Authors: Zenina Masters
Tags: #Adult, #Erotic Romance, #Fey, #Fantasy, #Magic, #Paranormal, #Shapeshifter
“Are your grandparents still alive?”
He smiled. “They are. They consult with small businesses and arrange financing. We have always been more in touch with the human world than the fey, but it has come with a cost. If it were not for our position as guardians, we would not be admitted to court. We are far too common.”
Her heart was thudding happily. It was the best news she could have gotten. Money came and went, but a community was something that lasted.
Drorik caressed her arm with a slow trailing of his fingertips. The sparks lit the air around them.
She shivered and lifted her head, meeting his gaze. “I was told that all the fey that were authorised for this mission had an animal form.”
“What is it?”
“I can transform into an eagle.”
Yval clapped her hand over her eyes. “You are kidding.”
He was concerned. “I am serious.”
“Why would you be the natural enemy of my beast?”
He chuckled. “Possibly because that was the only way to pin you down.”
Her devil was watching him warily through her parted fingers, but the idea of being pinned down appealed to her.
“If you are not communicating with your beast, why are you so concerned about her natural enemies?”
Yval stared at him again, dropping her hand. “She isn’t talking to me, but we are still part of each other. I thought that the idea of taking a mate would appeal to her. I was going to sacrifice some hapless male in an effort to get into her good graces.”
He grinned. “I am volunteering to be hapless.”
He leaned in and kissed her, threading his fingers in her hair and cupping her head. He didn’t feel hapless; he felt like he knew exactly what he was doing.
Yval held his wrist as he kissed her. The sparks went off inside their mouths and ran through her bloodstream. Having the fey magic working through her skin from the inside out was incredible.
She shifted her legs; heat and moisture slicked the inside of her thighs. Drorik moved one hand to the outside of her thigh, and he simply kept it there. As she flexed her legs, he registered every motion.
Her nipples tingled, her belly tightened and Yval moaned against his lips. It had been three years since she had tried to take a lover. She was apparently overdue.
Yval clutched at his wrist and shoulder, anchoring herself as their kiss got feral. She could hear her moans turning to growls in her distinctive tone.
It was the noise that seemed to bring Drorik to his senses. He relaxed and slowly pulled away from her.
Yval blushed. She could smell her own heat. She wanted to do a number of things. She wanted to hide, she wanted to apologise and, at the same time, she wanted to tackle him back to the grass and straddle him.
She shifted away from him and wrapped her arms around her chest to hide the nipples pressing at the front of her dress.
“I think we should adjourn for the evening.” Drorik held out his hands.
She ignored him and got to her feet, pulling her dress down, though it hadn’t been ruffled. “Right.”
He sighed and got to his feet. “So the moment has passed?”
Yval wrinkled her nose. “I am quieting a riot.”
He raised his brows in surprise and gestured for her to precede him.
Her shoulders were stiff, her body was throbbing and she wanted to wrap herself in his scent by clinging to his chest with nothing between them.
It was a bit much for a man she had known for two hours. She hiked back across the meadow, down the lane and into the Open Heart.
“Teebie, this is Drorik. Drorik Bindingheart, this is our hostess, Teebie.” She made the introductions and slipped away to the front room, availing herself of the tea on the sideboard.
She went through the steps of bringing herself back to her normal tense and aggressive attitude. Being aroused made her vulnerable, and it was a feeling she wasn’t used to and didn’t like. She took her cup of tea on a trip around the room, looking at the portraits of a woman with violently green eyes and another with brilliant golden ones.
“Dira’s sister. She was a gryphon, and she married a djinn. It was a strange mating, but it paved the road that you are on today. It proved that the power continues to run in our veins.”
“She looks strong.”
“She defended an entire city before they managed to kill her. Dira took her children to raise, and they eventually rejoined their father’s people, finding mates and having families of their own.”
“And you don’t feel weird about having a shifter in your bloodline?”
