one of my languages, Juan.”
“Yes, but your accent is horrible, Jeremiah,” Juan said.
“Sorry, I didn’t grow up learning proper Castilian Spanish. I had a Mexican nanny whose English was barely passable. She taught me Spanish, and then at school, we learned Mexican Spanish because it’s the Republic’s second official language.” Jeremiah said.
“I’ll teach you proper pronunciation of some unusual endearments later,” Juan whispered in Jeremiah’s ear, sending shivers down the younger man’s spine. “For now, we should make sure we haven’t gotten ourselves to out of order.”
The older man stepped back breaking his embrace with Jeremiah, who found he yearned for the man’s touch. Am I that desperate for physical contact or is there something more? I need to get myself under control, or I’ll never make it through the rest of the day never mind the conference. Pull yourself together Dr. Banks you have that panel to get through. I’ll deal with my feelings later. Jeremiah pulled himself up to his full six foot two height and checked to make sure his hair was still under control, before adjusting and straightening his hated tie.
“I think I’m presentable again. Shall we go down to lunch?” Jeremiah asked while grabbing a folder from his briefcase. “My notes for the panel. My departmental secretary had warned me before I left the university to come here that Rev. Dr. Kenneth Coffin would be on the panel. He’s a Southern Baptist minister with an enormous following who opposes using archaeology to dig into the biblical stories.”
“I’ve heard of him; he lectures in the same circles as my professional rival Professor Chevalier. I think we were fated to meet, Jeremiah. It seems you’re developing the same circle of intellectual opponents. Come we’ll talk about some of the weak points of the right Reverend’s arguments over lunch.” Juan said.
Even though it was Jeremiah’s room, Juan ushered them out and made sure the door was locked. The pair made their way back to the elevator and waited for the operator to bring it to their floor. Juan took the folder from Jeremiah’s hand and skimmed over the topic notes and the list of panel members.
“I’m afraid my side of the debate is a little short handed. Dr. Eugene Lanister left this morning to return home to the Republic. He claimed illness, but he came to my room drunk last night, and we had an argument about a touchy subject that ended when I hit him.” Jeremiah confessed. “I shoved him out and told him he should just go home if he couldn’t behave properly.”
“Perhaps, it was fortune looking out for you,” Juan said with a wicked gleam in his dark eyes. “If there is an opening on the panel, we can use it to our advantage.”
“How can Dr. Lanister’s departure be an advantage?” Jeremiah blinked his bright sapphire eyes at Juan, causing the man’s heart to race. “He’s an expert in the field of comparative mythology.”
“Because that allows me to take his place. I’m no slouch in the comparative religion department. I didn’t earn my chair by taking the simple theological path. Here’s a point where Rev. Coffin and Chevalier would have torn your friend Dr. Lanister apart.” Juan pointed to a section of Jeremiah’s notes.
Before Jeremiah could reply, their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of the elevator, and they entered and rode down in silence. Both men lost in thought. Jeremiah reclaimed his notes from Juan and glanced at the theory the man had pointed out as a weak spot in his side’s argument. He hadn’t paid attention to some of Eugene’s later papers as he’d been on tour with the Linear A tablets. What had Eugene been thinking, trying to prove, this theory was insane. This panel could be a nightmare and would ruin my reputation as a serious scholar and scientist if they raised this point. I’m not sure I believe in guardian angels, but someone is looking out for me by steering me to Juan. Jeremiah closed the folder when the elevator reached the ground floor and made sure he tipped the operator, this time, letting Juan exit before him. They made their way to the dining room and found a table where they could sit and talk while they ate. Once the waiter had brought their lunch and drinks, Jeremiah looked over at Juan and asked the question.
“Do you want to take Dr. Lanister’s place on the panel? It seems like this discussion was set up to destroy the man’s reputation and possibly mine as well if I didn’t turn on him and side with Coffin and Chevalier. I’m obligated by the education policies of the Republic of Texas to defend Lanister’s theory. What do I do, Professor Di Vargas?”
