Dark Magick Rising (Draegan Lords Book 5) by M.L. Rhodes
Copyright 2019 by M.L. Rhodes, All Rights Reserved
Once they were back inside the magick protective shield around camp, Wen suggested they detour by the hot springs to warm up before returning to the tent.
Wesley knew he didn’t mean the more public hot springs most of the camp used for bathing. No, they returned to the secluded hot springs where Wen had almost died two nights ago. Where Wesley, in a frantic attempt to save Wen’s life, had cut his own hands open and let his blood drip into Wen’s wounds. And where, for hours after that, he’d held an unconscious Wen in his arms, praying to gods he wasn’t even sure he believed in, to please spare the draegan with whom he’d fallen in love. They’d granted his wish, and Wen had come back to him. But those long, long awful hours were ones Wesley would never forget.
So, it was with reluctance, and no little amount of apprehension, that Wesley once again approached the warm waters of the pool. He told himself he was being ridiculous for dwelling on the bad memories of the other night. Good had happened here, too; Wen was alive.
Yet he couldn’t seem to shut out the bad, no matter how he tried.
Not even the sight of Wen, stripping out of his clothes, baring his lean, beautiful body before he waded into the water and then took off swimming could fully snap Wesley out of his funk.
There was also the little matter of his discomfort about shifting in front of Wen. He knew that, too, was foolish. Wen had seen him in his ondaen form. That night. That horrible night, and the next morning. But for some reason, Wesley felt awkward about shifting now.
So, he lingered, crouched on the rocks near the edge of the pool, watching misty steam waft off it into the cold, damp air, without undressing or actually getting into the water. His ondaen soul wanted to. Being in the water usually made him feel better when he was upset. But today, entering the water was part of his stress…
Finally, Wen swam up into the shallows near him, then stood, dripping wet and completely breathtaking, and stalked out of the pool and across the rocks toward Wesley.
He stopped in front of him and held out a hand. “Come on.” He smiled. “Don’t make me stand here in the cold any longer than I have to or I’m going to freeze my bollocks off.”
Wesley swallowed hard, staring up at him.
Wen waited patiently, hand extended.
Finally, with a sigh, Wesley grasped his hand and let him pull him up to stand. But he couldn’t seem to make himself move beyond that.
“You going to make me undress you, too?” Wen asked.
“I’ll take that as a yes.” Wen reached for the clasp on his cloak and swiftly unfastened it. He pulled the heavy wool off Wesley’s shoulders. With the cloak gone, a brisk gust of the icy air ate through Wesley’s shirt. But when Wen’s hands moved to the hem of the shirt and slowly eased it up Wesley’s torso, his fingertips skimming over Wesley’s abdomen and ribs in an intentional caress, Wesley quickly forgot about the cold. He raised his arms, and Wen drew the fabric off over his head. He tossed it aside, on top of the cloak now draped over a large rock.
“Let’s see. What’s next?” Wen said softly, smiling, his gaze slowly traveling downward. “Hmmm…yeah, the pants are definitely going to have go.” He shot a quick glance up at Wesley’s face, and Wesley almost gulped at the heat in his gaze before Wen looked back down and began to work at the lacings.
With little more than a tug, the laces seemed to fall open, and before Wesley could even gasp in response, Wen was easing the leather down over Wesley’s hips and thighs. His cock, which should have been shriveled and dangling like a limp twig, considering the winter temperature and Wesley’s anxiety, bounced free, fully erect, bearing more resemblance to an overeager sapling.
Damn. When had that happened?
But as Wen’s strong, confident hands stroked his thighs, then slid down to work off his boots and finish removing his pants, Wesley knew it had happened the moment Wen emerged from the water and approached him.
Wesley shivered, but it wasn’t from the cold. Especially when Wen gave him another half smile.
Gods help him, he was so in love with this draegan who always knew how to make him feel better.
“Rowen…” he raggedly whispered.
Wen rose and wrapped his arms around Wesley, pulling him against him in an embrace that was both comforting and intoxicating.
Wesley leaned into him, soaking up some of the heat from Wen’s surprisingly warm body, as Wen stroked his back for several seconds. There was no push for more, nothing blatantly sexual about it, but he couldn’t ignore the ever-present need that eddied around and through him just from being close to Wen.
