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PRODIGAL SON An Ellora’s Cave Publication, August 2005
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PRODIGAL SON An Ellora’s Cave Publication, August 2005
Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc. 1056 Home Ave. Akron, OH 44310
ISBN MS Reader (LIT) ISBN # 1-4199-0333-0 Other available formats (no ISBNs are assigned): Adobe (PDF), Rocketbook (RB), Mobipocket (PRC) & HTML
PRODIGAL SON Copyright © 2005 MARY WINTER
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. They are productions of the authors’ imagination and used fictitiously.
Edited bySue-Ellen Gower . Cover art bySyneca . Warning:
The following material contains graphic sexual content meant for mature readers.Prodigal Son has been rated S-ensuousby a minimum of three independent reviewers.
Ellora’s Cave Publishing offers three levels of Romantica™ reading entertainment: S (S-ensuous), E (E-rotic), and X (X-treme).
S-ensuouslove scenes are explicit and leave nothing to the imagination.
E-roticlove scenes are explicit, leave nothing to the imagination, and are high in volume per the overall word count. In addition, some E-rated titles might contain fantasy material that some readers find objectionable, such as bondage, submission, same sex encounters, forced seductions, and so forth. E-ratedtitles are the most graphic titles we carry; it is common, for instance, for an author to use words such as “fucking”, “cock”, “pussy”, and such within their work of literature.
X-tremetitles differ from E-rated titles only in plot premise and storylineexecution. Unlike E-rated titles, stories designated with the letter X tend to contain controversial subject matter not for the faint of heart. Prodigal Son Mary Winter Dedication
For you, Dad. You encouraged me to follow my dreams even when you didn’t understand them, and you loved me unconditionally. I miss you, Daddy. And to Steve, for being there.
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of thefollowing wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
Ford F-150: Ford Motor Company
Chapter One Present Day Chicago, IL
Plumes of steam surrounded Te. He closed his eyes, letting the hot water sluice over his chest, down over his abdomen and twine down his legs. Taking a deep breath, he gathered his long hair in his hands and began to work the shampoo into the strands. Thelussor threatened to ride him, a hunger he could not deny. It was his gift. It was his curse. Te growled low in his throat as he tried to stave off the incessant need thelussor brought.Not now. I don ’t need this now. Maybe later he’d find a willing woman in which to sate his hunger. A one-night stand. Rinsing out the shampoo, he turned up the heat in the shower a notch, something he could have done with a thought. Te shook his head. He wouldn’t squander his power that way. Not when using it only called thelussor more strongly. The shrill ring of the phone penetrated his shower. Te paused. He thought about dismissing the call. It probably was another damn telemarketer anyway. He listened to the sharp ringing and knew deep inside he needed to answer the phone. He turned off the water, then opened the shower door. Grabbing a towel, he wrapped it around his waist, his long strides already taking him into his bedroom. On the nightstand next to his king-sized bed, the phone rang again. Te picked it up. “Hello,” he growled harsher than he intended. Rivulets of water trailed down his body. His cock, still half-hard from the power of thelussor , pressed against the towel. “Te, I’m glad I caught you,” Edwin said. The voice of his adoptive father and the StarMyst Conclave leader sounded weaker than usual. “Edwin, how are you?” Te smiled. Pulling the towel from his waist, he started to dry his hair. He steeled himself against the inevitable request to return to StarMyst. Not for a visit, Edwin wouldn’t settle for only a few days. Te knew Edwin wanted him to come back for good and take his rightful place within the Conclave.
On the other end of the phone line Edwin gave a heavy sigh. “I need you to come back, Te. It’s important that you—” “Edwin, we’ve discussed this before. I can’t come back.” He paused as his words took him back a decade to the teenager whose heart he broke. Going back to StarMyst would only dredge up bad memories. Memories he tried hard not to remember. “Te, you have to come back. I know what happened, and I know there’s probably nothing I can say that would assuage your guilt. You didn’t know, and damn it, Jacy should have probably told you. But that’s all in the past. The Conclave needs you. I need you.” The need in Edwin’s words worried Te. He’d never heard him speak in such dire terms. His place as Edwin’s Second hadn’t been filled. If StarMyst needed him, something threatened his position and probably Edwin as well. “What is it?” Te asked. “I don’t want to tell you over the phone.” Te’s stomach fell. He dropped the towel at his feet and sat down on the edge of the bed. A hundred scenarios, none of them good ran through his mind. “Is it Jacy? Has something happened?” “No, it isn’t Jacy.” “Then is it Kade or Reid? What about Cord? What’s going on, Edwin?” Te clenched his fingers around the phone. His heart pounded in his chest. Something horrible had happened at StarMyst. He knew it. “No, it isn’t any of them.” It took a moment for Edwin’s words to sink in. “Then it’s you. What’s wrong? Tell me!” Edwin sighed. “I didn’t want to tell you this way, Te. I wanted to tell you in person. I have cancer.” He sucked in a gulp of air as a wave of pain so acute it nearly doubled him over flowed through him. “They have treatments, right? Chemotherapy. You’re one of the most powerful sorcerers in America. How did this happen?” When Te’s parents died, Edwin had taken in the ten-year-old boy and raised him as his own. Edwin was the only father Te had ever known. “There’s nothing they can do. It is esophageal cancer, vicious and fast-spreading. Already there are spots on my liver. The doctors don’t think I have very long, eight months ago they told me I had six months to live. I had hoped they were wrong, but now— Dear God, Te, I’m so sorry. I didn’t want to tell you like this.” Grief filled Edwin’s words. Te swallowed hard past the lump in his throat. He had to stay strong. As Edwin’s Second, he needed to be there to help steer the Conclave through this trying time. “Do the others know?” He fought against soul-wrenching grief. Not Edwin. “Yes.” Te closed his eyes. Jacy, dear Jacy, who, like himself, had been orphaned in the Sorcerer Wars. Of
