Book One: Within
White wings twitched with impatience as her eyes scanned the expanse of blue before her.
Green eyes squinted slightly as the sun peeked out from behind a puffy cloud and the rays bounced off the surface of the glassy lake nearby.
Her ears caught the sound of wings flapping off in the distance, and she turned to look for the source of the sound. Full red lips curved in a smile as the figure closed the distance between them.
She waved at the set of guards who were standing at silent attention four feet away from her.
Stealth was so ingrained in their movements that they hardly made a sound as they turned and walked up the hill.
Far enough away to give her the privacy she’d commanded, but close enough to respond should the situation warrant their intervention.
They wouldn’t be required that day.
The creature winging his way to the regal figure waiting at the edge of the lake was as close to a friend as she could claim in her position. He had been steadfast in his pursuits.
Even when the others had grown tired of the search and declared it impossible, he’d continued his dogged quest.
He landed with a soft thump, his aged knees creaked as they bent to absorb his weight. “Your majesty,” he said softly as he lowered himself to one of those knees.
Her hands pressed against her stomach in anticipation of yet another failure. “Were you successful?”
“Yes, your Majesty. It has been changed so that she can understand it.” His lips turned up in a smile as he waited for her response. Unconsciously, his fingers grazed the leather satchel hanging at his side.
She blinked a few times as she took in the unexpected news. “And you think she is the one?”
He was silent for a moment, then his gaze lifted from the hem of her creamy white gown. The hope shining in her eyes made her appear centuries younger than she was. For a moment he was whisked back in time to the night they had brought him before her and charged with freeing her son. Her head tilted as the silence between them lengthened. “In the time I’ve known her, she has always been kind.”
“It will take more than kindness.”
He looked down again. “I know.”
“What is it?” She prompted.
“She’s a good person and what we’re going to do to her—”
“He will not harm her—”
“I know not physically, but—”
“If she is not the one we will remove him from her possession.”
“But what of—”
“We will help her.”
The tension eased from his shoulders. “Thank you, your Majesty.”
“She is your friend?”
“Yes, your Majesty.”
“I don’t envy the choice you’ve made though, I appreciate your sacrifice,” she said with a little frown. “And hers.”
He stood with a grimace. “I’ll give it to her today.” She nodded once, then turned to murmur the spell that would open the portal to the human realm.
There was nothing more to be discussed between them. He stepped through the portal then turned to watch her image, and the image of his home realm, fade from view.
His breath released in a sigh as it closed completely, leaving him in his cramped little office.
He set the satchel on the overcrowded desk with a muffled thump, then tucked his wings tight against his back, grabbed the sport coat he’d left hanging on the back of his chair, and pulled it on to hide the silvery gray feathers away from prying eyes.
The bell over the front door rang out sharply. He looked toward the door, listening for footsteps, already knowing who it was.
His fingers rested on the sun warmed leather of the satchel as he waited for her to appear. He looked up with a smile as the footsteps approached the doorway of his office.
“Hello dear,” he said.
“Hi Bernie,” the woman said and held up a to-go cup as her eyes focused on the satchel. “Is that a new treasure?”
His smile turned into a grin. The excitement in her eyes almost made him laugh. He took the cup from her outstretched hand and set it down away from the satchel. “It’s for you—”
“You didn’t have to do that.” She shook her head slightly, her gaze firmly stuck on the brown leather. He pulled the old leather bound book from the bag and held it out to her. She took it and tilted it up to the light. “What’s it about?”
“Witches,” he said as he watched her run a finger over the design carved into the cover. “A cautionary tale really, but it should make for some good before bed reading.”
She smiled widely. “I love a good bedtime story.” She spun away to leave the room. “I’m going to read it tonight,” she called as she walked up to the front of the store.
He stood looking at the door for a moment. “Watch over her,” he said as his head went back and his eyes closed. “And him.”
It was the scent of female flesh that woke him. A barely there perfume that roused him from a slumber he’d fallen into over a hundred years before.
So much time had passed since he’d last enjoyed that wonderful earthy essence of pure femininity, he’d almost forgotten what it was.
His eyes opened slowly, revealing an ice blue gaze that swept over the walls of his prison.
