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Hello, friends. The following two chapters are not safe for work.

Chapter Seven: Ayrie

Wedding Night

Ayrie knew he shouldn't have followed Lauden. But it had been hours since they'd parted after the ceremony—Ayrie to his rooms and Lauden to who knew where. Ayrie had expected his new husband to perhaps make an effort to get to know him better before they…well. But Lauden hadn't come to him. An hour had gone by and then two before Ayrie heard Lauden's voice in the hall, and, after witnessing Lauden disappearing down the stairwell, followed without really thinking it through.

Now he crept down the darkened staircase behind Lauden, whose boots fortunately made enough noise on the stone steps to cover any sound Ayrie was making in his bare feet. When he reached the bottom of the steps, Lauden turned to the right, and Ayrie had to hurry in order not to lose him. The last thing he wanted was to get turned around in this dark, unfamiliar place. Peering around the next corner, Ayrie saw Lauden talking to two guards standing outside a door.

"Go upstairs and have some food leftover from the wedding feast," Lauden said.

Both guards bowed and said, "Yes, sire," before turning and heading Ayrie's way. Heart racing, Ayrie pressed himself into a dark corner, foolishly squeezing his eyes shut as though that could make him invisible. Miraculously, the guards walked past him and up the long stone staircase. In the meantime, Lauden had given one loud knock on the door and entered the room without waiting for a reply. When shut it behind him, Ayrie quietly moved forward and pressed his ear to the heavy, wooden door.

"You can't summon me whenever you want, Father. I have things to do," Lauden said.

A weak, hoarse male voice replied, "My servant said you've gone and married that filthy Fae creature! Do the people know that the Belladonna ring was taken from me without my knowledge? Do they know this whole thing is a play on your part to get the crown? When I woke up from whatever drug you gave me, I could hear the chants of 'Long Live the King' all the way down here. I am the king, do you hear me?" A long bout of coughing followed the spurt of vehement words during which Ayrie began to wonder if the man was strangling. He heard someone moving around—he guessed Lauden, as his father didn't sound able—and liquid being poured, and then heavy gulps interspersed with more coughing until it finally quieted down.

When Lauden spoke, his voice was cold and laced with frustration. "If they know, they don't care. Your medical reports have been published. You are unfit to rule, Father. Mother and I have been telling you that for a long time now. You brought us to the brink of disaster, and I'll be fucked if I'm going to sit back and watch you let the Umbral realm and everyone in it be destroyed because you refuse to admit you're wrong!"

"How dare you!" the man shouted weakly. Ayrie guessed that, had Haver been healthy, it would have been a roar. "It is you who are unfit. Your mother has put ideas into your head that you would be the better ruler, all because she thinks to manipulate you. Just the fact that you believe the Umbral would fall under those—those lesser creatures shows how little you are fit to rule this realm. But fortunately for us all, it is still not too late." His voice lowered, and Ayrie had to strain to hear.

"Listen to me, Lauden. We have a world of dark creatures behind us. We could wipe out the entirety of the Ephemeral, I know it! You have not lain with their prince as of yet—am I right? Good. Then kill him."


On the other side of the door, Ayrie became more and more agitated as the minutes dragged by without Lauden speaking. Then he thought he heard Lauden reply in the negative before someone behind him softly cleared their throat, sending Ayrie whirling around to face them.

His eyes met with Lyles' just before the guard hoisted him over his shoulder and unceremoniously carried him up the stairs. Ayrie would have yelled at him, had he not been afraid of being discovered.

Once in Ayrie's room, Lyles set him on his feet in front of a tense-looking Ote.

"I found him eavesdropping outside the former king's door," Lyles reported.

"Excuse me!" Ayrie whisper-shouted. "Have you forgotten who it is you answer to? You just carried your prince up a mile-long flight of stairs like I was a sack of barley!"

Ote stepped between Ayrie and his guard. "Don't blame Lyles; he was following my orders. I'd been listening for Lauden to come and fetch you. I just wanted to make sure all went well. I heard him speaking to a servant and then saw you follow him down the steps. Why in the universe would you go and listen at a sick man's door?"

"I wanted to know what was going on, and it's a good thing I did. Haver is trying to convince Lauden that, when the Divide closes, the Umbral can defeat the Ephemeral, and that he should just kill us."

Ote's face paled. "And what did Lauden say?"

"I wouldn't know as Lyles chose that moment to intervene."

"We have to get out of here, Ayrie!"

"You know we can't," Ayrie scoffed, sitting down on the bed. "Anyway, I'm pretty sure Lauden turned Haver down."

"Pretty sure?" Ote looked like he was going to come unraveled at the seams. Ayrie felt sure that only Lyles' hand on his friend's shoulder kept Ote from running to pack bags for them to escape."

A knock on the door sent Ayrie back to his feet and Lyles reaching for his sword.

"Ayrie?" Lauden's voice came muffled from the other side.

"Just a moment!" Ayrie called.

"I'll wait for you in my chambers," Lauden said. Ayrie heard his footsteps fading away.

Ayrie looked at Ote. "What do I do?"

Looking relieved that Ayrie had come to his senses, Ote reached into his pants' pocket, then slapped something into Ayrie's hand. "Take this and kill him before he can kill you. Then we'll get out of here and find a portal home."

