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A Sidhe warrior in exile. A young man with powers he’s only beginning to understand. In their hands, the fate of two worlds.
A childhood encounter with one of the Sidhe sets Joseph Vines’ life on a fateful course. Unable to forget the beautiful creature who promised to one day return for him, Joey spends the next twenty years learning, dreaming and waiting.
Braeden Shay, a warrior of the Sidhe, has spent those same twenty years watching Joey from a distance, waiting for Joey’s heritage to make itself known. When the time is ripe, Braeden steps in to protect Joey from those trying to kill him, and to help him deal with the changes turning his life inside out.
During the days that follow, as Braeden teaches Joey to harness and control his newfound power over the natural world, Joey finds himself falling for the gentle, patient Braeden. Braeden, who has watched over Joey for most of his life, is already deeply in love with him. When the forces targeting Joey for death catch up with them, it will take all their magic—and the power of their love for each other—to survive, and to save both their worlds.
(Warning: this title contains explicit male/male sex, graphic language, violence, and inappropriate use of plants.)
© Copyright 2008 Ally Blue
Braeden paced sideways, keeping a critical eye on Joseph’s technique as the man searched for an opening in Braeden’s defense. The grass felt cool and prickly under Braeden’s bare feet. He glanced around, making sure the little field remained empty other than himself and Joseph. A stone’s throw to his right, the meadow sloped steeply downward. Puffs of white cloud drifted across an azure sky, and the Smoky Mountains rose in verdant waves all the way to the hazy horizon. To his left, the cabin lay between two outflung arms of birch and evergreen, hidden in a web of charms and glamours.
Nothing stirred but birds and insects, and the warm fragrant breeze. Nevertheless, Braeden couldn’t seem to shake the feeling of something creeping up on him. It had niggled at his mind all morning and was becoming too insistent to ignore.
Joseph’s knife hand fell to his side, and he cocked his head sideways with a frown. “Hey, Braeden?”
“Yes?” Dropping his defense posture, Braeden moved closer to Joseph. “You feel something, don’t you?”
Joseph nodded. His gaze darted from side to side, eyes slightly too wide. “Something’s not right. The plants’ energy is disturbed.” A frown creased Joseph’s brow. “Whatever it is, it seems to be focused near the cabin.”
Adrenaline shot through Braeden’s veins. Trotting over to where the weapons case sat on the ground, he crouched beside it and flung it open. “Joseph, bring me your knife.”
“What’s wrong?” Joseph asked, jogging over and handing Braeden his silver knife.
“Perhaps nothing.” Braeden placed Joseph’s knife in the case alongside his own. “Perhaps everything.”
“What the fuck’s that supposed to mean?” Joseph demanded as Braeden took two heavy iron blades from the case. “Why are you getting out the iron weapons?”
“Because I’d rather be ready for no reason than to be caught unprepared.” Braeden held out one of the knives, ignoring the faint burn of bare iron against his skin. “Take this.”
Joseph closed his hand around the handle, staring at it like it might bite him. “What about you? Can you use an iron knife?”
“Touching it for a moment won’t harm me, but I use one with a silver handle for combat.” Lifting the ancient weapon from the foam padding, Braeden held it out for Joseph to see. “It was made for my grandsire by an artisan of Cleopatra’s court.”
Joseph’s eyes saucered. He leveled a curious look at Braeden, but said nothing. Braeden was relieved. Now was not the time for Joseph to attempt to come to terms with the fact that centuries, not years, separated them.
“Let’s go back to the cabin,” Braeden said, rising to his feet. “If they attack us there, the spells I’ve set will warn us and give us enough time to escape.”
Joseph nodded. His face was grayish underneath the caramel skin tone, but his hand gripped the knife handle without shaking, and his eyes were clear.
Smiling, Braeden laid a hand on his lover’s cheek. “Only a fortnight, and already you face danger without panic. You have the soul of a warrior, a chuisle.”
A charming blush rose in Joseph’s cheeks. Eyes shining, he tilted his head up and kissed Braeden, a swift brush of lips that was over too quickly.
The small touch made Braeden’s tightly furled wings vibrate against the bonds of the glamour he wore while outside the cabin. By Danu, he needs no magic but his kiss to hold me captive. In the past two weeks, Braeden had memorized every inch of Joseph’s body. He’d learned Joseph’s taste and smell and the texture of his skin so well he was sure he could pick his lover out from a crowd of hundreds while blindfolded. But nothing intoxicated him like the man’s kiss. It was an addiction he never wanted to cure.
“Come,” Braeden said, taking Joseph’s free hand and silently charming the weapons case to float behind them. “Let’s get inside.”
Joseph kept close to Braeden’s side as they walked the short distance to the cabin. “They’re here, aren’t they?” He gripped Braeden’s hand tight. “Caratacus’s people. They’ve come for me.”
“Possibly.” He gave Joseph’s fingers a squeeze. “But they can’t imagine how strong you’ve already become. And I will die before I let them have you.”
Joseph’s gaze locked onto Braeden’s face. His deep brown eyes brimmed with naked apprehension. “I don’t want you to die for me, Braeden.”
“Believe me, I have no intention of letting either of us die if I can help it.” Under the shade of a gnarled old birch whose branches spread over the cabin roof, Braeden stopped and glanced toward the cabin. “If Caratacus has indeed found us, a chuisle, it will be the beginning of a dangerous time. You’re not yet ready to face him down, but he will perceive that your powers are being honed very rapidly indeed, and therefore his pursuit will be relentless. We must both keep our eyes and ears open at all times, and our magic at the ready.”
“I understand.” Joseph tilted his head back, staring into the greenery above them. “I wonder if…”
His voice trailed off, but his lips continued to move. With a creak and a rustle, one of the low-hanging birch branches bent and curved around Braeden’s chest. A sharp thrill coursed through him, and he smiled. Joseph’s control over his magic had become strong indeed if he could bend a tree as old as this one to his will.
“Caratacus would do well to fear you, Joseph.” Lifting their still-joined hands, Braeden kissed Joseph’s fingers. “Let us go inside now. We are too exposed out here.”
Without so much as a word or a look from Joseph, the branch withdrew. Braeden eyed it as they stepped up to the cabin door. Even though he himself had no power over plant life, he had an affinity with all things in the natural world, and he could feel the tree’s watchfulness.
Joseph has instructed it to guard the door, and it is doing his bidding.
It was an impressive feat, especially for one whose powers had only just manifested, and who had barely begun to learn how to use them. The honeysuckle vine outside the bedroom window was one thing—young and curious, as eager and malleable as a puppy. This tree was another thing entirely. Ancient as the mountains themselves, wild and proud and untamable. A being such as this one did not bow to anyone, yet it had allowed Joseph to command it.
Caratacus should fear him indeed.