Authors: Scarlet Hyacinth
A complex array of emotions pulsed inside Roarke’s heart, tangled together like a Gordian knot he couldn’t possibly untie. He’d always been convinced that ferals couldn’t have mates. But then, he had found out from other members of the community that Devon had mated witch Hewitt Moore, and another feral, Mason. Usually, paranormals were a secretive bunch—which was, actually, the reason why the Tanner family business thrived—but Devon’s mating had caused such an uproar once it become general knowledge that it even reached Roarke’s ears.
Even so, he had not thought for a second that he would have the same luck his friend did. The best outcome he could come up with for his near future had been escaping his nightmares. And naturally, nothing had prepared him for encountering the other half of himself here, with the family he’d avoided for so long. Because the beautiful blond was clearly Quinn Tanner, the human Roarke had come here to see.
Shen looked from Roarke to Quinn then quietly backed away from the room. It was wise of him, since Roarke’s hackles rose just at seeing another man in the proximity of his mate. Oh, Spirit Mother, his mate. Would he ever get used to that thought?
Quinn hesitantly stepped forward, his eyes never straying from Roarke’s face. He was tall, but slender, and Roarke could easily imagine those long legs wrapping around his waist as he thrust inside Quinn’s welcoming heat. Fuck, he shouldn’t be thinking these things. He’d come here for a reason, and it wasn’t to claim a mate.
“Beautiful, is he not?”
The strange presence appeared in Roarke’s mind, weak, but definitely there.
“Talk to him. I want to hear his voice again.”
Quinn released a soft gasp and looked up, as if seeking something. Instantly, Roarke knew what Quinn hoped to find. “You hear him, too, don’t you?” he blurted out.
The human looked toward him again and nodded slowly. “I do. Well, normally at least. He’s been weak lately.”
“It might be because he’s been trying to contact me,” Roarke replied. Finally, he remembered his manners and extended his hand. “Forgive me. I should introduce myself. My name is Roarke Darbonne.”
Quinn took the offered palm and squeezed it. “Quinn Tanner. It’s a—”
Whatever else the human planned to say was cut off when the skin contact between them finally registered. Shocks of pleasure coursed through Roarke at the first feel of his mate’s body. Quinn’s skin was soft, his handshake gentle, but firm. Roarke’s mind immediately went to how that grip would feel around his cock. His prick had been interested ever since Quinn had entered the room, but now, it went rock hard, arousal pooling heavily in his balls.
To Roarke’s credit, his mate seemed just as affected. His cheeks gained a rosy color, and Roarke yearned to remove the offending clothing shielding Quinn’s body from sight and see just how far the blush went. Then, Quinn licked his lips, and Roarke’s brain just about melted. For fuck’s sake, he was a feral. How could he be expected to rein in his instincts when his mate was right there in front of him, innocently seducing him? Quinn probably didn’t even realize what that simple motion could do to Roarke. Just the sight of that pretty pink tongue strained the shattered remnants of Roarke’s control. Fuck, Roarke had been such an idiot for staying away all this time. He should have come here much earlier.
A low growl escaped him, wild and feral, just like Roarke himself. He knew Quinn should have been frightened, but instead, the human stepped even closer, invading Roarke’s personal space. His pupils were dilated with arousal, and he leaned against Roarke, his entire demeanor screaming need and desire.
“I don’t understand anything anymore,” Quinn said, his eyes pleading with Roarke to explain. “What am I’m feeling?”
The confusion in Quinn’s tone reached out to both the animal and the man inside Roarke. He took a deep breath, pushing back the passion and the urgency to fuck, to claim. “I think you already know that,” he replied. Matings were among the most-basic knowledge regarding all shifters and associated creatures who took life companions. Of course, there were details that not even the species in question recognized, but the basic feeling, this sensation of rightness and explosive chemistry, was unmistakable.
Of course, the Tanners understood Roarke’s world at a theoretical level. They knew the information, but they’d never truly participated in the true paranormal experience. It was impossible for them to do so, as long as they didn’t have an intimate relationship with an actual member of the supernatural community. And Quinn was still so very young. He might not have had the time to experience love and lust even in a human way. It made sense that these emotions overwhelmed and shocked him.