Ayrie looked down at the knife before handing it back to Ote. "I am not going to kill him. Lauden would not come this far only to take the advice of his ailing father whose crown he's already usurped. It would make no sense."

Stepping behind a decorative screen, Ayrie began washing his dirty feet with a wet cloth from a wash bowl while Ote continued to argue with him from the other side.

"Ayrie, you can't go to him like a lamb to the slaughter!" Ote said when Ayrie stepped out from behind the screen.

Ayrie looked at Lyles. "Give us a moment, please."

When Lyles closed the door of the adjoining room behind him, Ayrie said, "I have to go to Lauden now. I need a bit of advice."

"About what?" Ote asked. "You wouldn't take the knife."

"About sex!" Ayrie hissed at his friend. Now that the time had come, his nerves were getting the best of him. "I've never done this before, Ote!"

Ote paused. "You feel certain that Lauden isn't going to do away with you?"

"If I didn't, would I be going to him now?"

Ote sighed, shook his head, then said, "I don't know what you think I'm going to be able to tell you. I've never bottomed for anyone."

"Not once?"

"No. Although a centaur once wanted me to."

"A centaur?" Ayrie asked, shocked. "But they're…"

"Which is precisely why I declined," Ote said. "Now, go on. If you're certain Lauden isn't going to murder you, don't leave him waiting any longer. But I insist that you tell him you want your guard stationed outside the door."

Ayrie wanted to refuse. What if Lyles heard them having sex? He'd never be able to look his guard in the eyes again. But he had to be safe just in case he wasn't right about Lauden's choice.

"All right," he agreed.

Impulsively, Ote threw his arms around Ayrie and hugged him before calling to Lyles back in.

"Do not leave your post unless I order you to myself," Ayrie instructed his guard before knocking on the door of Lauden's suite.

"Enter," Lauden called out, and Ayrie turned the knob.

Lauden stood by a large ebony desk. There were also a couple of dark green couches in the room, as well as a dark table piled with thick, heavy books. Lauden was no longer in wedding attire as he had been when he went downstairs to see his father. He was now wearing a dark blue robe that reached his ankles. He turned his head when Ayrie entered, his green eyes widening slightly as he looked the Fae over. Ayrie had left his dark hair down, falling around his shoulders in waves. A servant had removed the gems earlier, after Ayrie had bathed. The only thing he wore was the indigo silk robe that had been left for him in the bathroom.

Lauden took a step forward. "This robe matches your eyes," he said, surprising Ayrie, who hadn't expected such romantic words from his new husband.

Lauden's blond hair was loose like Ayrie's and shown gold in the light of the large candelabra on the table by the desk. The opening of the robe revealed his muscular chest. Around his neck he wore a dark red pendant on a ribbon of black silk. Although he'd been clean-shaven at their nuptials, there was now a layer of stubble covering his square chin and the space above his upper lip. When Ayrie's gaze returned to Lauden's, the Vampire's green eyes seemed to bore into his.

"My bedroom is this way." Lauden turned and led Ayrie through a door into the next room which was dominated by a large bed surrounded by candles. Ayrie thought it looked as though a sacrifice was about to take place.

Perhaps it was. No, Ayrie truly didn't believe Lauden was going to kill him, but he was a sacrifice in another sense. The Fae prince's virginity sacrificed to the Vampire prince to save them all.

But Ayrie had already decided he didn't want Lauden to know he was a virgin. It wasn't important to the prophecy, and Ayrie didn't want to feel even more vulnerable than he already did. He felt even more that way after Lauden's next words.

"I have never slept with a man before, but it couldn't be too different from sleeping with a woman. We are to produce an heir, and, unless we are very lucky, we will have to do this deed more than once."

"Here's to hoping we're very lucky," Ayrie said, shrugging off his robe, exposing his naked body to the Vampire. The expression on Lauden's face was his reward for being so bold. Gone was the inscrutable mask, replaced by surprise and something else as his eyes swept over Ayrie's nude body. Could it be desire? Unlikely.

Ayrie knew he was beautiful—all Fae were—but if Lauden had chosen to sleep only with women, perhaps Ayrie wasn't his idea of sexually pleasing. He wished he could read the man better.


"Well? How do you want me?" he asked crisply.

Lauden cleared his throat. "All fours?"

"Is that a question?" Every crack Ayrie made in his husband's cool exterior made him feel more brave, even though a small part of him thought he wasn't helping himself by poking at the Vampire. But he couldn't seem to stop. He wanted to feel that he held some power before he gave himself over to Lauden completely.


Stepping forward, he said, "You're still dressed. Here, let me help you."

Ayrie untied Lauden's dark robe and pushed it from the man's broad shoulders. Then he paused to take him in.

Weren't Vampires supposed to be pale? Lauden's skin was a light olive tone all over. With a muscular build, defined abdominal muscles, a trim waist, long legs, and—Ayrie saw when Lauden picked up their robes and turned to drape them over a chair—a fine ass, Lauden was stunning. Sparks of awareness running through him, Ayrie turned away and crawled onto the bed to hide the blush he knew stained his cheeks. It was time.

Like a mare in heat, he presented his ass to his new husband.

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