Read Draechen's Mate [Chronicles of the Shifter Directive 2] (Siren Publishing Epic Romance, ManLove) Online
Authors: Scarlet Hyacinth
“You’re insane.” Hareem shook his head stubbornly. “It will never work. I can’t do it.”
Karein arched a brow and crossed his arms over his chest. “Do you have any other options?”
“I could ask the fae to take him,” Hareem mused.
The random comment took Karein completely by surprise. “You must be joking. We’re on the brink of war, and you’d have the fae protect Taryn? That’s even more idiotic than getting him pregnant in the first place.”
“What else would you have me do?” Hareem threw his hands up in obvious exasperation. “I can’t lose him, Karein. I can’t.”
“I know, brother,” Karein replied quietly. “Believe me, I understand.”
At that, Hareem finally snapped. “No, you don’t. Don’t take that condescending tone with me, Dog-Catcher. You have no idea how I feel, and you never will.”
Karein let his brother spout his venom. Normally, he had no patience with Hareem’s insults. Like Hareem had told him once, they weren’t friends, and more often than not, didn’t even consider each other brothers. They were allies. This time, though, Karein made an exception and allowed it. It might have been because of the shadows of guilt still lingering in his heart and mind or due to the fact that he truly did understand how Hareem felt. His goodwill melted, though, when Hareem said something he really shouldn’t have.
“You’ll never have a mate,” Hareem spat at him. “The only thing you’ll get is an Ivenian whore who—”
Deadly fury filled Karein. Hareem didn’t even manage to finish the phrase. Karein’s spell stopped him, cutting off his breathing and sapping his energy. As his brother collapsed to the floor, Karein gave him a cold look. “Enough. You will not disrespect my fiancé. Understood? I don’t care what problems you have, but if I see you causing problems for him in any way… Well, let me just put it this way. Remember our little alliance? Well, it’ll be off, and you can handle Father and your pregnant mate on your own.”
Hareem managed to nod. Satisfied with the response, Karein released the spell, withdrawing it from Hareem’s body. “Now, if you’re done, I have a great deal of things to do. Tell me if you want to go through with what I suggested. I might be able to find a way to contact the werewolves for you.”
“Do I even want to know how you’ll manage that?” Hareem asked while struggling to his feet. Ironically, Karein’s spell had calmed him down a little. Perhaps Karein should have started the whole conversation by kicking his brother’s ass.
“Probably not,” he replied. “Keep me posted. And whatever you decide, just don’t do anything you might regret later.”
Hareem didn’t answer to that, and Karein left the room, even more frustrated than before. As if things hadn’t already been complicated enough. Overlords, how could he possibly be expected to handle an incoming war and a family crisis? He was only one man after all.
A pair of kind silver eyes flashed through Karein’s memory, and Karein couldn’t help a small smile. Sari was a gift from the Overlords, he was sure of that now. Now that he had Sari by his side, he’d found new strength and new resolve. The battle had just become personal, and Karein would win it, for his mate, for the two of them, and the future he hoped to build at the fae’s side.
* * * *
“So, I understand your home is called Rose Noire? How exactly did you come to name it that way?”
Sari turned toward Prince Hareematek and offered him a forced smile. He and his siblings had been invited to a private evening meal with the draechen princes. Organized inside a private dining room, the feast—as Sari couldn’t have possibly called it anything else given the quantity of food on the table—clearly illustrated the lavishness of the draechen’s lifestyle. They drank from goblets encrusted with gems, which were taken away and replaced with others upon being emptied. Even the plates and spoons seemed to be crafted out of precious metal, but not silver. Likely, the draechen would never use anything so mundane for their table. The room itself glowed with the amount of gold present.
The fae court was just as lavish, but generally, Sari didn’t eat with that side of his family, so he’d only witnessed it on occasion. Perhaps he would have enjoyed this insight into draechen civilization, but all throughout the dinner, Prince Hareematek had been asking questions about Sari’s home. It made him uncomfortable as he didn’t know what interest the draechen had in Rose Noire. This particular information seemed harmless enough, but Sari was still wary of it.
He took a sip of wine from his own jeweled goblet while trying to come up with an appropriate reply. Unfortunately, as he did so, Charlize intervened, “It’s called that way in honor of the former fae citadel that was destroyed after the Great Sacrifice.”
