Authors: Jenny Schwartz
From the cold of Siberia to the Mountains of the Moon, Fay and Steve are involved in an epic battle against evil enslaving people’s souls. If a person’s dream essence is stolen, so is their future.
Fay Olwen is still adjusting to life as one of a couple. She never expected to have a sexy leopard-were cuddling her at midnight in his huge bed in his gorgeous villa on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. But here she is, in love and in luck—finally! There’s not a demon in sight.
Pity she can’t say the same about the invading djinn.
As romantic plans are scuttled, Fay discovers she has a lot to learn about her new lover. Steve Jekyll isn’t simply the lethal mercenary she thought him. He’s also heir to the Suzerainty, the ancient order that delivers justice for all weres.
Steve hoped he’d have more time to reveal the many aspects of his complicated life to Fay; not least, his family. But with a rogue mage teaming up with a power-mad jackal-were to enslave innocent people, Steve hasn’t got time for tact. His family are just going to have to deal with the fact that his chosen mate isn’t a were. She is, in fact, their total and feared opposite: a mage.
Let the adventure begin!
Table of Contents
The curtain blew in, a drift of white on the Mediterranean breeze. Beyond the balcony, the night sky met the darkness of the sea, and hid a thousand mysteries. Inside the villa, in the big bed, Fay Olwen snuggled closer to her lover, and smiled at his husky approving murmur and at the feel of his hand closing over her breast and gently squeezing. They were both tired from a long day’s travel and the intense love-making with which he’d welcomed her into his home.
She turned and draped an arm over Steve, still awed by how good it felt to touch and claim and know herself desired.
They’d been friends for years, but only recently had they made the leap to a deeper relationship. The circumstances hadn’t been ideal—demon hunting never was—but the result was more wonderful than any fantasy.
She caressed the strong muscles of his back and watched his slow smile, the one that was just for her. He’d told her once that he responded well to stroking, and he hadn’t lied.
Steve Jekyll was a leopard-were; a powerful man with the ability to shift into a leopard the size of a small car. She’d seen him fight, fought beside him—in both forms—and he was lethal.
He purred as she kissed his throat and slid lower, kissing his chest. He threaded his fingers through her blonde hair, fingertips massaging her scalp as she found a flat male nipple and teased it with her lips and tongue. He rolled onto his back, giving her greater access to his body. He was so at ease with giving and receiving pleasure. For her, it was all new.
The soft lap of the waves against the boat dock provided a rhythmic soundtrack.
His fingers tightened fractionally in her hair. It was a demand, and she came up to kiss his mouth, and his tongue licked in. Her breathing quickened. She was so greedy for him; wanted to fill all her senses with him. The satin-covered quilt slid from her shoulders and he tugged it back up. For all that it was the Mediterranean coast, the spring night was cool. She loved the demonstration of his care for her.
Their kiss gentled from passion to tenderness and they lay together. She listened to his breathing deepen as her own eyes closed and her body softened into sleep.
“Sleeping? You’re sleeping?” A shriek of disbelief intruded. Wind gusted into the bedroom, whirled around and lit with dancing neon lights. Pink, yellow and green flashed around the room.
Steve lunged for the vanishing quilt. “Hold this.” He handed it to Fay.
It was hardly the weapon she’d have chosen, but she gripped it, knelt up and wrapped it around her, while he leapt out of bed and stalked to the wardrobe. She blinked.
The neon lights clustered around him and he snarled, a roaring pissed-off sound.
Disembodied laughter answered him.
He pulled on jeans, zipped them and growled. “Uncle, this is not the time.”
Fay yanked back her battle-ready magic.
The neon lights danced away from Steve, circled dizzily around an armchair set near the French windows to the balcony, and finally coalesced into a glowing man who appeared to be in his late teens.
“Uncle?” she repeated, aloud, in disbelief.
The intruder grinned at her, neon glow dissipating. “Aren’t you the cutest thing?”
Fay looked at Steve. She’d never been called “cute” before. She was too dangerous, and it showed. Although Steve called her “beautiful”, in truth she was tall, trained muscle, honed to defeat demons and protect ordinary people from rogue mages and other magical dangers.
“Fay, this is Uncle. He’s a djinn.”
“And your uncle?”
“No.” Steve crossed back to the bed and stood beside it, between her and the djinn. “He has many names because he constantly changes them, so we just call him Uncle.” Steve frowned at the smiling djinn. “He changes his appearance, too.”
Uncle waved a deprecatory hand. “Life is so boring otherwise.”
The last neon light died away, and the lamps by the bed switched on.
“The matter is urgent,” Uncle said.
Steve folded his arms.
Despite the strangeness of the scene, Fay took the moment to admire his biceps. When she glanced at Uncle, he winked at her. She blushed.
“I wouldn’t have interrupted the lovebirds for anything less than a disaster.” Uncle leaned back in the armchair, hooking one leg over an arm. He looked Japanese, his clothes tight and fashionable, as if dressed for a wild Saturday night. Only his eyes gave him away. They were ancient.
Fay, who had fought and banished demons, found she couldn’t hold his gaze. She looked back at Steve.