Half closed against the light that never seemed to dissipate fully within the gray walls that held him, he looked around for the source of that heavenly aroma.
He didn’t expect to find a woman in the small room, but he checked anyway. Partly from curiosity and partly from instincts honed by his past life as a warrior.
His body had awakened before his brain had cleared itself of sleep’s clingy cobwebs, reacting to the information his nose had gathered, and prepared his body for what he would need to do next.
He pushed himself onto his elbows, and his gaze fixed on the wall opposite from his pallet.
The door was open.
It wasn’t a door in a conventional sense. There was no frame or jam. There were no planks attached to each other to create an actual door.
It was just a blank space in the stone where, before he had closed his eyes, it had been unbroken gray.
Someone had opened his cage. A female someone, if his nose was to be trusted.
He didn’t bother with covering himself as he stood. Anything he put on would just be coming off in a few minutes anyway.
Black wings stretched as he came to his full height. Inky iridescent tips brushed the stones on both sides of the room. His lips flattened into a line as his wings unfurled.
It had been far too long since they had lifted him in flight. For a being such as him, remaining chained to the ground went against his very nature.
After a little shake of his head to focus his thoughts, he tucked his wings against his back and moved to the door to look out.
He expected to see feminine eyes gazing back at him, but there was only darkness. Shadows danced across a white surface before him.
A ceiling perhaps? Where is the woman? Hadn’t she read the inscription and left the book open to summon him? Perhaps she cannot read the language it is written in?
His hands pressed against the stones on the sides of the doorway. His eyes closed as his head fell forward.
It could mean that she was unaware of what she had in her possession. Which, in turn, could mean he would be forced to do something he abhorred.
He sucked in a sharp breath as magic surged through his big body. There wasn’t much time.
Exiting the room had never been pleasant. A feeling of being crushed and stretched at the same time.
It was confusing and painful, but necessary for him to fulfill the demands of the curse that held him enthralled.
He shoved his hand into the barrier between his prison and the world, letting the spell suck him in.
With one long moment of feeling what it must be like to be stepped on by a giant, he was standing next to a bed.
His eyes sought the person who had summoned him, and he was relieved to discover a young woman sprawled across the bed.
The last time he’d been freed from his cage by a female summoner, it had been an old woman who had held the book in her frail hands.
It had meant he’d had to be gentle as he executed the demands of the spell.
He’d done everything he could to ensure the sweet old lady had felt all the desire and passion she’d been seeking when she’d opened the cover with a youthful giggle.
It hadn’t been nearly enough to satisfy him though. He needed someone sturdier who could handle the rigors of having a warrior between her thighs.
By the looks of her, he’d been called out by just such a woman. She was in her early thirties, if he had to guess.
While long dark hair partially hid her features, he could make out the angle of her high cheekbones and full lips.
His gaze drifted lower, taking in the swell of her full breasts, barely contained by the nightdress she was wearing.
A faded black shirt that had slipped completely off one of her shoulders and left almost all of her chest exposed.
He looked over the rest of her quickly, taking in her curvy hips and long legs. She had one of her knees bent and pulled toward her side. His nostrils flared as he took another deep breath.
Carefully he lifted the book that had obviously slipped from her sleeping hands, from where it rested near her side, and set it on the stand next to the bed.
He sighed heavily. The familiar pain of the magic had already started to build. He would need to prepare her quickly, before the pain pushed him past reason.
Strong hands gently moved her limbs farther apart as he eased onto the bed and settled between her knees.
He moved his hands to her hips to slide the fabric higher, and he bit back a growl as her sex was revealed in the dim moonlight.
She shifted with a little sigh, and it took almost every ounce of restraint he had to keep from devouring her right then.
His gaze flicked up to her face briefly as he considered doing just that. Under other circumstances he could take his time with her, but unfortunately the magic wouldn’t allow it at that point.
The pain had already grown to a point that would make even a cursory preparation difficult.
He had to force himself to move over her, knowing that if he didn’t, the spell would build to a point where he would be compelled to drive himself inside her to escape the agony.
His body shuddered as he remembered the last time he had tried to resist the spell. His deeply ingrained morals had demanded that he not give in to it as a young widow was trembling beneath him.