Teebie smiled. “It is my blood. I am proud of her. Proud of my aunt for crafting this place and finally organizing things instead of launching random shifters into this dimension to figure things out for themselves. Her initial experiments were successful but stressful for the subjects.”
Yval turned toward her and blinked. “Experiments?”
“You don’t think that this all bloomed into working order in one smooth move, did you? She had been chucking folks into this bubble for centuries before she realised that she needed help. It was a work in process that eventually ended in what we have here today. We have locals that are embedded here and structures as well as a supply line. We have what we need to survive and carry out our purpose.”
Yval got the feeling there was a deeper meaning here. “What are you saying?”
“I am saying, you may have something in mind, but the way you have always done things in the past is not the only way it can be done. You might need help to make it to your ideal situation, and you need to accept that. You are going from single to double and that is something that requires adjustment. Let yourself adjust. It might mean giving up some of your normal control, but the result might be worth it.”
“Yeah, but I wanted to crawl all over him and we just met.”
“It is a good match. You don’t have to kiss a lot of frogs first; the one you want has just been dropped in front of you. Let your instincts take you down your path.” Teebie smiled.
“My instincts would have me up in his bedroom.”
“Top of the stairs, down the hall, third door on the left. You can’t fight fate; she will kick your ass every time. All you will do is delay her and that irritates fate and punishes both you and Drorik.”
She set her teacup down with a firm click. “Fine. I can take a hint.”
Teebie chuckled. “I am not hinting, I am stating it outright. You are a good match here; get your experience of each other out in the real world.”
“What about the energy clash?”
“That will be dealt with at your bonding ceremony. Didn’t Pansy tell you?”
“Nope. It was left out. What about it?”
“Because of the conflict of energy, you don’t just sign the documents, you also get equalized. He gets half of your energy; you get half of his. It evens out your lifespans.”
“Oh. Wait, so the fey are cutting their lifespans in half or more, just for the chance at a mate?”
“Yes. They know the risks they face, and they are willing to face them. Their species has reached a tipping point. Either they pull back from the edge of extinction, or they fade into history. It is their choice. Drorik and his brother have made theirs.”
Yval nodded. “And I agreed to get a new life. I suppose I should be a woman of my word.”
Teebie wrinkled her nose. “I will see you at breakfast.”
Yval straightened her shoulders and stalked toward the stairs, hallway and third door on the left.
She knocked and waited, fidgeting from foot to foot.
Drorik opened the door, and she swallowed as she took in the expanse of chest exposed through the unbuttoned shirt.
“May I come in?”
He stepped back and gestured for her to enter. “Please, come in.”
She eased into his space and let out a shuddering breath, unaware until then that she had been holding it.
He held out a chair at the small table for her.
“What brings you here, Yval?”
“I have some questions to ask you. I need some actual answers.”
He sat next to her and inclined his head. “Ready when you are.”
“Why did you agree to come here?” It was blunt, but she wanted to know why.
He rubbed the back of his neck. “I want a family. I have been alone for nearly a century, and if there is a chance that I can begin a life with a mate and the possibility of children...If I had married a fey woman, there would only be a five percent chance of having a child. I want children.”
She inhaled sharply. It was honest and that was what she had wanted.
“Did you know about your life being cut short?”
“Yes. I was briefed on it, but the seers who saw my family, saw me watch my children grow and have children of their own. That is enough. I will be happy and see the future. It is enough.”
Yval bit her lip. “How many children did they see?”
“Three. All with dark hair and bright blue eyes.”
She didn’t ask about how many boys and how many girls. It didn’t matter.
He was waiting for her next question with a slight smile on his face.
“Why do you think that it is me?”
“The moment I saw you, I felt a surge of energy that made me hard and pushed me toward you. I do not frequently act on instinct but that was not something I have ever experienced in my life. If it wasn’t a direct connection, a true link would probably kill me.” He twisted his lips in a smile.