course the rest of the word knew nothing of the clashes that decimated the magical talent in America. One Conclave against another, and it seemed everyone was against Edwin and his friends. Secrets, lovers, no one really knew why the wars started, least of all the orphaned children Edwin had adopted. Jacy’s family had been the last to die, and she had come to live at StarMyst with Edwin. She couldn’t be taking the news well. “I’ll be there,” Te said at last. “Give me a few hours to put my business in order and pack some things, and I’ll be there as soon as possible.” He exhaled a long breath. “Thank you. I’ll tell you more when you get here.” Te nodded, thankful he’d sold his business to Donovan a few months ago. He had plenty of money for his immediate needs and did occasional jobs for Donovan on the side. He knew eventually he’d have to find permanent work. It’d drive him crazy to stay idle. But right now he had all the time he needed to devote to his conclave, his family. “I’m glad you called. We’ll talk once I get there. How long have you known, Edwin?” On the other end of the phone, Te heard a muted discussion. Moments later, Edwin spoke, “Longer than I wanted to, trust me. My nurse is here. I’ll see you when you get here.” “I’ll be there as fast as I can. We’ll fight this, Edwin. We have to.” Te hung up the phone. Edwin never said goodbye, not even when Te had left the only home he had really ever known a decade ago. Te sat on the edge of the bed as air rushed from his lungs. He bit his lip as grief tightened his throat. The lussor lay dormant in a rush of emotion. He remembered watching the flames as his parents died, then the foster homes until Edwin finally adopted him. I couldn’t stop my parents’ deaths. I was only four.I accepted that. I can’t accept Edwin’s. Not yet. It’s too soon.He stared at the carpet and tried to regain his equilibrium. Rising to his feet, he dressed quickly in a pair of black jeans and a black T-shirt. He found his suitcase and filled it with mostly casual clothes. He tossed in dressier items in case he needed to perform in an official capacity. He stared at his nearly full suitcase. If he kept his mind moving then he wouldn’t think about Edwin’s phone call. Once he arrived at StarMyst and learned the full extent of Edwin’s cancer he’d worry. He had things to do, bags to pack, and giving in to his grief would only delay his arrival back home. People beat cancer all the time. Surely Edwin could do the same. A heavy ball of dread sat low in his stomach, and he couldn’t ignore his gut feeling that he had to return to the five hundred acres in the northwest corner of Illinois known simply as StarMyst. Te stopped in front of his dresser. He opened a small oak box lined with crimson velvet. Inside, a gold signet ring with a large blue topaz stone sat. Alchemical symbols were engraved into the band on the ring, and before he could stop himself, Te removed the ring from its box and slid it onto the third finger of his left hand. The heavy ring slid home, and Te couldn’t help but admire the cut of the stone and the beauty of the craftsmanship. He closed his fist and opened it, not surprised the ring felt as if it belonged. He quickly removed the ring and put it back in the box. “With any luck I won’t have to wear it for a while,” he spoke. Saying the words aloud didn’t make them any more true, and Te knew it. A small picture sat by the ring, a picture of Jacy at the age of sixteen. She looked up at him, her long auburn hair flying behind her. Her piercing blue eyes stared at the camera, and although she wore a baggy men’s shirt and a pair of jeans, her body held a promise of beauty and curves in a few years. She stood
next to Spot, her Appaloosa pony. A smile lit Jacy’s face, and Te lifted the picture. He could never forgive himself for what he had done to her.And if I’m returning to StarMyst, then I shouldn’t forget. He slipped the small box with the ring and picture into his suitcase. Te carried the suitcase into his small living room. It took him only a few moments to grab his laptop and some CDs of his projects. He leaned his laptop bag against his suitcase, then walked to the second bedroom. As he opened the door, he steeled himself for the rush of power inside the room. A bookshelf nearly as tall as him ran along the length of one wall filled with books. Te pulled a second black suitcase from his closet and filled it halfway with books. The remaining space was taken up by a wooden box containing ceremonial tools he hoped he wouldn’t need. Te zipped the suitcase closed. Edwin’s vast library contained anything else he might need.He glanced around, certain he wouldn’t want any of the other grimoires or spell books. Satisfied, he returned to the living room. Te dragged his fingers through his hair. He’d thought about returning to StarMyst sometime, but as he slid the strap of his laptop bag over his shoulder and grabbed his keys from the end table, he never believed it would be like this. Not with Edwin dying. Te shook his head as he picked up the suitcases and left his condominium. He cleared his mind as he waited for the elevator and rode it into the parking garage. His royal blue Ford F-150, one of his few indulgences, sat in its parking place. Twenty minutes later, he navigated Chicago traffic on his way west. The scenery did little to enchant him. Once he left the suburbs and city limits, cornfields and farms took over from homes and businesses. Whether it was an improvement depended on whether his window was up or down. Even then, he caught the faintest whiff of manure coming through the vents and winced. Sometimes it took a lot to love the country. The anxiety he’d kept at bay returned with a vengeance once he saw the green fields and farmhouses. Seeing the expanses of land reminded him of StarMyst and the freedom he’d enjoyed growing up. It also reminded him of Jacy. He swallowed hard and wondered what kind of woman the gangly teenager had grown into. Back then, her breasts had fit his palms perfectly, her legs long enough to wrap around his waist and hold tight. All limbs and angles, except for the softness of her chest pressed against him, and he ’d loved every moment he’d spent with her. Until he’d taken something precious and broke her heart in the process. I didn’t know I’d broken her heart.He’d repeated the litany through the years until it had become his own private mantra. He never stopped asking about her until he heard Jacy had gone off to college in Iowa for a degree in equine science and gotten engaged. After that, he quit asking, though his body never forgot her whisper-soft touches. Exhaling deeply, he concentrated on his driving and tried to put thoughts of Jacy out of his mind. ***** Jacy strode into Edwin’s bedroom with long, purposeful strides. She smiled at her foster-father lying in the bed, though her heart pounded at the summons she’d received. His pale skin looked even whiter against the navy blue sheets, and lines and wrinkles crisscrossed his skin where they hadn’t been before. A veritable pharmacy of pill bottles sat on his bedside stand, and his breakfast of strawberries and oatmeal looked barely touched. “I’m sorry to call you here when it’s so nice outside,” Edwin said.
