Authors: Belinda Burke
Tags: #Erotic Romance Fiction
He lifted his head from the pillows enough to kiss Kas again and again, filtering his words through softness and promises Kas was not sure he knew that he was making. “Yes, even when it’s dying, so even to you—even to you I’m only what I am. Only what I am, Kas, but—and you think I’m enough, you love me, you want more of that, more of me forever? Don’t you know that you can’t say never has meaning and not forever, don’t you know you can’t say…”
Kas moved out of reach of Myrddin’s mouth, kissed his throat, his collarbone, ran his fingers down Myrddin’s sides until he could grasp his thighs and part them, make room for himself between them. It did not stop the words, the river of them flowing out of Myrddin’s mouth—the water of life, though all that he said was death.
“You can’t say never leave and not know that means forever, Kas.”
“Lover, my love.”
“You can’t, you know that, you can’t—”
“Are you sure that you’re death and not agony—not ecstasy? You make them the same, did you know that? You make them the same, are you sure that… But no, that’s all it means. That’s all it can ever mean.”
Kas shook his head, entered Myrddin’s body with one slow, perfect motion and watched his eyes open wider,
, a swift, sudden flush rising across his cheeks, spreading across his throat and down onto his chest.
” Myrddin sucked in air suddenly, sharply, and Kas took that opportunity to kiss him breathless, press him back further against the bed and keep him there.
“Have you still not learned? Sounds, love.
. Not words.”
Also available from Pride Publishing:
Dark Side of the Sun
This is…one of those dreams.
The Red King scowled in his sleep.
A Samhain dream.
Most often, Macsen’s sleep brought him nightmares. He had visions of destruction, of mortals in the woods of the hidden kingdoms, moon and firelight shining on their weapons. He saw flames consuming his palace, or his throne overturned, its frost and darkness both dispelled.
Only on Samhain did Macsen have this dream, in which he was someone other than himself.
He didn’t like it. He didn’t like not being in control of himself, and while he dreamed Macsen remembered things that he knew would not come back to his memory in waking life.
Other visions, other days…the face of a child, a golden power, and… But it was lost to him then, Macsen’s own thoughts caught up in the rush of the images that had hold of him.
Gold grew alive in his hands through some inner power. He looked down, saw a stranger’s face reflected in the gilded steel, had a thought that was his own, disassociated with whoever he was in the dream.
Beautiful, he’s beautiful. Who are you, stranger?
One hand reached up and pushed back blond hair, but it fell forward again over blue eyes dark as summer twilight.
Macsen’s awareness recoiled.
The images wavered like a reflection on a pool.
“Wake up, my lord!”
The vision vanished into darkness. Macsen opened his eyes and tensed his fingers in the fur drawn up over his body. He blinked at the smooth, familiar features of the face leaning over him, then let his hands relax and closed his eyes to the presence of the female bent over his bed. The smile on her face was obscenely cheerful, and all he wanted was to go back to sleep.
For the first time he could remember, Macsen wanted to go back to one of his Samhain dreams. Despite the haze over the recollection, the thought of that male stuck with him, the shade of those blue eyes.
Was he human or
? Mortal or immortal? Real…or not? As he considered it, Macsen thought that those blues eyes were set in a face he had seen before. A face he knew, and not from someone he’d drunk.
, then. But who?
A name hovered at the edge of his consciousness.
The voice cut the thread on which Macsen had been reeling the name into his awareness, and frustration boiled in him.
“Enough, Talaith! I’m awake, go find someone else to torture.”
Despite his tone, Talaith’s smile didn’t change. She obeyed, but without hurrying. Before she left Talaith opened the great window in the western wall to let in the moonlight and the night.
The sounds of his winter kingdom’s dances and the horns of the waiting Hunt came faint but clear to Macsen’s ears. He felt a tingle on his skin, a cold wind that came through the open window with the scents of pine and snow.
The Red King closed his eyes again and tried to bring back the memory of his fading dream, but as had happened every year before, the details were gone. Macsen remembered only that he had not been himself. That he had seen blue eyes in a beautiful face.
He scowled then, irritated he couldn’t remember whose face it was, and threw off the covers. The Red King couldn’t ignore his duty, even if he wanted to. The moon was at its half in the sky outside, and tonight was a night of power. His presence was required for the taking of the sacrifice.
But he had seen those blue eyes before, had dreamed of being someone who was not himself before, he knew at least that much. Every year on Samhain night—for how many years now? More than ten? More than twenty?
Macsen wondered if he would ever know what it meant, then shrugged and grinned with all his teeth showing.
Probably. One day.
His was a world in which everything happened for a reason.
Macsen lifted himself out of bed then and crossed to stand naked before the great window that looked out across his kingdom. He tried to push his dream out of his thoughts. It was Samhain, and the night was just begun. He was looking forward to the sacrifice, and wondered which of his pets Talaith had chosen.
