Dark Magick Rising (Draegan Lords Book 5) by M.L. Rhodes
Copyright 2019 by M.L. Rhodes, All Rights Reserved
Wen landed in an open space amongst the trees, a fair distance from the castle, where he’d known he’d find Wesley. Known, because about halfway up the mountain, Wesley’s churning emotions had washed over him with such aching intensity, all he’d had to do was follow them to find his troubled mate.
Wesley stared up at him when he landed, an expression of surprise on his face. Which only confirmed to Wen just how troubled Wesley was—because normally Wes would have sensed him coming well before he arrived.
“How did you know I was out here?” Wesley asked, approaching him and stroking a hand along the underside of Wen’s chest as he stared up at him. “Especially when I didn’t even know I was going to be here.”
::I felt you.:: Wen leaned down and gently bumped his snout against Wesley’s cheek. ::I was down at the guard camp, but partway up the mountain I knew something wasn’t right.::
Wesley reached up to rub the sensitive, bony protrusion between Wen’s eyes, which sent warmth twining through Wen’s veins. He couldn’t even express how happy it made him to have Wesley caress him so lovingly when he was in his winged form, showing no fear or concern. This was, after all, only the second time Wesley had ever seen him this way. Though, to Wesley’s credit, he hadn’t been intimidated the first time either.
“I’m sorry,” Wesley said. “I needed to clear my head after training and I was hoping a walk away from the castle would help. I wasn’t intentionally trying to project my mess of emotions to you, though. I know how busy you are.”
Wesley’s apology, in addition to his already disconsolate state, was more than Wen could bear. The last thing he’d intended was to make Wes feel guilty over something he absolutely shouldn’t. Instantly, Wen shifted into his human form and pulled Wesley into his arms.
If he were startled at the suddenness of Wen’s change, he didn’t show it. Instead, Wesley sagged against him, his own arms curling around Wen’s waist and his head coming to rest on Wen’s shoulder.
Wen held him and rubbed his back through Wesley’s heavy cloak. “I’m never too busy for you, m’caire. Ever. And certainly not when your emotions are in such a state. What happened? You seemed okay when I saw you earlier.”
Wesley drew in and released a shuddering breath. “I don’t even know where to start. And besides, you don’t have as much time as my tale of woe would take right now. You have to fly with Lord Rizik this evening.”
“I’ve got time for this.” He took a step back so he could look at Wes, studying his pale, drawn countenance, and the exhaustion and discord seeping from his every pore. His own heart aching by sheer virtue of how much Wesley’s was, he leaned in and gave him the gentlest of kisses.
But Wesley clearly needed more than that. He burrowed a hand into Wen’s hair and kissed back like he’d been desperate for contact for far too long. As always, Wen was more than happy to let him take what he needed. And, as far as he was concerned, the few hours they’d been apart had been too long.
“Thank you,” Wesley eventually murmured. His body, which had previously been tight with anxiety, felt looser now, pressed close to Wen’s.
“For the kiss or the soothing magick?” Wen asked, brushing a long strand of dark hair, damp from the fog, back off Wesley’s face and tucking it behind his ear.
“Both. I really needed them both.”
“Come with me,” Wen said, once more stepping away. He held out his hand. “I’ve got something else I think will help.”
Ignoring Wen’s hand, Wesley’s gaze slid down Wen’s body, then back up again. “Like, say, clothes? So you don’t freeze your bollocks off out here?”
The only other time Wen had shifted in front of Wesley they’d been at the hot springs and he’d already been bared-assed naked, so Wesley had no way of knowing this was the usual state of a draegan coming back into human form after being winged. Wen raised an eyebrow and smiled. “Why? Are you suddenly offended by my bare skin?”
A soft snort and the beginnings of a grin tugged at Wesley’s lips. “I think you already know the answer to that. I’m more concerned about pertinent parts of you turning to ice and dropping off, which would be a tragedy I’d rather not have to witness. So where the hel are your clothes?”
“I usually undress and leave them and my weapons in the hollow of an old tree near the castle when I go to the guard camp. And I keep a second set of everything down there. For the record, clothes don’t shift with a draegan. We either take them off beforehand or they fall onto the ground when we make the change.”
“I guess that makes sense. I have to take mine off, too, when I shift.”
“Yeah, I know.” Wen gave him a teasing look. “Now that we have that cleared up…will you come with me? I have something I want to show you.”
“You’ve been saying you want to fly with me. You ready to do that?”
Wesley drew in a quick breath and stared at him wide-eyed. In spite of Wesley’s tumultuous emotional state, Wen definitely felt a shimmer of excitement at his question.
“Yes!” But then Wesley’s face crumpled. “But what about Lord Rizik? And I have a guard shift tonight.”
“There’s time for this,” Wen assured him. “We’re not going far. I promise I’ll have you back for your shift. And put your hood up, love. It’s going to be cold for you up in the air.” Without waiting for Wesley to do it himself, Wen lifted the hood of Wesley’s cloak over his head, tucking in that same strand of hair that had already fallen free.
