A warlock’s blood gives him life. It can also bring his death.
It’s no wonder Evrain Brookes, newly fledged warlock, is feeling the strain. A coven of power-hungry witches is after his blood. Literally. A psychotic warlock wants him dead. His godfather’s training regime is about as much fun as chewing on nettles and an overweight, scarily perceptive cat has moved into his house.
His boyfriend Dominic yearns for a normal life, or at least a safer one. He accepts his role both as Evrain’s submissive partner and as the conduit through which he channels his gift – but he’s afraid for his lover and the lengths Evrain’s enemies might go to in order to fulfil their lust for power.
When Evrain falls victim to a plot between the Octis Coven and malevolent warlock Symeon Malus, it’s up to Dominic to rescue him. With the help of the two other North American warlocks, a mysterious cat and an old enemy, Dominic takes steps to get his lover back. There’s a high price to pay and no guarantee that the risks he must take will pay off but Evrain is worth going through hell for, even if it costs Dominic his life.
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 3
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 18-25
Tropes: Alpha Character, Rescue
Word Count: 59470
Setting: USA, Portland, Oregon
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
Nathaniel Alberich adjusted his position to get more comfortable on the rocky ground. There was a particularly sharp stone that seemed to have a magnetic attraction to his ass and no matter which way he shuffled, the damn thing followed right along. He allowed himself a self-indulgent moment to recall the comfortable leather chair in his office—well-cushioned and rock-free. The wild outdoors was not his preferred environment but on this occasion his location—on a mountaintop—was necessary. He narrowed his eyes, squinting at the stormy vista. Dark gray clouds edged with purple scudded past. Someone, somewhere, was going to be treated to a nice deluge. Nathaniel shrugged, winced then rolled some of the stiffness from his shoulders. It was about time he booked an appointment with his masseur. The man was a sadist, something Nathaniel could appreciate, but the pain he inflicted always resulted in looser limbs and unknotted muscles.READ MORE
“All this stress is not good for me,” Nathaniel muttered, aiming his complaint at a passing buzzard. The bird drifted lazily on currents of air Nathaniel fought hard to provide. He stood, flexing his fingers. He widened his stance and locked his knees in place. He didn’t need the indignity of falling on his already bruised rear even if there was no one to witness his humiliation. He held his arms out then twisted his fingers into shapes that should have been impossible. Muttering incantations beneath his breath, he focused his will before expelling his power with a mental push. Around him the wind screamed in protest but the currents changed direction as he commanded. On the plains below, row after row of megalithic turbines started to rotate.
“Better. Much better.” Nathaniel’s thigh muscles trembled and pain stabbed behind his eyes. Using his power without a partner to channel through was uncomfortable. He’d learned to live with it over the years, channeling a fraction of the energy through anyone in the area. People nearby might experience a shiver, a mild headache or slight nausea. Nothing to attract undue attention. It wasn’t enough, though, and without being able to dissipate the backlash of the forces he unleashed, Nathaniel suffered a great deal more than his unwitting assistants. He refused to give in to it. His business relied on his ability to work magic and along with it the jobs of thousands of employees. He couldn’t let them down. He fought back the urge to vomit, pressing his knuckles into his temples until the spots in front of his eyes faded. The two-hour hike back to his car would help clear his head but he had no desire to break a limb on his way down the mountain.
After a few minutes of deep breathing he felt recovered enough to start walking. The trail was steep but he was well equipped with top-of-the-line boots. It wasn’t his first trip to the peak and he’d learned from experience to come prepared for anything. He carried a small backpack containing bottled water and energy bars. A thick jacket and a pair of weatherproof pants—great against the elements, not so functional against pointy stones—ensured he stayed warm. The downward trip was still a slog and Nathaniel gave thanks for the many hours he’d spent in his home gym building stamina. Magic burned calories better than any sweaty spin class but he still needed to swim and run to keep up his fitness levels. It was a matter of survival, not vanity—and that was excellent motivation.