As if he were reading his mind, Wen cradled Wesley’s face between his hands and kissed him, long and deeply.
When Wen finally pulled back far enough to look at Wesley, he said, in a soft voice, “I love when you call me that, you know? When you use my full name.”
“You…you do?” Wesley mumbled, staring at him, his heart tripping as he felt love and warmth surging between them through their emotional connection.
“Mm-hmm.” He kissed Wesley again. This one tender, but no less intimate. Then he stepped back and grabbed Wesley’s hand. “Come swim with me.”
Wesley started to follow, but a flicker of worry hit him again. He hesitated. Wen obviously sensed it because he turned and coaxed him with a smile as he walked backward into the hot springs pool, leading him.
“I… I’m not…”
“I’ve already seen you shift, Wes. There’s no need to be shy around me.”
“I know. I just…”
Wen continued to step backward. He was now up to his knees, and Wesley stood in water to his ankles. He could feel the first slight tingling in his feet that heralded his change. He knew if he looked down, he’d already find scales forming.
“What if someone—”
“No one’s going to see you. No one from camp is anywhere near here right now.”
“How do you know?”
“Extra sensitive draegan hearing, remember? I’d know if anyone was close by.” Wen squeezed his hand reassuringly. “I’ll keep you safe. I promise.”
“But… What if…”
“Trust me, love. Besides, you’re starting to get cold again. I’ve let you stand here exposed too long.”
As if his traitorous body obeyed Wen’s slightest suggestion, Wesley shivered. And this time, he realized it was because of the cold. Grey clouds still hung low in the sky, though the fog had cleared. But the air was damp and frigid, and Wesley could practically feel his skin, including the dangling bits of him, for-real shriveling up now.
“Come on.” Wen gave another one of those slow, steamy, knowing smiles, and Wesley was a goner.
“Damn it,” he groaned. Giving in, he waded in to his knees past Wen, then dove toward the deeper water.
As the glorious heat of the hot spring swallowed him, sluicing over him, his body responded, stretching, lengthening. His legs experienced a moment of achiness as they merged and formed his tail, and he felt the subtle but odd shifting he always did internally as his insides altered to fit his new form.
And then…he was free.
That’s how it always was when he changed and slid through the water. It was like coming home. Not that he wasn’t at home on land because he felt completely at ease in his human shape as well. But each time he entered the water and shifted, a deep sense of comfort surrounded him, flowed over and through him, as fluidly as the water itself.
And today, that comfort, along with what Wesley suspected might be some type of magick Wen was using on him, continued to ease his earlier fears and worries. He didn’t know how long the reprieve would last, but it felt good, and he decided to savor it. Wen would listen for anyone approaching, and whatever troubling cloud had hung over Wesley for the past couple of days seemed not to feel like such a burden at the moment. Again, he was certain Wen had something to do with that, and Wesley loved him so much for it.
He swam the circumference of the pool twice, before he finally broke the water’s surface, coming up near Wen, who’d swum out to meet him and was now treading water near the middle of the pool.
The odd expression on Wen’s face caused Wesley’s breath to catch, followed by a moment of heartsickness, as he worried the sight of him was too much for Wen after all.
But before he could ask, Wen said, “Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?” His voice was hoarse with emotion.
“The way you move, the grace, the power. It’s like watching a water god, Wes.”
He felt heat creeping up his neck and face as Wen’s words fully sank in.
Even though he’d always had an internal sense of peace when he was in the water, he’d spent his entire life being terrified of anyone else seeing him this way. With his mother’s warnings constantly in his head, he’d always had to sneak away to swim during the darkest hours of the night or in isolated lakes or ponds where he couldn’t be spotted. And always alone.
Now, to see such open admiration on Wen’s face, to feel his love and…gods, was that also desire he sensed? Even with Wesley in this half-human, half-water creature form?
Wesley honestly didn’t know what to say or how to respond.
But Wen did. He swam closer to Wesley, until the lean, muscular hardness of his body pressed against Wesley’s. One hand curled around the back of Wesley’s head, and then he kissed him again. Deeply and passionately. Letting his love and need flow along and through their connection, until Wesley was reeling from it. Until he trembled from it.