“Ah, Eternelle.” Hareematek released a thoughtful sound. “Yes, I think I recall something on it.”
Since Charlize was a member of the royal family, she knew about Eternelle’s enduring existence. Sari couldn’t risk her accidentally revealing the truth. As such, he took over the conversation. “It had a second name,” he explained. “Rose Blanc.”
“And you changed in sign of mourning,” Hareematek guessed correctly. “Admirable.”
“I don’t think it was particularly great of us to change a name,” Sari answered, half because he was quite sensitive about the topic and half since it would be far safer to discuss history than present day Rose Noire. “I feel the sacrifices that were made that day were the admirable ones. To this day, I don’t think we’ve done enough to honor it.”
“The Directive was written for all those who died,” Princess Akarawem argued. “You do not deem it sufficient?”
Actually, the Directive was the thing that Sari most had a problem with. He somehow doubted that Prince Kaelezrin and Prince Talrasar would have been happy to see what their choices and deaths had, in the end, led up to. He’d known it before, but now even more so. Meeting Caelyn’s mate, Graham, convinced him of it.
But he couldn’t say any of that, not without insulting the draechen. He wanted to come up with a clever reply, but the princess was staring at him, almost sneering. Fortunately, Karein intervened, rescuing him from Akarawem’s hostility. “What His Highness means is that the contribution of Princes Kaelezrin and Talrasar was so great that we could never thank them enough. After all, without them, we might not even be here today.”
He was seated right across Sari, which made Sari desperately want to touch him. But Misael stopped him from going through with it. “I propose a toast,” he said, getting up. “To Kaelezrin and Talrasar!”
As Misael lifted his glass, everyone echoed his motion, joining in. “Here, here,” they all said. Sari remembered the wolf he’d packed in his bags and gladly followed their example. When the toast ended, they all sat back down, returning to their meals. But it seemed that Prince Hareematek was in a talkative mood tonight. “I suppose it’s appropriate for their descendants to bind their destinies since as I hear it, Kaelezrin and Talrasar were mates.”
“There was never any proof of that,” Akarawem argued, narrowing her eyes and Hareematek. They were twins, but they didn’t really seem to be getting along.
“It is all depends on what you mean by proof,” Karein replied. For some reason, his expression grew thoughtful, as if he wasn’t really thinking about his sister’s words anymore.
Akarawem chuckled at that. “My brother is very dedicated to their memory. He has paintings of them in every office he owns. I swear, he’s practically obsessed.”
Sari chose not to reply. He wondered if every night at the draechen dinner table was like this. Actually, it was better than Sari had expected, likely because the empress and emperor weren’t in attendance. Had the imperial couple been present, things would have undoubtedly been far tenser. But apparently, the draechen emperor always ate in private, and the empress had made the choice to do so as well so that she could accompany her husband.
Of course, Sari’s enjoyment of the evening had a lot to do with his mate. He’d worn his hair down, like Karein had asked, and Karein kept throwing him hot glances whenever their siblings were focused on something else. Sari suspected that if he and Karein had been obsessed with their ancestors before, they’d impossibly found something even more fascinating—each other.
Around them, the conversation continued, although at one point, Sari tuned it out. He knew he should be paying attention, but he had his mate right there, in front of him. Who could blame him if he lost focus? Sadly, whenever Sari did something, he got completely engulfed in it, and now was no different. He found himself sliding off his shoe and carefully reaching out with his socked foot over to Karein’s lap. Karein seemed to be doing his best to maintain appearances, and as Sari went about his little devious plan, his mate was just taking a bite out of his steak. When Sari’s foot slowly came into contact with Karein’s groin, rubbing lightly, Karein’s eyes widened, and he released an almost funny noise that sounded like a cross between a moan, a growl, and something not entirely human. He must have been swallowing, because he ended up choking with the bite of food in his mouth.
As his mate started to wheeze, Sari immediately retracted his foot and put his shoe back on, horrified. He quickly got up, unable to believe what was happening. Before he could run to his mate’s assistance, though, Prince Hareematek rushed to his brother’s side and hit Karein’s nape, dislodging the piece of half-chewed meat in the process. Somehow, the bite of food flew directly at Sari. Impossibly, its momentum was such that even if Sari was standing, it landed right on his face.
