Jason Wadsworth is finally headed to university. Leaving behind his father’s cattle ranch in favor of the posh, gaslit streets of Perdana, Jason is determined to climb the social ladder and forget his country roots. If only his father had gifted him with a more upscale slave.
Kale’s been a country slave his whole life. All he wants is to keep his head down and live as comfortable an existence as possible. Unfortunately, his dramatic master despises him and makes life difficult at every turn.
Humbled by his first breakup, Jason grows to appreciate his ever-faithful slave and soon discovers that Kale is everything he’s ever wanted. Now he needs to prove to Kale that his love is genuine.
Kale, meanwhile, tries to convince himself that he simply feels the devotion of a slave to his master, but his actions prove what his mind is unwilling to accept: he’s falling in love. When Jason’s future happiness is in jeopardy, Kale sets himself on a course to make Jason’s dreams come true, even if it means facing up to the fact that, for the first time in his life, he loves someone else more than he loves himself.
Measure of Devotion is a bittersweet love story that contains sexual content and adult language.
It was beginning to get too cool for comfort, so on the rare days when the weather was nice, Jason would sit in the back garden with Kale. Kale had a strong suspicion that this was a kind gesture toward him. Jason rarely chose to be outdoors. For Kale, it was an especially relaxing time, and he was grateful to Jason for making the effort, even though Jason often used these times for awkward conversation.
“Would you ever run away, Kale?” Where did this boy come up with these questions? They were in their usual position, side by side on their backs, eyes closed, trying to absorb as much heat from the sun as they could.
“Are you just saying that because I’m the one asking?”
Kale kept his eyes closed, but he smiled. “It is a dangerous question.”
“No it’s not. I can understand why you’d feel that way, but I’m just curious. It’s hard to imagine what it’s like to be you. If I was in your position, I think I’d try to run away.”
“No, you wouldn’t. You had parents who love you. The first thing they would teach you if you were a slave is that hoping for freedom is the quickest way to get yourself killed. Focus on what you can change, on what you can control—which is precious little—and don’t let yourself worry about the rest.”
“Your mother teach you that?”
“What else did she teach you?”
Kale opened his eyes and looked at Jason. All his life he had kept his personal thoughts secret. Why was it so easy to surrender them to Jason? He tried to summon the healthy apprehension that kept him safe, the instinct that told him to keep his mouth shut. It was nowhere to be found. He wanted to share with Jason. “To act more like a gentleman than a slave. She wanted me to be a valet from the start.”
“What did your dad want?”
Kale turned his face back to the sky and closed his eyes. “Never met him.”
“Most slaves don’t know who their fathers are. It’s hard enough keeping a mother and child together; no use making it harder on a kid by introducing a father they’ll hardly ever see and will most likely be separated from.”
“Don’t be. That’s the point: I can’t feel bad over something I never had.”
“Still, no one should have to go through that. Especially a child.”
Kale could feel the intensity of Jason’s stare. Opening his eyes, he met his gaze. “Thank you. I appreciate your concern, really, but don’t worry about it.” Kale knew Jason did worry about it, and it baffled him. “Believe me when I say I never think of it.”
“What about your mother? And your brother?”
The familiar pinprick hit his heart, and he pushed the feeling away before a similar pricking hit his eyes. Any other time, Kale would have immediately withdrawn, but that was before he saw the sincerity in Jason’s face. This was not idle talk. Jason was reaching out to him, and a part of Kale that he had thought buried with his childhood wanted desperately to cling to what Jason offered.
“I miss them. The worst part is not knowing whether they’re even alive, not knowing what work they put my brother to. But that’s one of the things I can’t control, so I don’t think about them much.”
Jason reached over and grasped Kale’s hand. Before he even realized it, Kale squeezed back. The silence between them was peaceful, but Kale didn’t like the way his personal thoughts lingered in the air. He wanted the conversation to turn back to Jason. “What about you? Do you ever think of your mother?”
“Yes, all the time. The woman was pure love. The way she acted with me, you would have thought everything I said was genius. I always knew I could tell her anything, and she would understand. She’d get as excited as I was about whatever idea or story I told her. I often wonder what she would think of me now.”
“She’d be proud.” A few moments passed as Jason pondered something. Then he focused back on Kale. “Thanks, I hope so.” When the chilly air chased them back inside, their hands were still warmly interlocked.
A week before Holy Saints’ Day, Kale sat in the kitchen helping Marge. It wasn’t often that Jason went places without him now, but when he did, Kale came to the kitchen. He claimed it was because the kitchen was the warmest spot in the house, but really he felt most comfortable there. It was odd to go back to the slave quarters when he never slept there anymore.
As Kale sliced potatoes, Charlie came whistling into the kitchen. “Well, look who we have here. I’m sorry, sir, but do I know you?”
Kale looked up. “Stop it. I’m here all the time.”
Charlie grabbed a piece of bread and sat next to Kale. “Really? All the time? It’s been over a week since I’ve seen you. Of course, some of us keep busy doing actual work.”