“Now, come on. Don’t make me beg.” He waggled his eyebrows, then began backing away to give himself more room to change.
Wesley smiled outright at that and, gods, Wen loved that smile so much.
He shifted into his winged form as Wesley watched in open admiration.
“Um…what do I do now?” Wesley asked, gazing up at him.
Wen lowered a wing to the ground. ::Use it to step up onto my back.::
Wesley’s nervous excitement pulsed along their link.
When his warm weight settled atop Wen, Wen’s first thought was how different this felt from carrying Lord Rizik. Which was probably in his imagination since aside from Lord Rizik being heavier than Wesley, they were both still a light weight for Wen in this form.
And yet, there was something almost sensual about knowing it was his mate riding him this time. He was acutely aware of the warm press of Wesley’s thighs against him, of his hands firmly grasping one of the spines on Wen’s neck, and, though he probably shouldn’t have been surprised, he was, to feel Wesley’s own awareness of their intimate contact.
Oh yeah, this was a whole different experience with Wesley on his back.
::You ready?:: he asked.
“I think so. I hope so. Just don’t let me fall.”
::You think I’d take a risk on losing such precious cargo? Never. That said…do your part and don’t let go.::
“I’ll do my best.”
Wen spread his wings and with an easy leap, lifted from the ground.
Wesley’s thighs squeezed him tighter as they rose, and Wen sensed his rapid breathing and heartbeat. But as they continued to rise and rise, and then finally break through the fog and clouds to the clear sky above, he experienced the heady rush of Wesley’s pleasure.
Above the clouds, the sun hung low in the sky, not quite setting yet, though it would be within the hour. Rays of burnished orange and gold glistened off the cloud-tops below them, while above them, the cold, crisp blue of the winter sky stretched endlessly in every direction.
“Holy hel. This is… Is the view always this incredible up here?”
Wen could barely hear Wesley’s voice as the wind whipped around them, but he didn’t have to—he could hear Wesley’s thoughts.
::It’s even better on a clear day, or a clear night when the moons are out. Then you can see the ground for leagues.”
“This must feel like absolute freedom and bliss for you.”
::Sometimes.:: When he and the other draegans didn’t have to always worry about the high sorcerer’s damned nets. ::Remember, you don’t have to speak out loud, Wes. Save your energy in this cold air. All you have to do is think at me, and I’ll be able to read your thoughts.::
::Oh, right. I forgot you could hear me like this. You can hear me right now, yes?::
::To communicate this way. But at the same time it feels sort of…::
::Yeah. And also, and don’t laugh, but it’s kind of intimate.::
::It is,:: Wen agreed.
::I like it. It’s silent, but not really because I can hear your actual voice in my head. Except it’s gruffer and growlier than it usually is. Is that how I sound to you when you read my thoughts? Like a growly version of me?::
Wen chuffed out a laugh. ::Growly? You make me sound mean, yet last time we communicated this way, you thought I was like the friendly village dog, eager for attention. Make up your mind.::
Wesley’s humor spread over him like ripples of sunshine. ::Yeah, okay. You’re never going to let me forget that, are you? But may I remind you, you do like it when I pet you.:: He proved his point by rubbing a hand along Wen’s neck.
Wen instinctively responded with a shiver and a pleased sigh. ::All right, I’ll give you that. But I like it when you touch me anywhere, in any form. And to answer your question, you still sound pretty much like you when I hear your thoughts.::
::Oh. Well that’s not very exciting. I guess since I don’t have the wings and teeth and claws I don’t get the growly mind voice like yours.::
::That’s okay. You don’t need a growly voice. You have a tail instead.::
::What?:: Wesley laughed aloud. ::What does that have to do with anything? And so do you, by the way. Have a tail.::
::Yeah, but in case I haven’t ever told you, your tail is seriously sexy,:: Wen said. ::All sleek and shimmering. And watching you swim…gods, the way you move, you’re breathtaking.::
Wesley didn’t say anything, but Wen felt his warm rush of embarrassment, along with a tingle of desire.
::Nothing to say? No smart comeback to that?::
::I… I don’t…::
Another surge of tingly heat slid along their emotional link, making Wen smile inwardly.
::It’s just that,:: Wesley finally continued, ::I spent so many years feeling self-conscious and afraid of my water form, that it’s hard to reconcile those old feelings with what you’re saying.::
::Why is it still hard for you to believe I think you’re beautiful even in the water?::
::I’m not sure. I mean, I’ve seen how you look at me, you even let me…asked me to… Well…when we…:: Another flood of embarrassment surged over him.
::When we made love while you were in your ondaen form? I think if you participated in the deed, m’caire, you should be able to talk about it,:: he teased.
