Betwixt and Between

Edge of Night 1

by Alexis Duran

Between and Betwixt - Alexis Duran
Part of the Edge of Night series:
Editions:Kindle

Obsessed with magical creatures since childhood, tabloid reporter Ian Evers never experiences satisfying proof that the magical realm actually exists until he falls into an entrapment spell set by a handsome but dangerous elf.  Barely escaping with his soul intact, Ian is able to undo the hex, but he can't escape the very real infatuation he's developed for the fierce elf.

Ezekiel Stormshadow is a svarta, a dark elf who serves the queen of the dark realm. The realm of darkness needs the power of light to survive, and while hunting the last few magical beings on earth, Ezekiel discovers Ian, a light elf who's unaware of his true nature and ripe for the plucking.  Their brief encounter awakens a great hunger in Ezekiel, and he's determined to feast on the light elf's power and body before the queen intervenes and claims Ian for herself.

Driven apart by the ancient imbalance between the dark and light realms, an evil queen starved for power, and their fear of each other, Ian and Ezekiel are relentlessly drawn together even though their union might destroy them both.

Published:
Publisher: Loose Id
Cover Artists:
Genres:
Tags:
Pairings: MM
Heat Level: 5
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: Ageless/Immortal
Tropes: Cultural Differences, Enemies to Lovers, Fated Mates / Soul Mates, Villain to Hero
Word Count: 39000
Setting: Seattle
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
Excerpt:

Chapter One

Even as the first haunting chords drifted up the cement stairwell, Ezekiel detected a nibble on his bait. He pressed his bow more firmly to the strings on his violin and pulled his elbow back. His prey drew closer.

He’d had his doubts about setting up in midday and in such a busy, public spot, but a tug at his instincts had guided him here. Over the centuries he’d learned to never ignore that tug. The music echoed nicely, penetrating the dull roar of the Pike Street Market above and the viaduct below. From the open staircase, he had a partial view of the waterfront and Puget Sound beyond.

He’d set up on a landing below street level on the stairs that led from the waterfront to the market. On a rainy Tuesday in February, the market wasn’t the teeming morass of humans it usually was, and Ezekiel easily sensed the motions of the liosa as it descended the stairs.

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He threw a little more passion into Smetana’s symphonic poem, Vltava. The lines cast out by the music shimmered darkly in the dull light. Like the strings on his violin, the lines vibrated and emitted sounds only he could hear beneath the music. The liosa’s thoughts whispered in his ear. It was cautious but curious. Untrained. Ezekiel detected no significant magical protections, and thanked his lucky stars for this gift.

Don’t lap at the blood before it is spilled, he cautioned himself. Though he sensed his prey was utterly unaware of the trap, he could be spooked if Ezekiel revealed any of his power too soon. And so he played on, risking only a quick peek from beneath his eyelashes.

The liosa had paused a few steps up from the landing, just beyond the wall that blocked the view of the rest of the stairwell. He lingered in the shadows but did not radiate any fear. Ezekiel caught a glimpse of wind-tousled blond hair, large dark eyes, a lumpy coat, and battered hiking boots.

Ezekiel pulled some of the liosa’s essence toward him along the strings and conjured a clearer picture. Human male, slim and tasty. Ezekiel’s favorite form. The man had the dark mocha-colored eyes of a High-Wood alfar, but Ezekiel recognized no clan markings, no talismans, no link to the past. This was most excellent. No one would miss him. A fresh, unclaimed source of power, his for the taking. Even the dark queen Ysolde might not be aware of him.

The liosa held a camera and was about to take Ezekiel’s photo. He was as good as caught.

 

FIRST MISTAKE.

Ian was already late, but when he heard the whispered strains of classical music drifting up the stairwell from the lower levels of the market, he instinctively followed them. He didn’t know why. He remained oddly compelled even when the music lured him from the sidewalk and down the stairs, well away from his intended path. Buskers often plied their trade down here, taking advantage of the great acoustics and heavy tourist traffic. Foot traffic was pretty light today, it being off-season.

Ian was due to meet Dijeree at the coffee shop on Pine and 4th, but she’d be happily surfing the net and wouldn’t mind waiting a few extra minutes. He’d sensed magic afoot and couldn’t pass it up. That was his job, after all—finding and cataloging the magical creatures lurking in Seattle’s shadows. Readers of the tabloid he worked for, The Cosmic Eye, gobbled up his stories, and with every contact, however dubious, he inched a bit closer to unlocking the vast magical mystery that shrouded his life.

A flash there, a ripple here. A haunted rowboat. A flying spoon. A burning book. A talking cat. All these things added up to something. He just didn’t know what yet.

His first impression of the musician in the stairwell was that, yes indeed, he’d stumbled across a magical creature. Shadowed lines resolved into a dark-haired figure in a long, heavy coat and high leather boots. The outfit looked like something a down-and-out musketeer might wear, the coat being old-fashioned, fastened with two rows of brass buttons, and well-worn. His shoulder-length black hair hid most of his face. He was tall, and he posed in a jaunty fashion with one leg up, boot resting on a concrete block. His violin case sat open before him, and gleaming coins speckled the black velvet lining, though no one stopped in the few moments Ian stood watching.