After a couple of hours, the path leveled out and Nathaniel covered the last half-mile quickly. On an unpaved road normally reserved for maintenance vehicles sat his gleaming Bentley Continental. There was no trace of the thick coating of dust it had collected earlier that day and his driver was leaning against the highly polished exterior. Nathaniel shook his head as he approached.
“Welcome back, sir.”
“I’ve told you a thousand times to call me Nathaniel. You make me feel like my grandfather. I’m thirty-one, not a hundred and one.”
“And your grandfather has long since passed, sir.” Felix flicked a speck of dust from his pristine white cuff. “How are you feeling?”
“You mean for a warlock who’s just manipulated the elements?”
“Like crap. I think that sums it up.”
Felix frowned. “You know I’d help more if I could, sir.”
“I know.” Nathaniel sighed. “And if you ever fancy batting for my team for a change, you let me know. In the meantime, I’ll manage.”
Felix raised a blond eyebrow. He twitched his lips into a smile. “I’m not your type, even if I were…so inclined.”
Nathaniel gave his fair, blue-eyed driver an appraising examination. He matched Nathaniel’s height of six feet two and had broader shoulders as well as bigger muscles. There was no question he was handsome, and Nathaniel could appreciate him as a fine specimen of manhood, but he preferred his partners small, dark-eyed and submissive. Felix would never fit the bill.
“Sadly, that’s true.” He shrugged. “Now tell me how the fuck you managed to clean the car out here, and why you bothered when it’s just going to get dirty again.”
“Drivers never reveal their secrets, sir.”
“Or those of their employers.” It wasn’t a question. Nathaniel trusted Felix implicitly. He’d been with him since Nathaniel had come into his power at twenty-one. He was a friend, a confidant and utterly indispensable. Felix gave his usual enigmatic smile and opened the car door.
“Why don’t you get in before you collapse and I have to haul your heavy ass in there? Sir.”
Nathaniel rolled his eyes at Felix’s insubordination but scrambled into the passenger seat anyway. It was good to get the weight off his legs. He reclined the back a little then relaxed into the leather with a relieved sigh. Felix got behind the wheel, closing his door gently. The two of them were cocooned in temperature-controlled luxury.
“You should sit in the back,” Felix said, turning the key in the ignition.
“And you say that every time I get in the damn car. I never sit in the back.” Nathaniel closed his eyes. “Take me home, Felix. It’s been one long-assed day.”
It was a three hundred and some mile trip from Tehachapi back to Atherton, where Nathaniel had his main residence. Felix usually managed it in a miraculous four hours or so but Nathaniel was glad they only needed to make the trip once a month. His other wind farms were closer to home. Every time he tweaked the elements in his favor, the power he expended left him drained. Without Felix to shepherd him back to the house, he would have to camp out until he regained his strength.
“God forbid,” Nathaniel muttered under his breath.
“Dreaming of tents and the great outdoors again?” Felix’s tone no doubt reflected the smirk on his face, but Nathaniel couldn’t be bothered to open his eyes and check.
“I need to get less predictable.”
“You need to rest.”
Nathaniel grunted. There was no way he was going to give Felix credit for being right. The steady thrum of the Bentley’s engine soon lulled him into a doze but it was hard to rest. Channeling his power through so many anonymous bodies always left him unsettled and twitchy. It allowed him to work without the need to vent every other day, but was nowhere near as effective as if he had a life partner to take some of the strain. His semi-waking dreams let him picture who that man might be. Someone eager to please but with an energetic spark. Independent, but willing to be taken care of. Submissive in the bedroom and able to deal with the unique needs of a sometimes-cranky control-freak of a warlock. And there was the problem. The whole warlock thing was a major road block to finding the right man. Any man.
A sudden, sharp pain speared Nathaniel’s temple. “Fuck!” He jerked into full consciousness. “What the hell?” He knuckled his head in an attempt to ease the pain.
“What’s up?” Felix asked, sounding concerned. “You’re white as a sheet. Do you need me to stop somewhere?”