“It’s all right. You know I don’t mind spending time with you,” she said as she took a seat in the easy chair next to the bed. Reaching out, she laid her hand across his. “So, if I’m your nurse, does this mean I got promoted or demoted?” She chuckled at her feeble attempt at humor. Leaning forward, she pressed a quick kiss to his cheek. “Do you want me to reheat your breakfast?” Edwin shook his head. “I’m not feeling hungry.” Jacy’s smile drooped, but she quickly pasted it back in place. She crossed her jeans-clad legs and hoped Edwin noticed she wore the pretty jade silk blouse he’d given her last year as a Christmas gift. “You wanted to see me?” Edwin nodded. He exhaled, and the motion turned into a coughing fit. He reached for a tissue, and Jacy couldn’t help the trepidation filling her. Her heart clenched to think how each cough must hurt her foster-father. After all he’d done for her, taking her in after her parents’ deaths, she wished she could do more to help. She ached to be able to do something, anything, to make him better. Sorceress she might be, but it didn’t mean she could save the world. She handed him a glass of water and held it so he could sip from the straw. He reached for it like a baby bird to its mother. His slow swallows underscored the severity of his illness. Jacy blinked back tears. She hated crying, hated looking weak, but every time she saw Edwin she just wanted to curl up in the fetal position and bawl. If tears could bring him back, he’d be healed a hundred times over. Finding her own inner strength helped Edwin remain strong. “I just finished speaking with Te. I wanted you to be the first to know. I’ve asked him to return and take up his duties as my Second. He will most likely arrive this evening.” With his free hand, Edwin squeezed the hand she’d placed over his. “I know it’ll be rough, which is why I wanted to tell you before the rest of the Conclave. To give you time.” Jacy barked a hoarse laugh. “A hundred years wouldn’t be enough to prepare for Te’s return.” Unbidden, an image of him a decade ago rose in her mind. Already broad-shouldered and lean-hipped, with his dark, roguish good looks he’d stolen her heart.And, if her ex-fiancé were to be believed, still had it. Jacy shook her head. “Why is he coming back now? He’s had lots of chances to come back. This doesn’t have anything to do with Kade pushing me to marry.” She released Edwin’s hands and rose to her feet. “Don’t tell me you brought him back to see if we will get together.” She paced the room, her heart hammering at the thought of seeing Te again. “No, Jacy,” Edwin said, his voice cutting through her rising agitation. “I brought him back as my Second. The Conclave needs someone to hold it together.” “And so you chose someone who isn’t even around? Kade’s been working his ass off to keep things appearing normal. Why don’t you just confirm him and be done with it?” Jacy clamped her lips closed. She didn’t mean to fire questions at Edwin, but they came out before she could stop herself. Squaring her shoulders, Jacy stared at her mentor as she waited for him to answer. Edwin looked weary. “Te is still my Second. I appreciate Kade’s work, but he’ll never be powerful enough to hold off challenges to StarMyst’s leadership, and you know it. His own greed will destroy him. I’ve given a lot of thought to this. Te will come around.” “What about the cost to the Conclave?”What about the cost to me? She didn’t ask the latter question, knowing Edwin couldn’t answer it. “Te has always been my Second. This doesn’t change anything. I have an idea of what happened ten
years ago, Jacy, but neither you nor he has told me. I’m tired now and need to rest, but I trust you will do the right thing.” Jacy walked back to the bed and pressed a kiss against Edwin’s forehead. It hurt to see him so weak. “I will try. For you, I will try. Just answer one question. Does he know about Kade’s search to find me a husband?” Edwin shook his head. “I only told him the barest facts. I’m sure he’ll know everything once he gets here.” He laughed weakly. “I know how you feel about Kade’s actions. I can only imagine how Te will feel.” “I bet. You get your rest. I’ll be back in a few hours to check on you, and maybe bring you a treat.” She stepped away from the bed and grabbed the tray to take it down to the kitchen. Once she dumped the half-eaten meal in the trash and the dishes in the sink, she retreated to her room,slumping against the door. Te was coming back. She had loved him ten years ago, and in some part of her heart, she supposed she still loved him. Her ex-fiancé had told her she cared too much for the men of StarMyst, and when she went home for the holidays and stayed in a home full of her foster-brothers, well, she supposed she couldn’t blame him for being jealous. But Te. He understood. She exhaled and stumbled over to her bed. She hadn’t seen Te since the day she’d found the note. Closing her eyes, she could still recite the words by heart. Jacy, I have to go. You gave me a precious gift. One I’ll always treasure. But you should have told me. Someone else could have initiated you to the mysteries of thelussor. Now, you’ve been breached, and it’ll forever rule you. I’m sorry. Te Jacy breathed deeply. Te had to have known she wouldn’t stay innocent of thelussor for much longer. It was the cost of their power. All sorcerers had to battle their inner desires. He couldn’t have expected her to remain a virgin forever, could he? And Edwin, dear sweet Edwin, who was a foster-father to both of them. He knew. One look at Jacy’s tearstained face and he knew what had happened. He said nothing, save to put her in the same program of meditation and self-discipline all members of StarMyst employed to keep thelussor in check. She loved him for his silent acceptance, his understanding. Jacy knew she couldn’t stay holed up in her room forever. Not only was it childish, but she had chores to do. Spot expected his afternoon apple, and she could use the stillness of mind spending time around the horses brought. She changed into her worn pair of work boots, then scurried down to the kitchen and grabbed an apple out of the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. She smiled as she darted out the back door and hurried to the stables. Her smile faltered as she saw Kade exercising Jazz, StarMyst’s prized quarter horse stallion. She spent a moment admiring the stallion’s rippling muscles beneath his copper-colored hide. His flaxen mane and tail streamed behind him. No matter her dislike for his rider, she had to admit Jazz was beautiful. Jacy tamped down her frustration with Kade’s attempts to mold her future. Before he could see her, she slipped into the barn, petting the noses of the broodmares on her way to Spot’s stall.