Just as he thought he couldn’t take another second of it without imploding, Wen ended the kiss and rested his forehead against Wesley’s as they clung together.
He remembered what Wen had told him two mornings ago, about draegans’ bodily fluids being spiked with magick. And since Wesley was an empath, when he and Wen…well…shared fluids, so to speak, whether kissing or in other ways, their magick merged and their emotional states heightened. Each time they kissed, Wesley could practically feel the magick drawing them closer, linking them. It was strange, but oddly thrilling, to be so connected with another being.
“Feeling any better?” Wen asked, his breath warm against Wesley’s lips.
Wesley’s nodded, struggling to speak, as his emotions, and Wen’s, continued to wash over him in warm, needy waves. “How’d you know?” he finally got out.
“That being in the water might help?” Wen asked.
Wesley nodded again.
“Because I know how it feels to be able to shift into my other form and take to the air…there’s something calming about it. To leave the problems of the land on the land and escape for a little while. I hoped maybe it’d be the same for you.”
“It is. But you’re doing something, too, aren’t you? I can…I can feel something else.”
Wen huffed out a soft chuckle. “I should have known you’d sense it.”
Wesley raised an eyebrow, waiting for an explanation.
“All draegans have basic magick abilities,” he said, stroking Wesley’s back again, as he had earlier. “We can focus our intention to put up shields, we have the ability to manipulate simple items like opening locks or doors, and of course the magick we use to shift into our winged forms. But some draegans also have additional gifts, like a particular aptitude for tracking, or growing things, or healing, or even seeing the future.”
“Like Lord Rizik can.”
Wen nodded. “Like that, yes. Some magickal gifts are rare—like Lord Rizik’s—and others are more common. Some are passed through families, while some appear randomly. Of course, one doesn’t have to be a draegan to be good at some of those things. But with an element of draegan magick in the mix, certain abilities become more…for lack of a better word…potent. For example, my dad was a gifted tracker, and I inherited that ability. Edric, on the other hand, has a particular affinity for working with metal—he can manipulate and shape it in ways others simply can’t.”
“What do I sense you doing right now? I’ve felt it since you hugged me, right before we got in the water.”
“I call it soothing magick. I don’t know why I have a gift for it—it’s not inherited from either of my parents, just like Ed’s abilities aren’t.”
“So you can make people feel better?” It made sense somehow.
“In a way. I can…help put people’s minds at ease, I guess is the best way to describe it.”
“You’ve used it with me before, haven’t you? That day at training. The first time we…connected.”
“Mmm. You were stressed and overthinking as you were practicing with your bow, and I figured some soothing magick would ease your tension, help you relax. It had always been so simple to use on others in the past, sliding in unnoticed. But when I tried it with you, it merged with your magick, your ability to read emotion, and turned what would normally have been a little comfort into a full-featured melding. So I’m not really surprised you feel it now.”
“Well, I’m grateful for it—that day and now. Thank you. And for coaxing me into the water with you.”
Wen smiled at that. “I wasn’t sure I was going to convince you there for a bit. And you call me stubborn.”
That made Wesley smile. “I know. I was worried, though. And probably thinking too much.”
“I understand.” He brushed a hand over Wesley’s cheek. “I really do. It’s been a rough couple of days. But you look better now. Less pale. Less troubled. Less lost in thought.”
“I feel more myself.”
“Good. That’s what I was hoping for.”
And it was good. But…feeling more like himself only made Wesley wonder why he hadn’t felt himself earlier. Which led him to again question what had happened last night. What in hel had he done and where had he been?
Wen must have sensed the fear beginning to creep into him again because he kissed Wesley’s forehead. “You’re thinking again.”
“I can’t help it. It just keeps happening.”
Wen gave him a sympathetic look, then shook his head. “Clearly I need to keep that busy mind of yours occupied in other ways.”
Wesley barely had time to register the the words before Wen’s mouth closed over his in another breath-stealing kiss.
Damn but Wen loved to kiss…often and with passion. Not that Wesley minded.
With one hand buried in Wesley’s wet hair, Wen’s other arm curved around Wesley’s waist under the water. His palm splayed on his ass, then slid lower, stroking sensuous circles where Wesley’s skin faded into the scales of his tale. And then his hand moved between them, capturing Wesley’s cock, stroking it, not seeming to be the least bit put off by the fact that Wesley’s body was now only part human in shape.
