Authors: Zenina Masters
Tags: #Adult, #Erotic Romance, #Fey, #elf, #Paranormal, #Shapeshifter
“This is the plan? I wonder if the king had any idea.”
“I don’t know if it is the formal plan, but I have read enough on social engineering to acknowledge that it will be the inevitable consequence of the crossbreeding. Less than two decades from now, the shifters will be out and the mages will be moments behind. Magic will be exposed in all of its forms.”
“My mind is reeling. I hadn’t thought of that. When our children are teens, they will come into their power, or at least the power of shifters. The new forms will have to be explained.” He scowled as if he was working it out.
“You have some time, I am sure.” She cocked her head and asked with a smirk, “How many children were you thinking of?”
He jerked with visible surprise. “I thought of one or two.”
She sighed. “That’s it?”
Lyros chuckled. “You want more?”
“I am one of four, and I thought that that was the minimum that I wanted. If you only want two, we might have some heated negotiations.”
He smiled brightly. “I might be amenable for one or two more, but you will be doing the heavy lifting, so I will depend on your clues as to whether or not you wish to have more.”
Lima grinned. “Well, that is in the future as well.”
“Are you comfortable with starting a family immediately?”
“As long as I can continue my work for the guild until I start to show.”
He frowned. “When I return to my duties, they may interfere with your work as a hunter.”
“I am sure we can deal with it. If I have to stay with you, I shall.”
“Once you have your security clearance, you will be able to come and go as you please.” There was a tension around his mouth.
“But you wouldn’t like that.”
“Not particularly. I like the idea of you being with me most of the time.”
“But you have your position to resume.”
“I only have to step in when there is an invitation or when one of the kings needs to arrange an audience. Aside from that, I have a house in the country where I spend my time.”
“That sounds promising. What do you do?”
He blinked. “I read, I fish, my brother comes over and we fence.”
“I have always wanted to learn sword work.”
“It is not for everyone.” His lips quirked in a smile.
“I am sure that it isn’t, but I learned to use a knife, a gun and a fishing spear. I would not mind adding sword to the gathering.”
“Then, I shall instruct you until you require an additional instructor.” He grinned and added, “Fishing spear?”
“I might tell you that story one day. It was my first run in with an aquatic target. My beast enjoyed it, which was surprising, because she doesn’t swim that well.”
He looked like he wanted to ask her additional questions, but the server came by and Lyros swiped the payment plate.
“Well, would you care to escort me back to the Open Heart? Or are you up for some dancing?” Lima pressed her lips together and waited.
Lyros nodded. “I think some dancing is called for. It would be a shame for you to be looking so splendid with only me seeing you.”
She smiled. “I do look good.”
She pulled her napkin off of her lap and folded it into a point before placing it on the table. Lima waited until he came around, and she got to her feet.
She stood next to him for a moment and took in how great he looked in a tux. When she was done, she took the arm he held out and wrapped her hand around it again.
She didn’t mind holding onto him. It afforded her the opportunity to monitor how he was doing.
He was stronger now than he had been earlier. Either the meal or the nap had done him good.
They walked together to the Crossed Star, and as they made their way to the dance floor, the conversation stopped.
Lima looked at him as they faced each other. “No pressure.”
He grinned. “Don’t worry. Here, I will lead.”
She nodded. “Good. I am only familiar with the basics.”
He placed a hand on her back and his fingers wrapped around her, holding her as they started to sway.
She focused on him, and they swirled around the dance floor and eventually through other crowds. Three songs, four, five, whether fast or slow, he kept moving with her in even paces with one hand on hers and the other around her.
She felt completely at home in his arms, and her gaze was calmly settled on his face. The cut from forehead to cheek was nearly faded to nothing. He was definitely getting better.
When the song they were moving to faded, she called a halt. “These are new shoes, and my feet are beginning to file a protest.”
He nodded, and to her shock, he swept her up in his arms.