Her gelding poked his head over the partition and whinnied as he watched Jacy walk down the aisle. She smiled as she reached into her pocket and pulled out an apple. Holding it on her flat palm, she fed it to Spot, who quickly devoured the treat. Apple juice coated her fingers, fragrant and sticky, and she wiped her hand on the leg of her jeans. Spot nosed around her pockets looking for more treats. Jacy scratched him behind the ears, and he whickered as she rubbed his favorite place. “Oh, Spot,” she said, “what am I going to do? Te’s coming back.” The old gelding, nearly seventeen, raised his head and shook it. Jacy chuckled. “I don’t know either.” She fed him another treat before reaching to the halter hanging beside his stall. A good walk would do both of them some good. She’d just finished haltering him and feeding him when she heard footsteps enter the barn. She turned and saw Kade enter the barn, leading Jazz back to his stall. “You going to exercise anyone but the old guy today?” he asked with a disdainful look at the old gelding. “Some of those mares need walking, and I bet Libby wouldn’t mind a trail ride.” Jacy nodded. “I was planning on taking Libby for a ride as soon as I finished with Spot. Why don’t you turn the girls out into the arena and let them exercise?” As soon as the words left her mouth, Jacy wished she could pull them back. “Why don’t I?” Kade asked. “I’m not the only one around here who is supposed to work with the horses.” He frowned. “But I’m sure a prize mare such as yourself can’t be bothered doing any of the work. You thought about my offer?” Jacy bristled at the implication of her as a broodmare. He disgusted her, even if he was a member of the Conclave. “Thought about it, and the answer is still no, Kade. I know the Conclave expects me to marry, and I will. But not to you, and not for a while.” Beside her, Spot danced in place, sensing her agitation. She soothed him with a pat on the shoulder. “It’s okay, boy. I’m all right.” Spot quieted. “Well, don’t think too long. Edwin isn’t doing well, and I suspect he’d like to see you married before he dies. When I’m leading the Conclave, I guarantee you your time for thinking will be done.” “You can’t take me against my will, Kade, and that’s all it’ll ever be. I’ll never love you, and I’ll never marry you. Why can’t you figure that out?” Jacy drew on her anger to push thoughts of Edwin’s death from her mind. Unthinking, she pulled power from the ground. Energy surged through her, and Jacy clenched her fist to keep from sending it in Kade’s direction. He still led Jazz, and the stallion didn’t need to feel the wrath of her anger. Taking deep breaths, she calmed herself before thelussor had a chance to rise. “You tend to your work, Kade, and I’ll tend to mine. We’ll see who leads the Conclave when Edwin is gone.” Without waiting for an answer, she turned and led Spot out of the barn and toward the woods in the back of the property. First Te’s return to StarMyst, and now Kade’s insufferable behavior. Jacy released a harsh breath, determined to have enough strength to survive the next few weeks. Chapter Two
A large barn, still looking as if it might topple over at any moment, sat at the corner of the road and the state highway. He turned at the landmark, surprised he still remembered the way back to StarMyst. Fields, lush with growing hay and corn spread out on either side of him, dotted only by the occasional house and barn. The scent of fresh country air and a hint of manure wafted through the open car window. He wondered how many foals were at StarMyst this year, and whether Jazz had a full booking of mares.