The man radiated magical energy but otherwise looked perfectly normal except for the outfit, which could be considered normal among the odd musical and dramatic types that wandered the market. For a while he made no indication of being aware of Ian, but then with a flick of his head he tossed the hair out of his face and quickly moved his gaze from the violin to Ian. That was when Ian knew for sure the man was some sort of magician.

His eyes were smoky blue or stormy gray or some combination of dusty sapphire and silver. Whatever they were, they weren’t human. And he was ridiculously handsome like he should be fronting a rock band, not busking for quarters in a dark stairwell. This made Ian wonder if it was lust rather than magic drawing him in. Could just be an ordinary guy. He doubted it. The music was penetrating Ian’s soul, rooting him to the spot. He’d fallen for glamour casting 101.

Though poorer than a church mouse, Ian felt a strong urge to empty his pockets into the violin case. That would be a mistake. Giving a coin to a magical being created a bond that could link you forever to a malevolent spirit. At least he’d learned that much from his Aunt Cleona. At the thought of his aunt, he remembered the protective token she’d given him the last time he’d run afoul of a fairy living in Gas Works Park. He reached for the moonstone necklace he always wore now, and when he touched it, the grip of the music loosened. He hadn’t noticed the tightness in his chest until it was gone.

Further proof he’d been hexed came from the musician’s reaction. The remarkable gaze shot up again, and he focused on Ian’s face for longer than a second. It wasn’t exactly an evil look, but not friendly either. Calculating. That was the word. Ian knew he should turn around and walk away as fast as his feet would carry him.

Second mistake.

But what a find! A full-fledged humanoid magical creature standing in broad daylight, casting his magic out into the dull gray rain for anyone to see. Ian hated to leave without some proof, something tangible to pore over at a safe distance. Aunt Cleona might be able to identify what sort of creature this was.

Ian slipped the camera out of his pocket and checked the meter reading. He always used film because magic tended to elude digital capture. An impression on film was much more reliable.

He waited until the musician entered into a very complicated set of notes before lifting the camera and snapping off a rapid succession of shots. Good thing he’d put in the high-speed film, as the stairwell was full of shadows and contrasts. One beam of sunlight snuck in around a cement beam and lit the violin player like a spotlight. Ian held the viewfinder to his eye and zoomed in. He focused on the creature’s eyes, which suddenly bored straight into his soul.

Instantly, Ian lowered the camera, but the mental image of the jewel-chip eyes took on a life of their own. Like blue flames, they danced across his vision and lodged in his memory.

Shit. He’d been zapped with some kind of spell for sure.

He spun around and ran up the stairs, taking three at a time. He burst out into a clump of German tourists all singing along to the strains of the Vltava that had reached its climactic conclusion. Ian sprinted up the sidewalk. The farther he got, the easier it was to move and breathe, and the less the image of the stormy eyes burned into his corneas. He knew damn well he should get to Aunt Cleona’s as fast as possible and beg her to put a counteracting spell in motion.

Third mistake.

But he was late to meet Dijeree, and she’d be pissed if he blew her off again. She had a confirmed Windigo sighting out on the peninsula, and she needed his advice. He stopped running, and as he walked slowly up Pine catching his breath, the intensity of the hex faded to almost nothing. Maybe the violin player had only wanted to scare him off. If so, it had certainly worked. And even more likely, maybe Ian had freaked himself out, disturbed by his attraction to the strange man. Ian wasn’t the type to lose his cool just because a gorgeous guy winked at him, no matter how much it made his skin tingle and his cock fidget inside his jeans.

He decided to stick to his plans. He’d see Aunt Cleona later tonight anyway. That was why he’d been at the market in the first place. He’d picked up a vial of essential oils she’d ordered from the Korean flower vendor and witch, Lui Kan. He’d take it to her after his meeting with Dijeree and a flyby of The Cosmic Eye.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:on Joyfully Jay:

A stunning blend of eerie darkness and deep, abiding love comes alive in Betwixt and Between.  The first story in the Edge of Night series begins with a powerful tale of otherworldly creatures, a lost heritage and an evil queen.  The inexplicable love between Ian and Zeke comes across well, their heartache and willingness to sacrifice all is powerful.  An excellent start, Betwixt and Between tests the bonds of true love and doesn’t disappoint.


About the Author

Alexis Duran was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. At the University of Oregon, her fascination with people and relationships led her to major in Sociology, but her main love has always been creative writing. She's worked in museums, finance, film production and for several performing arts organizations. Her favorite job so far has been inventorying the collection of a haunted Victorian Mansion. She is the author of the Masters and Mages and Edge of Night m/m fantasy series as well as several stand-alone romances. Her fiction has won awards including the Rupert Hughes Award from the Maui Writers Conference. She lives with one dog and four and a half cats. She is currently working on the next Masters and Mages novel and always has several new ideas brewing.