“Hey, I work too.”
Charlie snorted. “Yeah, I wish my master considered fucking me enough work on my part for the day.”
“I’m cutting potatoes, aren’t I?”
“That’s different. You don’t have to, and you’re only doing it so Marge will give you a treat. Which reminds me: you are looking a little pudgy. I hear your master’s feeding you like a free man.”
“Pay him no mind, Kale. I think someone’s just jealous.” Marge shot Charlie a stern look.
“Jealous? Not on my life, Marge. Everyone knows I love everything you fix.”
Kale knew Charlie was joking, but he had noticed lately that he wasn’t as firm as he once had been. A little padding had appeared on his abdomen, but he wasn’t pudgy, was he? “That’s what happens when you’re a good slave, Charlie, you get rewarded.”
“A good slave? You? No, this is what happens when your master falls in love with you.”
Kale stopped cold and dropped his knife. He looked up at Charlie and saw his usual smile. Did the other slaves think the same way Charlie did? “He’s not in love with me.”
“He’s not. You don’t think he is, do you, Marge?”
“I’m staying out of this one. It’s none of my business.”
Charlie chuckled. “Are you blind? Or just stupid? He’s got it for you worse than he did for Eric.”
“No, he doesn’t. He just feels guilty for what he did while they were dating, and he’s overcompensating. I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts.”
Charlie sobered. “You don’t really believe that, do you? Kale, that boy is completely in love with you. He’d probably buy you a pony if you asked for one.”
“Charlie, you really don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I don’t? I guess you’re right. I would have thought it would have been easy for you to spot the signs since you’re in love with him, too.”
All of a sudden, it was hard for Kale to breathe. How had Charlie gotten that idea? More importantly, if Charlie thought that, then did the others too? “I’m not in love with him.”
“Really? So why haven’t you had sex with anyone else since you started sleeping with him?”
“Because I’m sleeping with him, Charlie. When the hell am I supposed to have sex with someone else?”
“I can think of dozens of times we’ve had sex in the middle of the day. Do you want to have a go now?” Kale didn’t have to think about it; the immediate answer was no.
“Come on, you can top. I doubt he’s been letting you.” There was a glint of mischief in Charlie’s eyes.
It was true. Kale had never topped with Jason. But that didn’t change his answer. “No thanks, Charlie.”
“Because. He fancies we’re lovers. If I were to sleep with someone else, he would see it as cheating. I’m not about to throw away this cushy life just to plow into your scrawny ass.”
“My scrawny ass was fine before you started sleeping with him. But you’re right. It doesn’t sound like you two are in love, not at all.” Charlie gave Kale an incredulous look that matched his sarcastic tone.
Kale decided not to rise to the bait, and they lapsed into silence as Charlie finished eating his bread, and Kale continued to cut potatoes. The steady mindless work was easy to get lost in, and Kale could let his mind go blank.
“So how do you think things are going to go when he takes you back home?”
Kale shook his head. It took him a minute to ”
“Holy Saints’ Day? Everyone’s going home. Didn’t you know?”
No, actually, he didn’t. “I guess I never thought about it.”
“They do celebrate Holy Saints’ Day where you’re from, right? You’re not that cut off from civilization.”
“Yes, we celebrate Holy Saints’ Day, Charlie. My master just hasn’t mentioned it at all. I suppose he’s planning to wake up the day he wants to leave, and I’m supposed to have magically packed all of his trunks.”
“That sounds about right. He’ll probably want to leave the day after classes get out.”
“Thanks for the heads-up.” “
Sure.” Charlie rose from the table. “I’ve got to go. But listen, watch yourself back home. I know you say this thing between you and your master is nothing more than the usual, but you could have fooled me. You’d better hope his father’s more dense.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Kale could see the concern on Charlie’s face, and his words did nothing to alleviate it.
After Charlie left, Kale sat at the table staring at nothing. Had he gotten too comfortable? Mr. Wadsworth was a fair slave master, but he wouldn’t tolerate any kind of impropriety between Kale and his son. There was no reason to worry, though. There would only be cause to worry if Kale had developed feelings for Jason, and despite what Charlie said, that simply was not the case. Everything should be fine. Really. It had to be.
Caethes Faron is a bisexual, genre-queer writer. Her books are equal opportunity, featuring gay, straight, and bisexual characters. Her bittersweet tales of love and loyalty are just as likely to leave readers in tears as smiles, and her love scenes don’t fade to black. She enjoys empowering the powerless and exploring the nature of human relationships, especially in differing power dynamics. All of her books feature adults in adult situations. Foul language, diverse sexual situations, aspects of BDSM, and other things that are sure to offend some people make regular appearances in her novels.
Caethes’s writing is influenced by her observations of this imperfect world and the flawed characters who inhabit it. She’s lived in seven states and is always looking for the next place to call home with her husband and two dogs. She currently resides in Florida.
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