Spike grinned as they passed. “Happens all the time.”
Lima wanted to flip her the bird, but she was trying to act ladylike. Her damsel moment was kind of fun.
Out in the night air, she murmured, “Put me down if you get tired.”
“You barely weigh a thing. I am delighted to feel well enough to carry you.” He smiled. There was a husky note to his tone that she recognized.
Apparently, carrying her was a turn-on.
He walked without any form of hurry. It was with even paces that he carried her into the Open Heart and up the stairs.
He held her with one arm while he opened his door, and he closed it behind them once they were inside.
With his back to the door, he buried his face in the curve of her neck and inhaled. “You smell as good as you look.”
She chuckled and turned to him. “You keep beating me to the flattery.”
“It isn’t flattery; it is truth. You smell like woman, flowers and sex.”
He brushed his lips across hers, and she sighed happily at the feel of him taking the wheel.
He moved to the bed and slowly slid her to a sitting position on the edge. He knelt easily and unbuckled her shoes, removing them and kneading her feet.
She didn’t know what else she could do, so she reached for his bowtie and unravelled it.
When he had restored her circulation, he stroked his hands up her legs until they were resting on either side of her hips. With one swift move, he lifted her and peeled off her panties.
She licked her lips in anticipation. Apparently, this time, he would be doing the work.
He went up on his knees between her thighs and kissed her while unzipping her gown. Cool air rushed in and curled around her breasts. She shivered slightly as the bodice of the dress collapsed to her waist.
He straightened and kissed her, touching her gently as he worked the fabric down as low as it would go. His fingers paused over her own scars, and he lifted his lips from hers. “How did I miss this?”
She shrugged. “I am guessing you were distracted.”
He stared at her with something less than lust in his eyes. He was concerned for her.
Lima held a hand to his cheek. “What are you looking for?”
“These are bullet holes.” He caressed a spot under her breast.
“This is a sword strike.”
“It was. That was actually a problem. The blade broke off inside me.”
He paused. “It is near your heart.”
“That is also true. My job is a little different than yours. They might wish you were dead, but they actively try to kill me.” She realised that their intimate moment was passing rapidly.
“How do you do this day after day? You have small traces here from a dozen wounds.”
“My shifter heals the worst of the injuries immediately and the healers take care of the rest. Usually, the only delay is removing the metal in my body.”
He drew his fingers across her ribs. “What was this? This wasn’t a weapon.”
She sighed. “Not all shifters are welcoming when we come in. A shifter claw is a lot more damaging than any weapon made of steel. That particular scar was from a snapping turtle. The ones on my back are from my siblings. I taught them to shift, and they had control issues.”
“Why didn’t I see them this afternoon?”
“They are flush with my skin. In direct light, you can’t see them. Here, in the light from the bedside table, you are at the correct angle to see them.” The deep red of the fabric was bunched around her waist.
“Why did you become a hunter?”
“I had the energy for it, the mindset to stalk my prey and no ties to hold me back. I also knew two shifters who had gone missing. Being part of a group that might bring them home became my focus.”
“Did you find them?”
She nodded slowly. “I found one of them, in a bladed collar with her fur shaved off and her tail removed. She was a vixen, and she took eighteen months to get back to her normal life. Her cousin was dead.”
She didn’t describe the manner of death. It was too horrible for most non-shifters to understand. Dana had tried to shift with the bladed collar around her neck. She had strangled as the collar kept her throat from changing. The amount of will to change at all had been tremendous. That she had died was both horrible and merciful relief.
Jen had come out of her recovery cold and unwilling to find a mate, giving a hint as to some of the other tortures she had survived.
It had not been a happy outcome.
Lyros looked at her. “I have rather broken the mood, haven’t I?”
He sighed and pressed his forehead to her breasts. She stroked her hands through his hair and examined the points of his ears.
“Will you stay with me tonight?”