He had learned just how awful the full effect of the magic would become if he did not follow through. Hundreds of years later, he was still grateful to the woman for the kindness she’d shown him.
She’d taken matters into her own hands once he’d managed to explain why he was there.
He crawled over his new summoner, brushed her hair away from her face to get a better look. The moonlight was too subtle to make out the fine details of her features, but what he could see was lovely.
Long dark hair spilled across the pillow, the high cheekbones and full lips he’d noted earlier. Thick eyelashes that were just dark smudges in the shadows.
Faint worry lines that made tiny creases under her eyes even in her sleep.
His fingers hooked the collar of her shirt and eased it down with a gentle tug. He bent his head and captured a rosy nipple between his lips.
It responded quickly, tightening into a little pearl under his tongue.
Her unconscious welcoming of his touch pushed him beyond the point where he could hold the effects of the spell at bay.
If he didn’t get inside her quickly, he would have been driven into a frenzy and rendered unable to temper his passion once she woke.
“Please forgive me,” he whispered, as he took his shaft in his hand and slid the tip along her warm slit.
It had often been difficult for human females to take him, especially if there had been no sort of preparation on his part.
He sent a silent prayer to the stars that she would be one that could accommodate him entirely. It had been a long time since he’d buried himself completely in the soft slippery heat of a woman.
“I’m so sorry lass,” he said in a sad whisper, then he began to push himself into her. He marshaled every scrap of restraint he had left as he eased himself further. Slowly, under his careful guidance, her body accepted his intrusion. It was a tight fit, but he worked his entire length into her without strenuous resistance.
He held himself there and let the pain recede to a manageable level. His heart sank as his breathing calmed.
Taking a woman that way, without her knowledge or consent, went against every moral he held dear. If it was possible, he would have withdrawn and left her in peace.
If it were possible, he would have spent the rest of his lengthy life repenting for every instance he had been forced to violate a woman like that. The witch had known this when she cursed him.
He understood her motives and, after several hundred years to contemplate them, would have agreed with her choice had he not been the victim caught in the middle of it.
Under him, the woman mewled softly. Driven by another need, he withdrew slowly, listening to the little sounds she was making.
Her hands slid off of her stomach where they’d been resting in her slumber. Instinctively, she reached for him. Her soft hands settled on his hips.
Her lips parted with a soft moan. His eyes focused on her face. She was lovely. He wanted to kiss those full lips, suck on them, bite them tenderly.
He eased back into her, stifling a groan as she encased him. The need to fill her with his seed rose in his chest. He pushed back at it, refusing to allow it to overtake him.
Her hands moved lower, pulling at him slightly. She moaned louder as he obliged her request. Her thighs lifted from the bed, closed against him to cradle his hips.
“John,” she murmured. “Oh god I’ve missed you.” She pulled at him again. “Never leave me again.”
“I’m sorry,” he answered softly.
Her eyelids twitched, a frown formed on her lips.
Something was wrong.
The sleeping pills she’d been taking had caused strange dreams on and off, but nothing had ever felt that real.
There was a comforting warmth and something solid between her thighs, under her fingertips. As though her husband had come back to her. But that was impossible. John had been dead for over two years.
The object of her focus moved slowly, her body clung to it, as if it was reluctant to let it go after an absence of that particular sensation for so long.
Her eyelids fluttered as she fought against the effects of the drugs she’d taken hours earlier. A little sigh escaped her as it filled her again. She’d missed that feeling.
It had to be more than a dream; the sensations were too intense to be ghosts of her imagination.
But how can that be? I was alone when I went to bed. I checked the doors; they were all locked.
She forced her eyes open. The first thing that came into view was a forearm close to the side of her chest. At least it appeared to be a forearm.
Between the lingering effects of the chemicals in her system and the shadows dancing around the room, everything had an ethereal quality. It was difficult to tell if she was still dreaming.
She screwed up her faculties and moved her gaze up the rest of the arm to a very muscular shoulder. Her eyes opened wider as they reached the face of the man above her.
Long dark hair framed a strikingly handsome, slightly aristocratic face. He was watching her emerge from her dreamworld silently, with a puzzling expression of sadness.
Her eyes traveled down to where her focus had been before she opened her eyes. She watched as he pushed himself into her in the most intimate way possible. Her eyes flew back to his face.