Edwin kept him up to date on the details, though regretfully he’d paid little attention. Jacy. The more he drove, the more he thought of her. Memories ached in his heart, and although it had only been one time, his body remembered her touch. Being buried in her tight pussy, her little breathy sighs and moans, Te clenched his hands around the steering wheel at the memories. His cock stayed semi-hard, even though he willed his body to behave. Too many years stood between them now. A woman as vibrant and beautiful as Jacy, no doubt had moved on and forgotten all about him. He wished he could have done the same. Te forced himself to think about the reason why he returned home. Edwin. His foster-father lay dying of cancer. A lump clogged his throat when he thought of losing Edwin. Te shook his head. Being morbid wouldn’t get him anywhere. A part of his mind reasoned it couldn’t be a good prognosis if Edwin called him home. Whether he wanted to or not, Te suspected he’d resume his duties as Edwin’s second in command. Fear rode low in his gut—no one at StarMyst would want him as their Second. All his life he fought the fear of not being wanted. Too many foster parents called him trouble before Edwin arrived. Jacy wouldn’ t want him. He’d taken her innocence and left. The other guys, well, any one of them could have easily been Edwin’s Second. Had they done the duty, knowing the real Second refused to return home? Squaring his shoulders, he suspected he’d have to fight for his position. Te exhaled as he slowed for the turn into StarMyst’s driveway. Horses romped in the fields. A handful of horses milled in a paddock, not moving very far. Broodmares maybe? Te knew how possessive Edwin and Jacy were of the horses. Figures walked to and from the barn, though he was too far away to see who they were. He suspected one of them was Jacy and his mouth went dry. Te parked his car beneath the shade of a large oak tree. Grabbing his bags, he walked to the front door. He didn’t knock. Although he hadn’t been home for so long, he still considered himself part of the Conclave. He stepped past the large family room dotted with pictures of everyone and barely glanced into the warm kitchen. He started up the stairs leading to the rooms on the second floor. All the doors stood closed except one. Dropping his bags by the door, he stepped inside. Edwin lay in a hospital bed, the railing on the right side dropped to allow visitors. An IV drip ran to his left arm and a heart monitor beeped continually. Edwin sat up in bed, his shaking hands holding a faded old journal. He looked up at the door and smiled. “Te.” Changes on Edwin’s face shook Te to the core. Te swallowed hard as a rush of emotion threatened to send him into tears. His foster-father’s once-youthful appearance looked haggard and worn. His skin’s pallor looked worrisome, as did the bandage poking out from beneath his shirt. Oxygen tubing draped over his ears and was pushed into his nose. The man he’d admired and grown up seeing as a leader looked more frail than ever. His hair hung in lank strands, a large bald spot where once had been a bushy growth. “Edwin?” Te croaked. “In the flesh,” he replied. “Why don’t you come over here and sit, boy? You look like you’re about ready to fall down.” He grinned. “I look like hell, don’t I?” Te nodded. Edwin’s easy humor, even if it was self-deprecating, put him at ease. He walked around the bed, careful to avoid the power cords, and tried to keep his gaze averted from the catheter bag hanging by the edge of the bed. A machine pumped air at the foot of the bed. Te took the offered chair and reached for Edwin’s hand. “I’m here,” he said.
“I see. Thank you for coming. I wish it could be under better circumstances,” Edwin said softly, as if he were afraid the mere act of speaking would tax his remaining strength. “I’m sorry I stayed away for so long. I thought it was for the best.” He patted Edwin’s hand in a comforting gesture. “But I’m here now, and we’ll make sure you get the best care possible in order to beat this thing. Right?” He knew he sounded too optimistic for the truth. Te forced a grin, but he knew it didn’t reach his eyes. Edwin looked away and sighed deeply. “If sheer force of will would get me better, Te, I’d be out there putting Jazz through his paces right now.” Sorrow welled up in Te’s throat, tightening his muscles. Tears stung his eyes, but he shoved them back. He refused to accept Edwin’s death. “But there’s got to be something. They have treatments for this stuff, right?” “I’ve been through three different chemotherapy regimens. I’m on what they call ‘comfort care’. The cancer is spreading, and I’d rather live my last weeks as healthy as possible.” “So you’re giving up. Is that it?” Te bolted to his feet and began pacing at the foot of Edwin’s bed. “I’ve never known you for a quitter, Edwin.” He saw his barb hit the mark as Edwin flinched. “I’m not quitting. Far from it. I’d just rather spend my last days with those I love and preparing my Second to take over the Conclave. I’m still eating and drinking, and that’s a good sign. I can do the most good here. I feel the best here. And there’s so much you don’t know. I have such little time to impart it to you. Will you formally accept to be my Second, Te?” His foster-father’s words pulled Te back to the chair beside the bed, and he sat. He had to admit Edwin spoke sense. He hadn’t ever seen a cancer patient before, but had heard stories about chemotherapy and how sick it made people. “I can’t be your Second. You know that,” Te spoke softly. “Because you let your hormones go out of control? Because you fucked Jacy?” Edwin shrugged. “I can’t say I was happy about it at the time. The poor girl mooned over you for days. You know she had a horrible crush on you. I know why you did it. And I think I understand. It’s time you start forgiving yourself for something that happened a decade ago.” “But she was innocent. I was wild, and hell, I thought I had a fine piece of as—tail.” Te watched his language. Jacy deserved to be talked about in better terms. “Thelussor came on me. I couldn’t help myself.” “Had you stayed you could have learned to control thelussor . You fight thelussor now, don’t you? There’s a need inside you, a need to raise energy and feed the power growing within.” Edwin fixed Te with a hard stare before leaning back against his pillows. “You’ve grown since then, as has Jacy. The others will follow my orders because I lead this conclave. You’re both older and wiser now. I’m sure you can put the past between you.” “Jacy didn’t deserve a wild boy like me. She needed to settle down, either with one of us in the Conclave, or with a different conclave. I would have only broken her heart.” Te spoke as if he hadn’t heard Edwin’s words, though he did, and they rang in his soul a beacon of hope he wanted so badly not