He hoped it was one with blue eyes.
* * * *
Macsen passed down a long curving stair and out into the wild celebration of his court. Shouts of welcome and screams of glee greeted him. His presence meant the highest point of the rite had come. With deliberate steps, Macsen passed through the crowd and came to stand at the foot of the stairs that led up to his throne. Talaith was waiting for him, holding a woman spellbound by dark allure.
He took the sacrifice into his arms, stroked her auburn hair and ran his fingers over her skin, pale in the starlight. Her eyes were blue, but not the shade that he was hungry for. Still, Talaith had chosen well as he had known she would. Eight hundred years at his side had taught her his preferences.
Macsen held up the sacrifice before his people and listened to them howl for her death. She was only a human captive from last year’s Hunt, but tonight she bore the full attention of the Red Court. Under the pressure of Macsen’s allure she submitted to his grasp, to the hungry howl of the
. She was a creature without a will of her own.
The Red King put her down on her feet and gathered up the length of her hair in one fist. He addressed his court in a ringing voice.
“For the Hunt, and its power!”
A tide of whispers from his court returned the words to him.
“For the Hunt and its power!”
“Because I am your king, unless one among you would challenge me!”
Below him, a hundred
drew a breath in unison. No one spoke. He hadn’t thought anyone would. His power was legend, as much to his own as to humans.
Macsen smiled, and bent to open his mouth around the succulent curve of the woman’s throat. He penetrated deep with sharp teeth made for this one purpose. A rough groan, some bestial noise, slipped out of Macsen’s throat between swallows of red. He drank in the rich flow of blood, endless and all encompassing…until it ended. Then the woman lay still in his arms, but not in languor.
Slowly, enjoying the morsels of flavor, Macsen Cadoc licked his lips and teeth clean of the sacrifice. He dropped her body to the ground and left it. It would be taken care of. Already, small seekers of soft flesh were crawling hungrily out of the crowd toward the fallen body.
Macsen stepped out of the whirling that was the dance as it was reborn, and climbed up to his shadowed throne. Ecstatic taste and energizing sensation wound through him. The living blood he had drunk moved in him, mixed an afterglow like the pleasures of sex with the euphoria of strong wine.
He fell into his high seat and turned his gaze down toward the dancers. There was beauty here no mortal had ever survived, a striving passion beyond all human desire. Over it all, his gleaming winter demesne, Macsen sat enthroned—the Red King. Yet he found that despite the sacrifice, despite the affirmation of his rule, his being hungered for more than just the flow of blood. That desire was the basest of his being, but it wasn’t the only thing that moved him…or shouldn’t be.
The truth was that he was bored. Ennui had been creeping up on him for years. He had taken the Red Throne in a storm of power when he was only ten years old, but that time was now a thousand years ago. Every day, every decade since had begun to fold into unbroken sameness. He had fought wars and ended them, had drunk the lives of men and women and strange creatures of magic and power. Despite this, or maybe because of it, eternity had grown long for him. Empty. His mind turned on forever, contemplating. He watched the movement of color and light below him, but it was the wind that distracted him from his brooding.
The leaves of the wood overhead shivered and rustled like ancient silk. The land to which he was bound by will and magic shuddered under that wind, a wind that foretold the approach of…something.
In the next moment, Macsen felt that something approaching. What would it be? He scented neither fear nor fire, only purpose, an odor ripe as fresh fruit. What was it? Who did it belong to?
He pushed himself forward on the arms of his throne and looked out across his court. At the very edge of the dancers, he saw a figure move, circling, a figure that did not fit in. Macsen’s whole being tingled with watchful alertness, with a sudden and complete awareness of the truth.
Intruder! Trespasser! Stranger, invader, thief!
A rush of murmurs washed up from the court and the disrupted dancers as many others became aware of the stranger’s presence. The smooth, perfect movements became stillness. The pounding of the drums became an equally pounding silence. Many voices reached Macsen’s ears, all of them speaking the same thing.
“A woman is here among us!”
“A human woman!”
Macsen stood before his throne and looked down. A hundred shades of mist and silk parted before his eyes and revealed a single figure standing alone. She was indeed human, a fair-haired young woman. She was tall and slender and as she came forward, Macsen saw that she was dressed in worn but well-fitted armor. Her green eyes flashed with a steely edge, and her narrow face spoke only of death.
About the Author
Belinda currently lives on the New England coast with her fiancée, their roommate and her cat. When she’s not writing, she’s working toward degrees in Philosophy and English, embroidering or reading.
Belinda writes in several genres, but a little lust and love always work their way into her stories.
Belinda loves to hear from readers. You can find her contact information, website and author biography at
Also by Belinda Burke
Eight Kingdoms: Dark Side of the Sun
Eight Kingdoms: The Circle Unbroken
Eight Kingdoms: The Burning Season
Eight Kingdoms: The Shadow Road