“What’s the disaster?” There was outright skepticism in Steve’s voice. If he was afraid or awed by the djinn, it didn’t show. “Last time it was not having someone to get drunk with.”
“I wanted to try an Aussie pub crawl.”
Fay shuddered. She knew what a night out drinking with Australians meant: hangover city.
“No,” Steve said.
“This time it’s a matter I thought Fay might be interested in.”
She jolted, shocked into meeting Uncle’s gaze again.
Curiosity and something more looked back at her.
This couldn’t be good—and she’d only just survived cutting her oath-ties to the Collegium, then challenging its president, her father. If there was more trouble headed her way…
She wouldn’t be facing it alone. Steve moved, placing her behind him.
She knelt up on the bed, a hand on his shoulder, pressing lightly into him. “What’s happened?”
“Is happening. Might happen.” Uncle tipped back his head and stared at the ceiling. Lights appeared and skittered into mandalas, swirled and reformed. “This is a time of change.”
“The Collegium will survive,” she said steadily. It had to. Its role in the world was too important for her to imagine anything but its continued operation. Not that she envied the new president of the Collegium who would have to rebuild morale even as he eradicated the evil that had tentacled through it. She’d banished the demon who’d hidden in its heart. But the consequences, the stain, remained.
Her great-grandparents had founded the Collegium after the First World War. The Great War’s horrors, and the role magic users had played in fueling the violence and death, had convinced her great-grandparents and many of their peers that magic users had to have an organization that could police its own. The Collegium was meant to operate as a kind of magical United Nations, preventing the worst from happening.
She’d been one of its guardian-mages; the most powerful of them all as her great-grandparents’ bloodline triumphed in her. But one too many demon banishings had torn out her allegiance to the Collegium. She believed in its work, but she no longer belonged there.
Nor did its members trust her.
Power could be a lonely curse.
For an instant, she looked into Uncle’s silver eyes and saw that howling loneliness magnified in him. Then he blinked, smiled, and the moment was lost.
She leaned into Steve, grounding herself in his warmth and the strength of their connection.
“The Collegium is not your problem,” Uncle said.
“So what is?” Steve demanded.
“Tomorrow, take her to meet Tomy and Raha.” Uncle vanished, then reappeared, closer to the bed. “For you.” He handed Fay a bottle of insanely expensive champagne and vanished again.
Fay held the quilt to her with one hand and the magnum with the other. “Should I be worried that Uncle thinks I need champagne? And who are Tomy and Raha?”
Steve sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “My grandparents. Tomy’s the Suzerain.”
All he’d asked was one night—all right, as many as he could steal—alone with Fay. If Steve could have picked up the interfering djinn and thrown him over the balcony, he’d have done so in a flash.
But Uncle wasn’t as amiable as he might try to appear. The djinn could be malevolent. Uncle had his own standards and his own way of looking at the world, and one of the things he believed in was payback.
Steve needed Uncle to accept Fay. More than that, really.
The champagne, colored lights and smiles were no guarantee he did. The djinn could be tricky.
Yet Uncle wouldn’t involve Tomy and Raha unless there was something real. If Steve and Fay were still to be tested, Steve’s grandparents had proved their worth decades before. Uncle wouldn’t involve them in mere teasing. Tomy’s health was too frail.
Steve’s hands clenched at the thought. Weres were tough, but age came to everyone. Age and death.
“Steve?” Fay touched his fist. “You said you’d introduce me to your grandparents in a couple of weeks, so why is this so bad?” She rubbed his forearm. “Why do you feel all knotted up?”
She’d let go of the quilt to touch him, and now it pooled on the bed, deep blue against the paleness of her skin which was lit by the golden glow of the lamps.
Love and desire heated his blood. He took the magnum of champagne from her and set it beside a lamp. “Uncle always means trouble. But we have tonight.” He put a knee on the bed, lowering himself to her height, and kissed her. He felt her hesitation against his lips before she gave way.
Her mouth opened under his and her arms wrapped around his shoulders. She fell backwards and he went down with her, passion surging as her thighs cradled him. This, between them, was truer and more powerful than any magic.
He would fight the devil himself to keep Fay.
Together, they’d survive his grandparents.
Fay felt the tension in Steve, even as it transmuted into passion. She felt it run through her.
There was always this need to be with him.
How did others survive love? She was accustomed to standing alone. To need someone as she needed Steve, terrified her; and yet, the terror was beautiful. It flooded through her, a wild excitement that had her straining to him. Pleasure built in a demanding tempo, fed by his touch and weight and strength. She trusted him and let go of her control, shattering in an intense orgasm.
After, he tucked her against him.
Sleepy and acquiescent, she listened to his breathing. She knew little of the djinni, but what she did know was that they were tricksters. They delighted in mischief. How had one become part of Steve’s life, familiar enough to be called “Uncle”? And what trouble did the djinn have in store for them?
“Tomorrow,” Steve muttered into her hair.
“Are you reading my mind?”
She snuggled a fraction closer. “I like your house.”
“I like you in it.”