“Yes. I can tell you the stories of all the wounds and damage if you like. We can consider this part of the getting-to-know-you phase.”
He nodded from his position, and he sighed.
“There will be other nights, Lyros. And afternoons, mornings, tea times and false dawns.”
He looked up and grinned. “I might be a little tired.”
“I have high hopes once you complete your recovery.”
He stood and shucked out of his jacket before undoing the studs of his shirt.
Lima scooted out of the gown, and it slipped to the floor. She lay back on top of the bedding and waited for Lyros to join her.
He finished hanging up his tux and her gown, and then, he turned back. His erection indicated that he was no longer interested in her scars, but he was a man of his word.
He lay next to her and asked her for the story of each mark, scrape and ridge of skin.
When she had told the tale, he kissed the wound softly. They continued this long into the night until she fell asleep in his arms.
When she woke, she was in her own room and Teebie was working at a dressmaker’s dummy, fitting a gown of black and scarlet with the hunter’s mark twisted into a knot between the breasts.
“Isn’t it? I think it will suit you very well.”
Lima sat up and rubbed her eyes. “For what?”
“Your balance ceremony is in two hours. Lyros made the arrangements while you were out shopping.”
Lima chuckled. “Of course he did. I am going to hop in a shower. Do you mind if I streak?”
Teebie bowed and disappeared in a puff of smoke.
Lima nodded. “Right. Well, after a shower, that should be less creepy.”
She headed for a shower and eventually came to realise that today was her wedding day... sort of.
The balancing was over, and Lima was tingling from head to toe. Lyros looked to be struggling with the beast that had taken up lodgings in his mind.
Lima walked to him, embracing him and soothing the beast within. She felt him relax, and she smiled against his chest. “You will get used to it.”
He ran his fingers along her jaw and flicked her pointed ear. The effect was similar to a tongue on her clit. “Oh, that isn’t fair.”
He chuckled. “I promise to use it sparingly.”
She sighed and hugged him tight. “Now, we are off to your place?”
“It will be easier for me to get a grip on the new shape that wants to take over.”
“Fair enough, but don’t tire yourself out. I want a wedding night.”
“We are not technically married. We will have to arrange that in the human world.”
She made a face. “Can’t we just do a private ceremony?”
“I suppose I could keep it to four hundred people on my side.”
“Oh, hell. I should have known that you were high maintenance.”
“I was careful not to discuss this until you were firmly mine.”
She made a fist and thumped his back. “Well, I suppose we should join our reception.”
“I suppose we should.”
He kept his arm around her as they descended the steps to greet their well-wishers.
Ivy, Teebie and Spike gave her a hug and wished her well. It was gratifying that they had all snuck out of work.
Lima met and greeted other fey that Lyros introduced her to, and finally, Teal cleared her throat. “The transport has been arranged. We are ready when you are.”
It was as polite a dismissal as could be managed under the circumstances. There was another couple wishing to use the space, and so, it was time for Lima and Lyros to leave.
Her mate offered her his arm, and she inclined her head before taking it. They left their reception and walked directly to the Meditation Centre.
Their bags were waiting for them along with a new piece of luggage. Lima grinned when she checked and it was all the new clothing that Andy had foisted off on her.
With the smile still on her lips, she stepped into Lyros’s embrace and held on as they were transported back to his home in the human world.
Lima had to admit, his servants nearly looked human. They were half or quarter goblin, and they accepted her arrival with noncommittal shrugs.
“They will get used to you.” He walked her into the historic home with one arm around her waist.
“I am sure they will, but I am wondering if I will get used to them.”
He grinned. “I have faith that you can adapt to just about anything.”
“Speaking of adapting, are you ready to do your first shift?”
“Certainly. I think we should probably change.”
She laughed. “Probably. Pick something stretchy.”
The servants had unpacked and hung up the clean clothing while removing the dirty clothing for laundry. Efficient buggers.