Of course, the parts of him Wen currently groped were exactly the same when Wesley was aroused, no matter which form he was in. The only difference was that when he wasn’t erect, in his water form everything stayed neatly tucked away in a fold of his scales. As far as the rest of him…his upper body, at least outwardly, remained human, and his human skin held sway all the way down to his groin in front, and over his buttocks in back. His tail formed below that, where his legs and feet merged together and lengthened to form a powerful, sleek tail with broad, shimmering fins at the end.
He was, for all practical purposes, still a human-looking man, with completely human male genitalia, and the curves of a human male backside, except that below that, he had a tail covered in gold and turquoise scales.
Right now, though, Wen’s touch made it clear Wesley’s tail was no obstacle as far as he was concerned. The heated flow of desire that pulsed along their emotional connection, combined with his insistent hand, urging Wesley to full stiffness, proved that.
With Wen’s panting breaths against his mouth, and the heat of his body so damned close, it took a long while before Wesley even realized Wen’s distraction tactic had worked all too well. His thoughts and worries had scattered, leaving him awash in nothing but sensation.
“You are so incredibly beautiful,” Wen murmured again, sending spikes of more heat through Wesley.
Wesley had never considered the possibility of something like this happening while he was shifted. Mostly, he’d spent the months since he’d first met Wen worrying that Wen would be repulsed by him if he discovered the truth. Instead, Wen had stunned him by fully accepting him the first time he’d seen him shifted. But this went above and beyond even that.
Wen tugged him closer yet, until they were chest to chest, groin to groin, with their cocks, hot and slick, now trapped between them. Wesley couldn’t help but rub against him, creating a delicious slippery friction.
With slow flicks of his tail, he kept them afloat, and suddenly realized Wen hadn’t worried whether Wesley was strong enough to hold them both up in the water. He’d simply trusted that Wesley could bear the weight of both of them, and had put his hands to better use than swimming.
Conveniently, thanks to his tail doing the work, Wesley didn’t need his hands for swimming right now either. It seemed far more important to be touching Wen. Because, damn it, he was unbearably seductive. And exuding all kinds of heat in the already warm water.
Wesley held Wen up by squeezing the mounds of Wen’s ass, kneading and pressing the firm, muscular flesh, as he continued to grind against Wen, keeping their erections moving together.
“I want you to fuck me,” Wen rasped against Wesley’s ear.
Shock rippled through Wesley and he pulled back to look at Wen. “You…you want me to… Even though I’m…?”
“I really, really do.”
Wen wrapped his legs around Wesley’s waist, until Wesley’s erection stroked his crease.
“Oh gods,” Wesley moaned.
Wen’s mouth sought his again, and it was all Wesley could do to keep from plunging up into Wen immediately. Wen’s kissing had turned into pure, sensual desperation, clouding Wesley’s thoughts and making him shake with need.
Finally, Wen dragged his mouth off Wesley’s and let out a moan that vibrated through Wesley’s whole body. “Wes…please!” He pushed himself down against Wesley’s shaft, making it obvious he’d meant what he’d said.
Between Wen’s plea and the ache of desire deep in his own gut, Wesley grasped the base of his cock and guided it to the center of Wen’s heat. The water gave his cock a natural lubrication that he didn’t have when he was in human form. It wasn’t unlike the slick feeling his scales took on in the water. Wesley had often wondered why it happened, though it had been pleasant when he’d taken care of his own needs over the years when he’d been swimming. Now, its true purpose suddenly became crystal clear to Wesley, and he realized it was probably very much like the natural lubrication he’d noticed Wen’s cock had when he was wet.
Were all magick beings so endowed, or were draegans and ondaen just particularly lucky? Either way, it gave him a strange, heady sense of power to realize this was meant to be. He and Wen, together like this.
“Now,” Wen said.
With a groan, Wesley pulled him down, impaling him on his shaft, little by little, until he was as deep as possible, with the heat of Wen’s body squeezing him tightly.