He was staring at her intently.
She sucked in a breath and screamed. Her hands shoved at his hips. His weight shifted as he covered her body with his.
She tried to buck her hips, intending to dislodge him, but that just pushed him deeper. Inwardly she moaned, but outwardly she kept screaming.
His full lips twisted slightly, and his hand moved under her jaw, closing her mouth tightly. She pulled her head back but his grip followed her, cutting off her wails behind her teeth.
His fingers pressed her chin hard.
“I am sorry for this and I will explain in a moment, but I’m going to need you to stop screaming.” His eyes entreated her through the shadows.
She stopped in stages, still fully aware of his position between her legs. His hips flexed, pushing him deeper, and that set her off again. Her sorrowful cries tore at his deeply ingrained chivalry.
“Please,” he said in a gentle tone, as if he was trying to soothe her. “If you don’t stop, this will just take longer.” Her eyes were so wide he had feared that he was hurting her physically, but she quieted after a few moments. She tried to shake her head when he attempted to move again, but his fingers held her so firmly that she couldn’t move. “I don’t want to hurt you. Please. You must stop fighting.” She shrieked behind her lips.
He considered her for several heartbeats, then tried another tactic. His free hand slid under her ass to pull her into his thrusts. He breathed a little sigh of relief at her reaction.
A sharp in drawn breath, her eyes closed, and then she made a sound that could easily be interpreted as a purr.
After a few minutes her hands stopped pushing at him, slid up his chest to his neck, then into his hair.
He half expected her to grab it in her fists and pull but, with a moan, she used her hold on him to pull herself up and pressed her face against his neck.
His fingers released her chin to cradle her head.
She surprised him by pulling her face away from his neck to look up at him. He dipped his head to capture her lips in a deep kiss, she smashed her lips against his.
Once she was moaning in time with his movements, he gave himself over to the sensations their bodies created together. She moved into his stroke, lifting her hips to take him deeper.
He obliged her with a groan. Her body tightened under him. He stroked harder in response, thrilled that he could at least give her a moment of pleasure amid his violation.
She tore her lips from his as her body bowed against his and she cried out loudly.
He gave her a few moments to savour that feeling of exquisite release before restarting his rhythm to seek his own. It was on him within seconds once he’d stopped holding it at bay.
He drove himself deep and groaned as he spilled himself into her softness.
After the last contraction of pleasure, the pain faded into the background of his consciousness, to become a faint heartbeat of discomfort that he’d grown used to over the years.
He pressed his lips against her neck for a moment. “What is your name, lass?”
“Isabelle,” she answered. “What’s yours?”
Her head fell back onto the pillow and he sighed as her expression changed from post sex bliss to indignant anger. Her eyes narrowed and her little hands pushed at his shoulders. “Get. Off. Of. Me.” He lifted himself up and sat back on his heels. She reached over, grabbed hold of the sheet she’d thrown aside in her sleep, yanked it over herself, and sat up. “Who the fuck are you and why are you in my house?”
“Lass, please calm down.”
“Calm down?” She glared at him. “I just woke up with you on top of me and you want me to calm down! Are you deranged?”
“I assure you I’m not. If you’ll allow me to explain.”
She shook her head. “Dear god. You must be the most polite rapist on the planet.” She waved a hand at him. “How can you possibly explain this?”
He smiled slightly and looked over at the nightstand. “You read that book earlier.”
“What does that—” He looked back at her. “Yes, I was. What does that have to do with you attacking me?”
He growled low in his throat. “It was not by choice.” She frowned. “Years ago, I was cursed by a witch and trapped in that book. Once it’s opened, I’m freed for a time, but I’m driven to copulate with the first woman I see.” Her mouth dropped open. “It’s been a few hundred years since the last time I was—.” He cleared his throat. “Summoned.”
“Cursed?” she asked with a harsh laugh. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. You raped—” Large black wings lifted and spread out behind him. “Holy shit!” Her eyes bounced from the impossible sight behind his shoulders to his face. “What the hell are you?” The volume of her voice rose with every word.
He smiled proudly. “A faerie.”
“What? Aren’t fairies teeny?” She held up her hand with her index finger and inch away from her thumb to demonstrate.