Nathaniel took a couple of cleansing deep breaths and the pain receded. “No, it’s okay. Someone’s messing with the elements. Someone with vast power. I’ve felt this a few times in recent months.” His stomach churned. “Perhaps we should stop. I need some air. And it’s about time I gave Gregory Thanet a call. Apparently we have things to discuss.”
Felix pulled off the road at the next rest stop, bought a couple of coffees at the drive-thru then parked next to a grassy area where a few wooden picnic tables were set out. Nathaniel got out of the car and had to lean on the door for a few seconds.
“You need a hand?” Felix called.
“No. I’m just a bit dizzy. It’s passing.” Nathaniel took a few deep breaths. “I’ll sit at one of the tables and make my call.”
“Sure thing.” Felix reclined his seat a few inches. “Knock yourself out. Well, don’t…because then I’d have to come rescue your ass, but you know what I mean.”
Nathaniel slammed the door on him. He hauled himself to the nearest table then sat, straddling the bench seat for stability. After extracting his phone from his pocket, he scrolled through the contacts. He hadn’t spoken to Gregory Thanet in a while but they did keep in touch, albeit infrequently. On the occasions they talked it was often to share their mutual disgust for the behavior of the third warlock on the continent, Symeon Malus. Nathaniel dialed Gregory’s number. He waited for the call to connect, sipping his coffee.
“This is Gregory.”
“Good to know you’re still not into effusive greetings, old friend.” Nathaniel rolled his shoulders to ease some tension. One of his joints popped.
“Nathaniel. It’s been a while. I can surmise the reason for your call. I assume you’ve been experiencing some…fluctuations in the elements?”
“How could I not? What the hell is going on, Gregory? I just had a metal spike driven through my brain, and now I feel hungover without the benefit of getting wasted first.”
“It was quite a jolt, wasn’t it?”
“Quite a… That’s like saying Hurricane Katrina was a mild breeze.”
“Yes, I suppose that’s true.”
“Gregory, is there someone new on the scene or is Symeon up to something? I didn’t think that snake had it in him.”
“He doesn’t…anymore.” Gregory sighed. “Three have become four, Nathaniel, and I have a lot to bring you up to speed on.”
“What do you mean, anymore? And who, how?” Nathaniel asked, feeling like he’d departed to an alternate reality.
“My godson, Evrain. What you felt just now was him venting. He’s also had to deal with Symeon’s latest misdeeds, with a bit of assistance from me. He hasn’t learned to buffer the rest of us from the effects of his power yet. He’s still quite wild.”
“Holy fuck. I thought Evrain was just a kid? You shielded him, didn’t you?”
“Agatha did and he fought it all the way. Look, Nathaniel, I know you’re busy, but do you think you could fit in a visit? I have far too much to tell you during a phone call and I should apologize for not getting in touch sooner. Evrain is living at Hornbeam Cottage, Agatha’s old place, but I’d happily put you up in Portland. Coryn and I are spending a lot of time there at the moment.”
Nathaniel grunted. “I’m sure your boy needs a lot of support.”
“He does. He’s a quick study, but he has a long way to go. He’s not exactly…pliable when it comes to his training.”
“Well, as it happens, I am free for a few days. I suppose I could dig out some rain gear.”
“It doesn’t rain all the time in Oregon.”
Nathaniel didn’t credit that with a response. “Can you book a room for Felix as well? He won’t want to miss out on all the fun.”
“How is that man still putting up with you?”
“I put a spell on him.”
“Felix is immune.”
“More’s the pity.” Nathaniel chuckled. “He’d be a lot less opinionated if I could work a little magic on him. He’s waiting for me now, so I’d better go. Text me the hotel details when you have them. We’ll see you in two days. I’ll give you a call when we arrive.”
“Sure. Coryn and I will look forward to it.”
Nathaniel disconnected the call. He stared at the few puffs of cotton wool dancing across the sky. “I know where you’re heading,” he muttered. “Portland.”COLLAPSE