Wen’s eyes closed. And an expression of naked, mind-shattering desire settled over his face. Their emotional link pounded with the same need, allowing Wesley to feel it all, as it pulsed back and forth between them, capturing them in a loop that made Wesley moan from the power of it.
“Holy gods,” he whispered, barely able to form words. Or thoughts.
As if his body knew its job with or without his help, he began to thrust up into Wen. Each time he flicked his tail, it pushed him up and deeper into Wen, while Wen rode him down.
They quickly found a rhythm, and were far too hungry for one another to go slow or keep it tender. From the moment Wesley had entered him, it felt as if some primitive force had captured them and drove them in a joining borne of desperation. Of love and lust. But also, Wesley realized, with a jolt of clarity, of fear.
He was afraid, damn it. Of the unnamed darkness he’d been sensing. Of where he’d been last night and why he couldn’t remember. Of his secret being found out. Of losing Wen to death as he’d come so close to doing just two nights ago. But also of losing him because of some troubling wrong-ness that might be buried inside Wesley that, in spite of his words, Wen wouldn’t be able to condone.
He sensed fear from Wen as well, and though he couldn’t read the specific reasons for it, he suspected much of it stemmed from the same roots as his own.
He had to wonder if they were connecting so fiercely in order to shut out those fears.
Or maybe…gods, maybe he had it all wrong. Perhaps they needed this relentless joining to face their fears together because maybe, just maybe, then they could become a part of one another for real. Could truly be united, and that would somehow help give them strength to deal whatever might come to pass.
Even as he had the thought, a powerful surge of magick took hold of them, like a spark that had suddenly roared into a blazing inferno, searing their bodies together.
Wesley had felt intensely close to Wen from the moment they’d shared their first night together, when not only had their bodies joined, but even their hearts had beaten in shared rhythm. And that intimacy, not just physically but emotionally, had continued to build since then.
But this… Holy gods. He couldn’t explain it, but it felt as if right now they were connecting on some elemental level Wesley couldn’t even name. The creature of earth and sky bonding with the creature of earth and water, and forging something new. Something even stronger than each alone could ever be.
Magick churned through them, swirled around them—it had to be magick because Wesley felt it sizzling and snapping in the air, as if they’d created their own intimate storm unlike any force he’d ever experienced. It held them fully in its grasp now, out of their control, binding them together.
The whole world narrowed down to just them, the feel of their bodies moving together. The waves of emotion pouring off each of them, rebounding back and forth along their link, building with a strength that was almost too much to bear.
But they did bear it. And cried out from it.
When they finally came, their simultaneous release tore through them, ravaging them until their bodies gave up everything. And even that seemed to last longer and be far more intense than anything Wesley had ever known.
Once they were spent, Wesley could barely breathe. Certainly couldn’t speak. All he could do was hold Wen in a desperate grip, the same way Wen hung onto him, and do his best to keep them afloat in spite of the fact his muscles quivered from the power of what had just happened between them.
He felt utterly drained. And yet…still linked with Wen. And not just because he was still inside him. Linked in a new and even deeper way than before, as if they really had become part of each other somehow.
Wen seemed to be in a similar state, breathing hard, his body riddled with tremors. His face was buried against Wesley’s neck, his breath hot and heavy on Wesley’s skin.
When, at last, Wesley could begin to string thoughts together again, his first clear one was the realization of just how hard they were both still shaking. Wen’s emotions rippled in sync with his own, and Wesley suddenly understood that the experience had left them both ripped open, their bodies, hearts, and souls laid bare and vulnerable to one another.
His throat tightened so he thought he’d choke, and his eyes burned with salty tears.
Wen leaned back and his face mirrored the same emotion Wesley felt.
The intensity of his look shook Wesley to the core, and he knew, once and for all, that his life had changed forever. This man, this draegan, would dominate his every waking thought and need and desire for the rest of his life. He knew he’d do anything for Wen. And he knew Wen would always remain loyal to him, even if he shouldn’t. Even if it meant he gave his own life for Wesley, he’d never waver in his feelings. That was Wen’s way. Loyal to the end, to the very death if need be.
That realization only caused a new flicker of fear to creep into Wesley’s heart.
He hoped Rowen’s faith in him wasn’t misplaced. Because, gods, he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if Wen ever got hurt because of him.