“I don’t know what that is.” He mimicked her gesture.
“Little bitty creatures.”
“None of the faeries I know are little.”
“It doesn’t matter. You still broke into my house and assaulted me.” She pulled the sheet higher.
“I did not break in.” He pointed at the book. “You brought me here and summoned me.”
She shook her head as he spoke. “All I did was take an old book home and fell asleep reading it.” Her hand waved in the direction of the nightstand. “If it hadn’t been for the sleeping pills I took, I probably wouldn’t have even tried reading it tonight, I’d still be trying to fall asleep in front of the TV.” She clutched at the sheet. “Instead, I ended up waking up to a strange man having sex with me.”
“I’m not a man,” he said firmly.
“For the love of god.” His wings shifted higher behind his head. “Fine. A faerie.”
“As I said, I have no choice in this.”
“Oh right,” she spat. “The spell forces you to have sex with whoever summons you.”
“It’s quite painful if I don’t.”
“Ya, I’ve heard blue balls can be a bitch.” She rolled her eyes.
“I don’t understand what you mean.”
“Oh, for crying out loud.” She sighed. “You know, when a guy gets turned on but doesn’t get off.”
“Ah yes.” He smiled slightly. “If it was only that I wouldn’t care.”
She took another breath to prepare for another tirade. The breath caught and held for a moment. “Are you getting hard over an argument?”
He looked down at where her eyes were focused. His body was responding to her closeness and the scents they had made together that still lingered in the air. “I like my females spirited,” he said with a shrug.
“Well, forget it. You’ve already assaulted me once tonight. You are not doing it again.” She scooted back against the headboard.
“I’m sorry, Isabelle.” He tucked his wings and crawled toward her. “I must spill myself inside you.”
“Nope.” She moved to one side of the bed, clearly intending to slip off the side and run away from him. “You really mustn’t,” she said mockingly.
He caught her arm before she could make it out of his reach. “I will make it enjoyable for you.” His voice was soothing, but his grip was like steel. He pulled her back to the headboard and turned her to face it. “I cannot resist the enchantment. Don’t make me force you again. Please.”
“This isn’t right. We don’t even know each other.”
“The spell doesn’t care.” His wings spread open and forward, forming a feathered barrier on either side of her. He pulled her hips back and groaned as she rubbed against him. His fingers brushed her hair from her shoulder and he bit her gently, then soothed the sting with a lap of his tongue. “In another time I would court you with flowers and love songs.”
She shivered under his lips. “Really?”
“Indeed.” His hands gripped her hips. “You would have come to my bed willingly.”
She looked over her shoulder. He was smiling. “You think so, huh?”
“I do.” His hands moved higher, sliding under her shirt to brush the undersides of her breasts. “You would have eagerly given your body to me.” A frown appeared on his lips. “Instead, I’m forced to take you before I can seduce you with my charms and for that, I’m truly sorry.”
She almost laughed but, as he was speaking, a fine sheen of perspiration had sprung up on his face. “Are you alright?”
“It’s painful lass.” His voice was soft, but the effort it was taking to be gentle was written all over his face. “The longer I resist, the worse it gets.”
“What happens if you wait too long?”
“Pain beyond anything I could describe. It would drive me to take you, which would be very unpleasant for you.” His voice was strained. “I wouldn’t want you to experience that.”
She studied him for a moment, turning everything that he’d said over in her mind. It was all too perfect. It had to be a drug-induced dream.
The most realistic she’d had since she started taking them a year prior. But that was the only plausible explanation for the whole situation.
“I’m running out of time, lass.” A single bead of sweat trickled down his temple.
She reached down between her thighs and gripped his shaft to slide him into place. “This is just a dream. I’m probably going to wake up before I can come.” She gasped as he pushed forward. “A really good dream.”
He smiled tightly. “This is no dream and will make sure you peak before I have to go back into the book.” He worked himself into her as he spoke. Once he was all the way inside, he took a deep breath and stayed there.
Her head fell back against his shoulder. “Best dream ever,” she said with a soft moan.
He tried to chuckle, but it came out as a groan. The pain had started to recede, leaving the primal need to fill her with his seed in its wake.