to be false. “And in the end you broke her heart anyway,” Edwin finished. “You didn’t answer my question. Will you take your position as my Second?” A tendril of power slid from Edwin’s frail body to wrap around Te. He felt it, a summons from the leader of his Conclave. Te tried to fight it, hated the compelling force. If he answered yes he’d be forever tied to StarMyst. Being tied to the Conclave would also tie him to Jacy. As her leader, if nothing more. From the tension in his body, he knew he couldn’t accept just being her Conclave leader. If he were to stay, he’d want something more, something he was afraid Jacy wasn’t ready to give. His chest tightened at the thought of leading the Conclave after Edwin passed. The thought seemed abhorrent, as if StarMyst would disintegrate and crumble without its patriarch. He wondered how the others were taking it, Jacy most of all. Not only did they have to deal with Edwin’s illness, but now he’d come home to take over the Conclave. He wouldn’t come out of the blue and take Edwin’s place. Not until he had a chance to see the lay of the land. “I can’t,” Te answered. “Not yet. I’ll return and stay here. I’ll even learn from you, but I can’t announce myself as the prodigal Second come back to take over. I’m sure you’ve had Kade or even Jacy take over that duty in my absence. I won’t unseat them. Not without seeing things first.” He hated not giving Edwin the answer he wanted, and in the slackening power, he felt his leader’s defeat. “I won’t let you walk away from StarMyst again, Te. You can think about it, but we will have this conversation again.” With a shaking hand, he reached for his water bottle and took several sips before replacing it on the nightstand. “And while you’re here, I want you to talk to Jacy. Get whatever happened out of your system. I will not have you throw away your duties because of misguided feelings. You’re adults now. Talk about it. It’s what adults do.” He coughed. “I’m sorry. I need to rest now. Your old room is still yours.” Leaning forward Te gently squeezed Edwin’s hand. “I understand. I’m glad you called me, and I only wish you’d called sooner. Is there anything I can get you before I leave?” Edwin shook his head. “I’m fine. Sleep is best right now.” He slid deeper beneath the covers, and Te rose to his feet. Te stared down at his foster-father for a long moment before turning and walking out of the room, gently pulling the door closed behind him. In the hallway, he leaned against the wall, eyes scrunched closed. Grief and worry he dared not show in front of Edwin flooded to the surface, and he swallowed hard to keep from bawling like a baby. No magical power could save Edwin. Not even modern medicine, a miracle in and of itself sometimes, could save him. Sometimes life just wasn’t fair. With a heavy sigh, he picked up his luggage and carried it to the first door on the left. Juggling his bags, he closed his hand around the doorknob and opened it. He stepped into the room and memories rushed back. The blue, faded, braided rug covered most of the hardwood floor, and a Frank Lloyd Wright poster hung over a bookcase crammed full of sports trophies and assorted books. His old, scarred dresser sat next to the bed. In the dim light he saw the scorch marks on it from the fire. The battered piece of furniture was all he had left from his biological parents. The fire that had killed his parents had destroyed the rest. He scanned the few photographs on the top and knew none of them would be of his parents. His grief for them was so old it was beyond tears. Te swallowed hard and expelled a harsh breath, and stumbled inside, closing the door behind him as he dropped his bags on the floor. He
collapsed on the double bed, head in his hands. Doubts swirled in his mind. Too many reasons for the Conclave not to accept him. He’d always had shaky control of thelussor ,and his studies had lapsed. Te shook his head. He could sit on the bed the rest of the day and berate himself but it wouldn’t do any good. No, he needed to get his ass off the bed and outside. Te stood and placed his laptop on the desk in the corner. He refused to stay cooped up in the room until dinnertime. He refused to hide, not from the Conclave, and especially not from Jacy.He couldn’t change the past, but he could make a damn good start on the future. He stepped into the hallway, closing his room door behind him and hurried through the house to the backyard and the stables. The silent house felt as if it held its breath. Waiting. Anticipation hummed through Te’s veins. Thelussor ,long dampened, rose. He tamped it down with long practice, determined to make this arrangement work. He stopped in the backyard, bathing in the brilliant sunshine overhead. Horses’ whinnies filled his ears, and he smiled. As a teenager he’d sought solace in the forests, as far away from the barns and Jacy as he could get. The smell of leather and horses never failed to remind him of Jacy. He glanced into the outdoor arena. Te’s breath caught in his throat. Jacy leaned against the fence, a cowboy hat jauntily sitting on her head. Her long dark red hair fell in a ponytail nearly to her waist. He stepped forward, using his powers to conceal his approach. Of course, if Jacy were any sort of mage she would sense his presence. He moved slowly, taking in the length of her legs encased in formfitting denim. Her ankles were crossed. His gaze riveted to her heart-shaped ass and his mouth went dry. Thelussor roared like a hungry beast, making his cock harden. His fingers itched to caress every curve on her body. Seeing her stripped away the years until he was a horny young man lusting after something he shouldn’t have. The bay horse in the arena snorted. Te stopped. He waited, but when she only reached into her pocket to feed the horse some treats, he moved forward again. The mare licked Jacy’s palm. He envied that horse. The memory of her earthy musk scent filled his nostrils, and suddenly, he stood close enough to smell it. Thelussor reminded him of his neglected duties. He tamped it down as he stopped behind Jacy. His palms burned to touch her, to see if her hair was still as silky as he remembered. Jacy scratched the mare underneath the chin, laughing as the horse snorted in her face. The musical notes of her laughter rolled over him like a tidal wave and broke the dam of his control. Te laid his hands on her shoulders. He hadn’t meant to touch her. Didn’t even know his hands were moving until he felt the heat from her body rising into his palms. He curled his fingers around her muscles and began to knead. Jacy relaxed into his touch. She had to know he stood behind her. Mages sensed the presence of another mage. Yet she said nothing as his hands slid down her arms, then up again. He rubbed the tender place at the base of her neck, his thumbs hitting the exact spot he knew she liked. His cock jerked at her soft moan of approval, and thelussor demanded he take her now. His body clenched, balls drawn tight, wanting to be inside her slick heat once more. Leaning forward, Te smelled her. She smelled of dust, horses and pure woman. Te inhaled as if he might never smell the heady elixir ever again. The need to take her right there against the fence rode him. Thelussor growled in satisfaction as Te slid his hands over her sides.