“How will you explain me to your community?”
He cocked his head with a slow, triumphant smile. “I will say that we met when I travelled for business.”
“And my occupation?”
“You have worked in security. That is all they need to know.”
She bit her lip. “Shifters are not yet out in the public eye. What will you do if you slip up or someone spots me and threatens to tell?”
“Hypnosis is taught to us as children. We can wipe the mind of any human. Any other questions?”
She thought about it. “Can I ask more questions as we go?”
He laughed. “Yes. May I ask a few questions?”
“Are you willing to take etiquette instruction from my mother or a lady of the court?”
She twisted her lips. “I will gripe, but yes.”
“Fair enough. Will you allow us time to get to know one another?”
“I suppose. How much time?”
He chuckled. “We should be used to each other by the second child.”
She didn’t tell him that multiple births were common in her family. For all she knew, the three children would be one pregnancy.
“What was your first impression of me?” He was watching her with his freaky eyes.
“Frankly, I thought that you were large enough to fight off other males who might try to approach me when I was in heat. That was my first thought.”
He raised his brows. “Is that an issue?”
“We pull our own animal, so as long as there isn’t a family of Tasmanian devil shifters nearby, we should be good.”
“What about fidelity on your part?”
She chuckled. “The bonding ceremony will take care of that. I get half your energy; you get half mine. I will no longer be a viable devil and you will be my only choice. The issue of fidelity will be self-solving.”
“Fair enough. Do you currently have a lover?” He leaned forward intently.
“Before arriving yesterday? No, but I believe I am currently in negotiations.” She smiled slowly.
He grinned. “How many children do you want?”
“As many as my lifestyle will allow me.”
“Would you continue working for the shifter’s Guild?”
“Would you be willing to participate in events in my community?”
“Will you marry me in a public ceremony in that community?”
“Can I bring my family?”
“Then, yes.” She smiled. “Is that a proposal?”
“Shouldn’t you be on your knees?”
He chuckled and lowered himself to his knees in front of her, making them nearly face to face. “I was saving it for foreplay, but whatever the lady wants. Will you marry me?”
He moved until his lips were an inch from hers. “Will you wear an annoyingly long gown?”
“I will.” She went a little cross-eyed.
He kissed her and pressed her back into the chair before lifting his head. “There, all the details are hashed out.”
“Wait? What did you think of me when you first saw me?”
“I thought that for a woman so small, your legs looked like they went on for days, and I wanted to see them under my hands. Your breasts are surprisingly large and your hair is so dark stars could get lost in the strands. And then, there were the eyes that were wounded, defensive and aggressive all at the same time. When the defensiveness faded to lust, I was hooked.”
Yval glanced down at her chest. “They are only a little out of proportion to the rest of me.”
He grinned. “I would like to confirm that personally.”
She leaned forward, reached back and unzipped her dress, pulling it down her arms and sitting with her upper body wearing only her bra. “Please offer your expert opinion. I can hardly wait.”
He didn’t wait for her to repeat the offer.
Drorik reached behind her with one hand and managed to release the clasp of her bra. With care, he eased the straps down her arms until the bra came free and he tossed it to one side.
His hands cupped the mounds carefully, measuring and weighing as his lids drooped to half-mast.
Yval’s eyes teared up as she realised he was handling her with the delicate touch of a man afraid she would break. It was so cute. She put her hands on the arms of the chair and remained passive as he stroked and caressed her.
When he leaned forward, he heated her nipple with his breath before enveloping it in his mouth. He licked at the nub and drew on it with his lips.
She shivered and heard the wood of the chair creak as she fought to keep from grabbing Drorik’s head and putting his mouth where she wanted it. He switched to the other breast and latched on the same way. Her skin pulsed with energy, and her body recalled the heat from earlier. When he slid his hands behind her, pressing her toward his mouth, she gripped the chair so hard that the arms came off in her hands with a snap and the tearing of wood.