She turned her head to brush her lips along his jaw. “You’re not moving.”
“I need a moment—” He swallowed. “To gain control of myself.”
“Don’t.” Her hand slid into his hair to pull him closer. She kissed him softly and pressed her hips back.
His breath hissed between his teeth. “Don’t what?”
“Control yourself.” She bucked her hips. “It’s my dream and I want wild faerie sex.”
“You don’t understand what you’re asking.”
“Show me.” Her hips pushed again. “I want to know what it’s like.”
Ice-blue eyes considered her for a moment before he took a breath. “Hold on to this.” He reached for her hands and placed them on the headboard, then took hold of her hips. His hips drew back till he had withdrawn almost completely, then he drove forward hard. She gasped loudly. He did it again, expecting her to ask him to stop.
She didn’t though. Instead, she tightened her grip on the top rail of the headboard and yelled, “More!” He smiled when she slammed her hand against the wood. “Don’t stop!”
He kept going and thanked his lucky stars for the good fortune of stepping out of the book and finding that dark-haired beauty.
Her mention of being in a dream was a little unsettling, but he ignored his misgivings, hoping that she would realize that it was no fantasy.
She clung to that thought for hours though, and he couldn’t help but be impressed by her determination to convince herself that it wasn’t a real faerie that touched her.
He took full advantage of her demand for wild faerie sex. It was the most primal he’d been with a female since he’d first ventured into the human world.
He retained his basic civility, even saved her from a few tumbles off the bed, but he let himself give in to her cries for faster, harder, deeper. More.
Until, after several hours of pulling and pushing each other, petting and demanding, passionate kisses and tender bites, they both fell onto the bed, breathless and spent.
“Alasdair,” she said in a drowsy murmur.
“Yes, lass.” He brushed her hair away from her face to press a soft kiss on her forehead.
“I hope I dream about you again.” She yawned.
He stood and tucked the blanket around her. “Open the book at sunset and I can come back to you till sunrise.” He moved to the window just as the sun was peeking over the horizon.
She watched him stand there, looking out the window, and tried to puzzle out what he was doing. Her eyelids kept closing despite her efforts to keep them open.
She missed the first hint of light that streamed through the glass, and his sad smile as he disappeared without a sound.
Several hours later the phone rang, jarring her out of the deep sleep she’d fallen into.
She snatched it off the nightstand with a little grumble, hit the answer button without looking to see who was calling.
“Bernie? Why are you calling so early? Is everything okay?”
“Early?” he asked with a chuckle. “My dear, it’s almost eleven. I was beginning to worry.”
“Oh my god. I’m so sorry. I must have shut off my alarm.” She sat up and swung her legs off the bed to stand. She winced as she straightened, everything hurt. Bernie was saying something, but she had to pull the phone away so he couldn’t hear her little groan. “I’ll be in as soon as I can. Would you like me to stop by the diner and pick up something for lunch?”
“That would be lovely. I’ll see you soon.” She disconnected, set the phone on the nightstand, then stumbled to the en suite.
What the hell happened?
She looked at herself in the mirror. Her hair was a tangled mess, the old t-shirt she’d gone to bed in was missing, and there were red marks all over her.
She turned to the side and spotted more marks on her back and butt.
She was still trying to remember when she got out of the shower fifteen minutes later.
There were vague images of incredible blue eyes, powerful arms, a wicked smile, and black feathers, but she couldn’t grasp anything solid. It was all a haze.
It must have been one hell of a dream. She laughed to herself. What the heck could the feathers mean?
She marched to the closet to pull out some clothes and stopped. A single black feather was lying on the floor next to the bed. Her eyes went wide as she snatched it up.
It was huge, longer than her forearm and as wide as her hand. It was a glossy black that seemed to shift colours in the sunlight.
Her gaze fell on the book still open on the nightstand, her eyes narrowed with suspicion.
It couldn’t be. She shook her head. That was just a dream.
With a nervous laugh, she flipped the cover closed, then scooped it up, and continued her march to the closet.
She set it firmly on a shelf, laid the feather on top of it, and turned away to grab her clothes. The closet door swung shut with a little bang.
Just a dream. She repeated to herself as she dressed and then headed out the door.
Then why do I remember black wings around me?