However, Quinn did indeed realize what Roarke meant. “A mating?” the human asked. “But how is this possible? How did you know? Why did you stay away?”
Roarke was reminded that, in Quinn’s world, people didn’t just meet and jump each other’s bones on a feeling. They had a complex ritual of dating, going out for drinks, asking questions, and getting to know each other. Honestly, Roarke could appreciate the advantages of that, but he also didn’t think he’d be able to wait to touch his mate for Spirit Mother knew how long, at least not under normal circumstances.
As it was, Roarke remained very much aware that he was a feral, and ferals and humans only mixed with disastrous results. Claiming Quinn would drive the young human insane, something Roarke simply could not allow. Perhaps he’d been correct in avoiding the Tanners after all.
“Roarke?” Quinn inquired, still leaning against his chest. Roarke realized he’d fallen silent and probably unsettled his mate. “What’s wrong?”
Roarke wanted to say that everything was wrong and everything was right, but that wouldn’t provide Quinn with a real answer. Instead, Roarke released the beautiful human, suppressing a wince when the loss of Quinn’s heat struck him like a physical blow. “Come sit down,” he told Quinn, gesturing toward a small couch. “We need to talk.”
It seemed a bit strange for him to say that to Quinn, since technically speaking, Quinn was his host, not the other way around. Either way, neither of them commented upon it, since they had more-pressing concerns.
Together, they sat on the couch, and Quinn kept some distance between them, leaning as far away from Roarke as he could. Roarke’s wolf whined at being denied, but at the same time, he understood Quinn’s actions. This had all happened so fast. While Roarke would have loved to forget all about the world outside and just lose himself in his lust for Quinn, the reason why he’d come here had never left his mind.
“Our common friend sent me here,” he said when he managed to gather his bearings.
“The mysterious voice,” Quinn said, obviously intending to clarify. “What did he say?”
“Basically, that he needed help, and you could explain to me what I didn’t understand.” Roarke gave Quinn a serious look. “I’ve been living with this for a long, long time, Quinn. It was what pushed me into becoming a feral in the first place. He came to me in dreams, and the nightmares were so intense I almost lost my mind entirely.”
He’d never shared this with anyone, and it felt good to relieve his soul of the secrets he had buried deep inside. Seemingly forgetting about their problematic arousal, Quinn came closer to Roarke and squeezed his hand. “I’m sorry you had to go through that alone,” he whispered. “I can tell how hard it must have been for you.”
“I think that what I went through is nothing compared to his experience,” Roarke mused. He couldn’t really explain how he knew that. Hell, he couldn’t even understand why he didn’t blame the mysterious presence for pushing him into becoming a feral.
“He’s in so much pain, and so are you,” Quinn whispered. “We’ll figure out a way to deal with this, to get away from the dreams.”
It occurred to Roarke that, as much as he had hated his nightmares, the thought of losing them completely, like Quinn had, scared him. This mysterious presence had become his constant companion.
“The most important thing is finding out who this man truly is and what he needs us for,” he told Quinn. “He is convinced that you know something. Any idea what he has in mind?”
Quinn hummed thoughtfully, seemingly considering the question. “Mostly, he’s too weak to tell me anything coherent. He just asks me to talk to him, to tell him about my day. When I do that, he seems relieved, and it’s like he’s not in so much pain anymore. But that still doesn’t give us the answer we’re trying to find.” His eyes lit up and Roarke knew he’d come up with an idea. “Wait. I have a message for you, from Devon.”
“Devon knows the guy in our heads,” Roarke replied. “I think they fought once, and our companion doesn’t want me to go see him. But maybe we’ll get a few clues in this letter of Devon’s.”
Quinn nodded and retrieved an envelope from his pocket. The human handed it to Roarke, and Roarke quickly tore the seal, eager to see what Devon had wanted to say. The last time they had spoken, the other feral had been furious and cold to Roarke. As he read through the lines, though, he couldn’t help a gasp. Nothing could have prepared him for such a thing.