He felt more than heard Wesley’s soft, self-effacing laughter. ::I know. It’s just that…even though I know you obviously do find me attractive that way, it still gets me in the gut every time because I’m not expecting it. It’s like a gift that I’m never quite prepared for.::
::It’s the same for me, when you see me this way. You think I don’t get a rush of pleasure when you look at me like I’m some kind of mythic being? It happened just a little while ago, when I landed next to you. And again when you touched me so tenderly, like the last thing on your mind was the fact I am all teeth and claws.::
::Your teeth and claws were the last thing on my mind. You’re magnificent like this. But you are as a man, too.::
::As are you in both forms, whether you choose to accept it or not.::
::I guess I’ll have to take your word for it.::
::Guess so. Now…you might want to be sure you’re holding on tight.::
He barely had time to get the word out before Wen dove downward, enjoying the thrill of the steep plunge and the rush of wind over his wings.
It pleased him even more to realize Wesley was enjoying it too.
As they passed through the clouds, the thick, icy dampness clung to his skin and scales, but he didn’t mind. He wasn’t completely impervious to the cold in this form, but damned close. Wesley, on the other hand, was probably feeling the bitter sting of it. If they found what Wen hoped lay below them, though, Wesley could warm up quickly.
The fog had lifted in this portion of the mountains, but they were deep enough into the peaks now, and the evening shadows were dense enough that Wen wasn’t particularly fearful of anyone from below seeing them.
He spied the faint plume of steam he’d seen before on one of his flights with Lord Rizik, and circled around it, losing altitude, looking for a good spot to land. Conveniently, the hot spring he’d suspected was there, lay nestled in amongst a broad outcropping of smooth, flat rocks.
He landed on them, only a couple of steps from the small pool’s edge.
“What is this place?” Wesley asked aloud. Wen sensed his rising appreciation. As Wen had suspected, just being close to the water brought some comfort to his mate’s ondaen soul.
::I saw the steam while I was out with Lord Rizik a couple of weeks ago. I figured it might be a hot spring, and I thought, if it was, maybe you’d like to check it out and have a swim. Although, I have no idea the temperature of it. It may be too hot to enter, so test it first.::
Wesley was already sliding off his back and onto the lowered wing Wen offered him. He crossed over the rocks and knelt beside the water, holding his hand above it, gauging the heat rising from it before obviously deciding it wasn’t going to boil him alive if he put his hand in it. Which he did.
“It’s a little hotter than the one we swam in at the forest camp, but definitely not so hot we can’t get in it for a while.” He was already taking off his cloak, followed by his belt and weapons. He turned and looked over his shoulder at Wen. “Are you coming?”
::Not tonight, love. We’re deep enough and high enough into the mountains I’m not overly concerned about any of Byram’s soldiers passing through here. But I’m not familiar enough with this area to be certain. I can see and hear better like this, and pose more of a threat if trouble comes calling. So I’ll keep watch while you have your swim.::
Wesley’s expression grew concerned. “Maybe I shouldn’t—”
::Yes you should,:: Wen said firmly. ::I wouldn’t have brought you here if I thought there was imminent danger. I’m just being cautious. So go. Enjoy yourself.::
Wesley continued to look at him, and Wen felt a wave of gratitude rush toward him from Wesley along their link.
“I love you,” Wesley said.
::I love you, too.::
“You always seem to know just the right things that will make me feel better.”
::Yeah, well, I think I might have the best end of this deal. Because I get to watch.::
Wesley’s low chuckle warmed Wen’s heart. “You’re incorrigible.”
::You love it.::
Wesley’s grin morphed into a decidedly sexy mix of pleasure and sensuality. Without another word, he turned his back to Wen, stripped off his padded leather jerkin and shirt, and threw them atop his cloak on the rocks. His boots were next. Then, with a little shimmy, and, Wen was certain, an intentionally slow pace, he pushed his pants down over his hips, exposing his firm, pale ass bit by bit and, eventually, his long, muscular legs. When his pants were around his ankles, he turned his head and looked back at Wen, still smiling seductively, then kicked them aside.
How he could look at Wen like that, with that sexy-as-hel, come-and-get-me expression on his face when only a few minutes ago he’d been too shyly embarrassed to talk about their lovemaking weeks ago, baffled Wen. Another of the delicious mysteries that made Wesley Wesley.
“See everything you want to see?” Wesley threw back at him with a raised eyebrow.
Wesley tsked. “You are so bad.” But he turned, again his motions slow, giving Wen a lovely view of his broad chest that tapered down to his flat abdomen, and from there, to the dark line of hair that led to his fully hard cock.
::And you are so, so good,:: Wen said, admiring the sight.
“Mm-hmm. If you really thought that, you’d come and join me,” Wesley taunted, before turning and wading into the water.
Oh, Wen wanted to. So badly he ached. But this was unknown territory and he couldn’t afford to drop his guard.
Not even for the spectacular sight of Wesley, fully shifted now, diving under water, his gold and turquoise tail flicking above the surface in a teasing shimmer.