“I think if I take Dr. Lanister’s place then first off his paper won’t be raised since it would be bad form to attack a theory when the author isn’t available to defend it. Chevalier will go after my most recent position paper on the location and importance of Enoch instead. Rev. Coffin will use his position to bolster Chevalier’s attacks hoping to get me tossed from my chair at the University of Madrid.”
“They’re treading dangerous ground; the Linear A tablets support the existence of an unknown city-state in the region you’ve argued for Enoch’s location. El-Isin isn’t the only outpost of this city-state I’ve found referenced. There’s also mention of one to the east of the central city called El-Kino. The directions are too vague to follow right now, but El-Kino is a target of my current research. I’m focused on the central city-state itself.” Jeremiah said.
“I’ve been following your research because I think we’re both looking for the same city along different tracks. I’m hoping that we can compare notes and share research as we go along.” Juan said although his deep voice seemed to convey more than just a sharing of the investigation. “Now that I’ve met you I’m hoping that I might convince you to come to the University of Madrid to teach and do research, Dr. Banks.”
“Professor Di Vargas, please don’t ruin what I hope is going to be a beautiful friendship with a sales pitch to teach at the University of Madrid. I’ve had so many offers over the last two years that my department’s secretary, Mrs. Pike, goes through my mail and removes job offers before sending letters on to me. I’m happy at the University of Arizona, and since they funded my expedition and technically control the access to the tablets, I really can’t go anywhere else and continue my research.” Jeremiah said.
Juan studied Jeremiah’s face for a moment and noted the sadness had dulled the brilliant sapphire eyes. He reached across the table and took Jeremiah’s hand in his own for a brief moment. Not long enough to be assumed more than a gesture of friendship by those around them, but long enough for Jeremiah to know he had the sympathy and support of a friend and maybe more. Juan received a smile and a brightening of those beautiful eyes. The two men finished their lunch and made their way to the conference room, which would host the debate. There they found the moderator fretting about the departure of Dr. Lanister, affect on the panel. He was greatly relieved when the esteemed Professor Di Vargas offered to take Dr. Lanister’s place, especially with the backing of the noted Dr. Banks. Jeremiah could barely contain a laugh that it was his reputation, which was getting Juan on the panel instead of the man’s own. He turned the laugh into a choked cough trying to save face. Juan looked at him as if planning to spank him for being an unruly child and Jeremiah’s coughing fit continued. The moderator looked concerned until Dr. Banks pulled himself together and assured the man he was all right. Jeremiah excused himself to use the restroom. Juan followed him to make sure the younger man was okay. Jeremiah was splashing cold water on his face to get himself under control when he glanced up and caught Juan attempting a serious scowl in the mirror. The younger man burst out laughing and had to grab the sink to keep from falling. Juan tried to remain serious, but soon his deep bass laugh joined Jeremiah’s tenor laugh.
“I-I-I’m sorry,” Jeremiah got out between laughs. “It’s just too funny hearing him say my reputation was greater importance than yours. Arizona trumps Madrid.”
“I see I have to disabuse you of that notion later. Although I have to say, I love hearing you laugh.” Juan said.
Jeremiah looked up at Juan’s reflection in the mirror and smiled at the man. His smile conveyed a sassy almost childish glee in provoking the older man to take a dominant role in whatever was building between them. He watched as Juan moved closer and jerked upright as the man’s strong right hand connected with his ass in a stinging spank. Juan moved on to the next sink over to wash his face and hands. Jeremiah rubbed his ass for a moment before regaining his composure and drying his face and hands. Before he could escape the restroom, Juan had him pinned facing the door, the man’s semi-hard cock pressing into his ass and forcing Jeremiah to bite his lip to keep from moaning out loud. Juan’s whispered words made Jeremiah almost draw blood as he bit down harder to keep his moan from escaping.
“When this panel is over, I’m going to take total control of you, my naughty little boy, and see that you learn proper respect for your betters.”
The door pushing inwards against Jeremiah caused the men to step apart and back as another conference attendee entered the restroom. The man looked at them puzzled for a moment before nature’s call reminded him why he was there. Jeremiah and Juan escaped and went to take their seats on their side of the debate table.