“Mmm,” Jacy said, leaning back into his touch. “That’s nice.” Strong fingers massaged her neck and shoulders, finding the tense places in her muscles. The figure behind her stood close, a bit too close, but sometimes Reid did that. The flash of power identified the man as a member of her Conclave, probably Reid wanting to apologize for his brother, the ass. His hands slid over the edge of her breasts, making her nipples harden in anticipation. Worried about Edwin’s health and the bombshell he dropped on her, she leaned into the man massaging her back. She heard a swift inhalation, and for a moment wondered if it wasn’t someone else behind her. The body felt too solid, too hard to be her younger foster-brother. A frown worried her features. The man nuzzled her, his lips caressing her neck. A groan rumbled from deep within his chest. He kissed the column of her neck until his tongue delved into the sensitive place behind her ear. Jacy gasped at the pulse of arousal deep within her. Hastily, she cleared her throat and tried to step away. “You’re getting a little friendly there, aren’t you, Reid?” She tried to convince herself it was only Reid, and not the man who filled her dreams. Her words must have startled the man because he released her and stepped back. “Reid better not touch you like this.” Jacy’s heart stopped. She knew that voice. Te. He haunted her dreams and drove her to madness. She never thought she’d hear it again, at least not until Edwin told her he was coming back. Jacy whirled to face this stranger. She stared at him through wide eyes. Her lips parted, she swept her gaze down his body, taking in his long black hair held back in a ponytail. The T-shirt stretched across muscles that had hardened with age. Defined pectorals and six-pack abs showed beneath the thin, tight shirt. His jeans rode low on his hips, and the size of his erection made her mouth go dry. She licked her lips and forced her gaze back to his face. She sucked in air and steeled herself against this hunk of a man. Age had been more than kind to Te Mulligan.
Te looked his fill. Her gangly body had filled into curves he ached to touch, and she stood just high enough to tuck beneath his chin. He wanted to grab her hips and grind her into his body until she cried out his name. An image of her beneath him, those endless legs wrapped around his hips, clawing at him as she screamed his name filled his mind. He closed his eyes and swallowed hard. Exhaling, he willed his body and thoughts to behave. He couldn’t erase ten years in a single moment, but oh, how he wanted to. Jacy backed away from him. She reached back and grabbed a whitewashed board of the fence. Her knuckles turned white from the force of her grip, and power roared through her body. Te felt it. Her energy crackled over his skin like tiny lightning bolts. Each shock leapt into his heart and called thelussor . His curse rose, a voracious beast that needed feeding. Jacy pressed her lips together at the flare of magic. “Don’t you have any control?” A corner of her lip curled. “Dear God, Te, get a grip!” Jacy’s scathing words brought Te back to reality. He breathed deeply, forcing thelussor back into hibernation. Though his cock jerked and thelussor threatened to rise again, Te willed his body and powers into submission. “You didn’t answer my question. Does Reid touch you like I just did?” he growled. “That’s none of your fucking business!” She clasped her hands in front of her as if she tried to gain
control of her own powers. “Why are you here? Why did you come back?” He didn’t hesitate. “Because Edwin called me. How long have you known?” His voice caught with emotion. He hated thinking of Jacy dealing with something as horrible as Edwin’s struggle with cancer. Her strength. It only made him more proud of her. Grief welled inside him, and Te fought it away. “Why didn’t you come back before?” She avoided his question, he noticed. Grief shadowed her eyes. Dark circles smudged beneath her cheeks. She needed someone to lean on, someone with whom she could share her grief. “I wasn’t needed.” The words tumbled from his lips before he could stop them. A flash of anger, then sorrow, fled across her face, and he knew he’d misspoken. Someone had needed him back at StarMyst, only she never said anything. “How do you know you weren’t needed?” she asked, her voice hoarse with emotion. She licked her lips. Te’s gaze followed the movement and imagined what the tip of her pink tongue would feel like sliding over his cock. Not even back twenty-four hours and already he thought of taking advantage of her. He hated himself for the thoughts, yet couldn’t stop himself from thinking them. “No one said anything to me. My powers may be considerable, but mind-reading isn’t among them. How long have you known about Edwin’s condition? Why the hell hasn’t anyone called me before this?” Maybe if he had the answers he could think about something other than the primal need Jacy evoked in him. He had a duty here, a duty no one had informed him needed doing. “We’ve known eight months.” Jacy breathed deeply and swallowed hard. “It’s been eight months since we found out.” “And the prognosis?” Back on a safer topic, Te could put on a façade of a conclave Second. “Terminal. The doctors had given him six months.” He watched her carefully built walls crumble until Jacy buried her face in her hands. Te stepped forward. Her tears dissolved any anger he might have felt at not being told sooner. Her soft sobs tore at his heart. He wrapped his arms around Jacy and folded her against his chest. She nuzzled the soft skin of his T-shirt, her hands rose around him until she had him in a tight grip. Te kept his arms gentle. She cried. Her lithe body shook. Each hiccuping sob nearly tore him apart. Across the pasture, he saw a man astride a horse and barely recognized him as Kade. He and his younger brother Reid had come to StarMyst a year before Jacy, orphaned by a car accident. Their parents, also sorcerers, had listed Edwin as their children’s guardian. The man stared at Te then wheeled his horse away from the barn with a vicious tug on the reins. Te turned his attention back to the woman in his arms. Her sobs quieted, yet she remained nestled against his chest. Her breasts pressed against him, and her legs threatened to tangle with his. She backed out of his arms. Her whispered “thank you” came so soft he almost missed it. Jacy stood against the fence once more, cool and collected. Only the tearstains marring her face showed she’d given in to emotion. He was glad to hold her and proud she’d let him. No matter what had happened in their past, he vowed he was here for Edwin and for Jacy.