I hope this letter finds you well. As you probably know, I followed up on the info you gave me and accidentally ran into my mates, Hewitt and Mason. I’m in love now, my friend, and it’s given me the gift of a new beginning. I want that for you.
I know things have been bad between us for a long, long time. But if the Magistrate can work side by side with a feral, you and I can rebuild our friendship.
I’m not in the States now, and I might not be for a while. Please think on my words and consider meeting me when I come back.
Until then, a word of warning. During my stay with the spirit wolves, I came across a strange… I hesitate to call him a creature. He is a witch named G’aladon, and he attempted to possess my lover, Hewitt. We banished him to the astral realm, but his orc minions are still out there somewhere, and there’s really no telling whether he’ll come back or not. You probably think I’m crazy, but it’s true. Orcs, like in all the fantasy stories. I saw them myself, and they are dangerous in a way no other foe we’ve faced is.
Still, Hewitt is unsettled, because he believes we might have made a mistake in sealing G’aladon in the void, and a part of me understands. We were told that G’aladon has no soul, but Hewitt sensed something from him, and I did, too. But I think there was no other way out. As for his creations, those orcs I mentioned, they are soulless, too, and immune to magic. Be very careful, and if you run into anything unusual, contact the Magistrate. As much as we used to hate him, he genuinely wants to help. He is keeping a close eye on the situation, in case those creatures plan to surface.
And this brings me to another important thing I wanted to tell you. Remember that drug you mentioned? I haven’t tested it, but it might be worth a try for those who are close to the limit. I’ve met the doctor who created it, and he seemed like a serious, kind man. But, Roarke, even without the drug, there is a way out of our situation. My bond with my mates healed me. The edge of my feral anger is gone, and so is Mason’s. I hope that the Magistrate will be able to help you find that for yourself.
I know that you probably won’t be comfortable with talking to Wolfram for a while now, so should you need anything, I left word with another feral. He lives in London and owns the Blue Star Hotel. I left you a business card from there for the address and proof that you were indeed sent by me. Ask for JC. He’ll know how to contact me.
Several things passed through Roarke’s mind as he finished reading. He was happy that Devon wanted them to be friends again. They had always been close, and it had hurt Roarke greatly when Devon had unexpectedly become feral and left him behind. He knew he had reacted badly, but at that time, the nightmares had already become a big problem, and Devon’s absence had been the last straw.
Mostly, though, Roarke was horrified at the implications of Devon’s message. If he was reading his friend’s letter correctly, the mysterious man who’d reached out to him and Quinn must be this witch, this G’aladon. But no, this wasn’t possible. The person who’d pleaded for his help with such desperation and who’d apologized in such a torn tone for Roarke’s feral nature couldn’t have done something like attempting to possess another person.
Closing his eyes, Roarke sought the presence that often lingered at the back of his mind.
came the answer to the unasked question.
“I did attempt to steal Hewitt’s body. I thought…”
The man—G’aladon—paused, obviously having real trouble in connecting with Roarke.
“I just wanted…”
When G’aladon didn’t finish the phrase, Roarke felt a strange whirlpool of emotions growing inside him. “What?” he insisted, almost screaming the question. “What did you want?”
Quinn clutched his hand and gasped, apparently experiencing the same thing Roarke did. He climbed into Roarke’s lap and hugged him tightly. With Quinn so close and his wolf on the edge, Roarke couldn’t control himself. He crushed their lips together, taking possession of the human’s mouth, branding Quinn as his own.
His mate might have been surprised at first, but he swiftly relaxed in Roarke’s arms. The beast inside Roarke howled in satisfaction at Quinn’s submission, yearning to take things further. He fucked Quinn’s mouth with his tongue, mimicking the most intimate act that could happen between two men. Their first kiss went from passionate to explosive, an overload of emotions flowing through them and the still unformed bond.
And then, the familiar voice filled his mind, for the first time reaching him clearly.
the witch said.
“I just wanted you.”
* * * *
Deep in the astral realm, G’aladon watched the two men he’d come to know better than he knew himself. He could see them so clearly, through each other’s eyes. When they came together to kiss, his vision was cut off, but sensation exploded inside him instead, giving the energy he needed to speak to them once more.