Silence fell over the dining room. Everyone was looking at Karein and Sari. In that moment, Sari would have wanted the ground—or the mountain—to open up and swallow him whole. He couldn’t believe that he’d been daring enough to do something like that where everyone could see them, and in the process, had caused this ridiculous, embarrassing episode.
The deafening quiet was broken by Prince Hareematek. “Well, that’s appropriately impressive.” The draechen cleared his throat awkwardly. “I feel like I should be saying something witty, but I can’t come up with anything that would illustrate it.”
“Err, it’s quite all right.” Sari wiped his face, his face flaming. “No harm done.”
Charlize tried to laugh, but failed. “It was only an accident.”
“Quite.” Akarawem smirked. “Thank the Overlords for Hareem’s hasty intervention. It would have been quite interesting for the nearly invulnerable Prince Shtamakarein to perish while choking on food.”
“Would you give it a rest, Akara?” Karein finally asked. He took a sip of wine, then got up. “My apologies, Prince Misael, Princess Charlize. I need a word with your brother in private.”
“Of course,” Misael nodded. He must have thought that Karein was embarrassed because of his gaffe. As Karein went around the table and took Sari’s arm, Sari’s heart started beating faster, impossibly so. “Thank you for a wonderful dinner,” he said to the other members of the imperial family.
“It was an honor to have you,” Hareematek answered. “Perhaps breakfast will be less eventful.”
After saying good-bye to his siblings as well, Sari allowed Karein to lead him out of the room. While out in the hallway, neither of them spoke, but the tension between them was undeniable. Sari honestly didn’t know where Karein was taking him since the draechen was walking too fast for Sari to figure it out. They passed a good number of guards who saluted when Karein and Sari walked by. Karein just greeted them with dismissive nods and walked on.
Finally, they reached their destination and burst into a dark room. Karein ensured their privacy by closing the door, then pinned Sari against the solid wood. In the obscurity, Karein seemed like a mysterious seducer who appeared out of the shadows of the night. Sari didn’t even know how he managed to speak. “I’m so sorry about mmppph—”
His words were cut off when Karein’s lips crushed against his. Sari instantly wrapped his arms around Karein’s neck, surrendering to the kiss. But it was far more than just a kiss. It was a claiming, one that left no doubt as to what Karein wanted to do. Karein didn’t ask. He took. He practically devoured Sari, thrusting his tongue into Sari’s mouth, tasting him over and over. Sari simply couldn’t get enough, and distantly, he made a mental note to flirt with Karein at dinner more often.
They broke apart to breathe, but didn’t move away from each other. “You let your hair down for me.” The draechen growled. “You’re so beautiful. How can you even expect me to hold back?”
“I don’t,” Sari confessed. Much to his embarrassment, his words came out in a moan. Not only that, but he also found himself rubbing against Karein, his dick already as hard as a rock. Damn it, had he always been such a wanton? Probably not. Karein just made him that way.
“I want to fuck you so badly,” Karein murmured in his ear. “I want to rip these clothes off and lick you all over.” Taking a deep breath, Karein pulled back, releasing Sari. “But I can’t, not until we’re married.”
Gobsmacked, Sari released a low sound of protest. “But why?”
“Because you deserve better than to be fucked over the couch like some sort of cheap whore,” Karein replied. “I want to give you the world, to show you how good we can be together. And sadly, right now, we wouldn’t be able to have more than a few stolen moments. If we got too close, too soon, my family would be suspicious.”
As Karein spoke, Sari was reminded that no, he hadn’t suddenly stepped out of his reality into another one, like it had seemed for a moment there. He was still in Draechenburg, in Emperor Kavehquader’s home, or rather his headquarters. He still carried the burden of his nation’s safety on his shoulders. At the same time, his mate was clearly struggling to come up with a way to mend their situation. Sari should have more control, and instead, he was acting like an animal in heat. Things were already hard enough for Karein without Sari making them worse.
In truth, there was something in Karein’s words that didn’t sound quite right to Sari. Yes, Karein had a point in fearing Kavehquader, but there was more to it than that. Karein’s hesitation also had another reason, which he didn’t want to expose, or rather repeat. Sari had seen it back in his bedroom, the deep self-loathing Karein was hiding. The draechen was trying hard not to let whatever plagued him show, but in the process, he was putting up a barrier between himself and Sari.