Excerpt: Knights Erring

Before he entered Flying Colors, a cozy little gay bar off Pearl Street in the Old Port, Sammy Lee checked his cell phone. No texts. No voicemails.

No problem. He slipped the phone into his pocket and went inside.

His friends—and, on every alternate Thursday, his teammates—were easy to spot. They occupied the stools and high table that became home base whenever Flying Colors held its twice-monthly Debbie Deluxe Trivia Contest. Landon Mercer, cradling a gin and tonic, waved Sammy over with his free hand.

Debbie Deluxe herself was on the narrow stage at the front of the room, prompting Sammy to ask how much he’d missed.

“Second question in and we’re already stumped,” answered Damian Shore, seated beside Landon.

“Primogeniture,” said Landon urgently. “Ever heard of it?”

Sammy blinked. “Is that a new drink?”

“It’s the trivia question. What’s the definition of primogeniture?”

“Thirty seconds,” Debbie called from the stage. “And no smartphones, Millennials. One Google search and your team is out and not proud.”

The pair at the table looked expectantly at Sammy, who held out his hands. “Guys, I have no idea. What’s the theme tonight?”

“The Middle Ages,” said Damian.

“A little before my time.”

Landon turned around and gave a little cry of joy. Sammy followed his gaze and spotted a familiar figure at the bar rail.

“Bryce is here. He’s got a British history minor. Let’s add him to the team.” He made the waving gesture again.

“We’re okay without him,” Damian said.

“Why? What’s wrong with Bryce?” asked Landon. Damian and Sammy exchanged looks.

“He likes to stir up trouble,” Sammy answered. “I know you two had a fling back in the Middle Ages, but a little bit of Bryce Cartmell goes a long way.”

“If he helps us win tonight, it will be worth it,” said Landon, undeterred. “And besides, he’s not that bad.”

Landon’s signaling at last summoned a tall, well-dressed man who had taken his time crossing the room.

“Bryce,” said Landon. “Are you playing trivia?”

“I don’t usually. It’s so trivial.”

“Join our team anyway.” Landon pushed the answer form and a pencil in front of Bryce. “What’s primogeniture?”

But Bryce just looked around the table, in no hurry. His eyes rested on Damian’s handsome features.

“And what do I get out of this?” he asked, pencil poised.

“Our gratitude,” said Landon. “And your drinks are covered for the night.”

“Let’s keep the negotiations open,” answered Bryce.

“Ten seconds,” called Debbie Deluxe.

Bryce scribbled a phrase on the answer form.

The next forty-five minutes became a duel between Sammy’s Team and a group of off-duty accountants three tables over calling themselves Head for Figures. If Sammy’s Team hadn’t recruited Bryce and his medieval era expertise, there would have been no competition at all, as the questions were arcane and the trio’s collective knowledge would have rested on Landon’s intermittent viewing of Game of Thrones.

During the break before Round Two, Sammy studied Bryce’s written answers with reluctant admiration.

“How did you know primogeniture meant ‘right of the firstborn’?”

Bryce smiled. “Even if I hadn’t known the term itself, simple Latin etymology would have come to the rescue. Primo, of course, means first, and genitura…” Bryce looked meaningfully across the table. “Damian? You’re familiar with genitura?”

“Most often in the bedroom,” said Landon, who had returned from the bar with fresh drinks for himself and Bryce.

“Genetics,” said Sammy. “Like the family line.”

“‘Right of the firstborn,” repeated Damian. “Just like you, Landon.”

Landon’s eyes narrowed. “I’m an only child. Where does the ‘first’ come in?”

“Well, your parents gave you all your money, the trust fund, the Lexus, and the townhouse on the Back Cove. You wouldn’t have all that if you were third or fourth in the litter.”

“And what about you?” asked Landon, defensive. “Did your family line do anything for you?”

“Besides those high cheekbones and that flawless brown skin, you mean?” clarified Bryce. “I’d say he scored quite well in the genetics lottery. He might not have your money, dear Landon, but you can hardly measure up when it comes to Damian’s…physical attributes.”

Sammy, who had never liked Bryce precisely because of the casual cruelty he practiced regularly and was exhibiting now, tried to change the subject.

“I wonder what it would be like to live in the Middle Ages,” he said, swirling the beer in his bottle. “Sort of romantic, if you think about it. All those tournaments and crusades and adventures for anyone who wanted to sign up for them. Battles and broadswords, knights in armor with work to do. Knights erring.”

“Errant,” corrected Bryce. “As in traveling and running errands and finding tasks to complete.”

Sammy spread out his hands, his point proven. “Never a dull moment.”

“I see enough fighting and scheming in today’s society,” said Damian, glancing at Bryce as he spoke. “I’m not looking for more.”

“Make love, not war?” asked Bryce. “I could embrace that philosophy, depending on the lover.”

Landon was riding another train of thought. “There was no grooming or body care in medieval times. You bathed twice a year in a stream, and you had to use outhouses and sleep on a pallet of straw and keep your food from getting overrun with insects. No thank you!”

“Landon, sweetie, don’t be coarse,” Bryce reprimanded, then took a sip from his vodka and cran.

“I need another beer,” said Sammy, climbing off his stool. “Damian?” Damian shook his head. Something had captured his attention. Sammy traced his friend’s gaze to the bar’s front entrance, where a newly arrived dark-haired young man stood assessing the scene. He wore a tight T-shirt that made the most of the physique underneath it.

When Sammy returned to the table with a fresh Corona and lime, the conversation was still stuck in the fourteenth century, although it had shifted to the topic of chivalry.

“There’s nothing romantic about it,” Landon was arguing. “If anything, it seems like a lot of unnecessary work.”

“That’s hardly a surprise, coming from you. With all that money from your trust fund, you don’t need to work.” Damian pivoted to Sammy. “What do you think about this chivalry business? Is it worthwhile or just a waste of time?”

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