“Why didn’t anyone call me?” Te asked. “I’m Edwin’s Second. I should have been here. I should be helping.” “Should you?” Jacy frowned. “You left without a trace. I never shared your note with anyone but Edwin, and he vowed to keep my secret. The others don’t know why you left. Why should they call you? We were handling things here just fine on our own.” Te gave another nod of admiration to Edwin for his tactful handling of the situation. “But I should have been here.” Jacy waved her hand. “Should have. Could have. It all means the same thing, doesn’t it? Horse shit! It doesn’t matter what you should have or could have done, Te, all that matters is what you did. And you left.” Her blue eyes turned glacier-cold, and she pierced him with her stare. Her blunt words hurt. Damn they hurt, but he wouldn’t ever tell Jacy that. “I would have come back had I known,” he said. Chapter Three
Te’s soft words nearly undid Jacy. She hated herself for crying and allowing Te to hold her. But damn, the feel of his heart beating beneath her cheek, his body solid next to hers, made her warm and her pussy tingle. Ten years ago she’d given him her heart and body. As much as she wanted to see him, she wondered why he’d come back now. With Kade’s pressure for her to marry, Jacy knew Te’s return would only antagonize Kade. After all, Kade acted as Edwin’s Second. He wouldn’t be happy to have his position displaced. “You wouldn’t have come back if Edwin hadn’t gotten sick.” Disgust filled her voice. “So why did you come back at all?” Jacy watched the war of emotions cross his features. Hurt. Anger. Remorse. All of it flashed across his gaze within the space of a second. She tried not to be moved, tried to remember all the tears she’d cried over him. “Because I had to.” Te dragged his fingers through a few stray strands of his hair that had worked loose from their ponytail. He shifted his stance and dropped his arms to his side. “Are you going to make this harder than it really has to be?” Jacy grinned. “Why not? You leave for ten years and then come back as if nothing happened. But things did happen, Te. I nearly got married. Do you care? A hell of a lot has happened in the last ten years, and I don’t think you give a damn about any of it.” In the wake of her burst of anger, a sense of freedom filled her. A lightness, as if she’d finally removed a horrible burden. “I care.” Te reached forward and trailed his fingers along her jaw. His touch ignited her senses. A shock darted straight to her pussy and made her wet. She wanted to close her eyes and lean into his touch. She didn’t. She couldn’t. Not until she knew the truth about why he returned. “I care probably way more than is healthy, Jacy. The question is, are you happy to see me?” His low,
husky voice stroked already tingling nerve endings. Even back then he had the ability to turn her fiery temper to his advantage. He hadn’t lost the knack. Jacy swallowed hard. She couldn’t tell him what he wanted to hear. With his appearance on her turf, she had to maintain the upper hand, even if it meant denying her feelings. “My thoughts don’t matter here, Te. Yours do. You have to prove why you came back, and Edwin’s illness isn’t the reason.” She waved her hand dismissively. “Hell, any sorcerer worth his salt should have been able to sense the terminal illness of his leader. Are you telling me you didn’t feel Edwin’s sickness even in Chicago? We’ve had calls from Edwin’s friends as far away as China because they felt his illness and wanted to know what they could do. People who hadn’t seen him in decades felt it, but you couldn’t, when you’re his son in all but blood. They called from halfway across the world, Te, and you can’t tell me you didn’t sense anything.” Te held himself away from her. He didn’t step back or look away. Finally, he released a huge sigh. “I don’t know, all right? I just don’t know.” He looked around to be sure no one else heard the admission. “It was something I had to do. Did you ever have anything you had to do, Jacy?” Seduce you back then. Yeah, I had to do that.Wisely, she kept quiet. “So now, when Edwin could die any day, you come back, and you don’t know why?” Jacy shook her head and stepped away from him. “You don’t deserve to be here. You don’t deserve to be on StarMyst lands. Why don’t you go back to Chicago where you really belong?” She stormed toward the house, afraid if she stood there much longer her temper would get the better of her. Controlling her temper meant controlling thelussor . The longer she spoke with Te the more upset he’d make her. Her mouth quirked into a smile. Then, she’d kick his very sexy ass. Te’s hand snaked out, and he caught her arm. She turned toward him. “You never answered my question,” he said. “Are you happy to see me?” “What?” Jacy squeaked. “Am I happy to see you? Did you expect me to be?” She wrenched her arm from his grip and punched his jaw. Te’s head snapped back. Jacy gasped at the extent of her anger. “Now, do you think I’m happy to see you?” Before he could answer, Jacy ran to the house. Te rubbed his jaw and wisely said nothing. She stopped on the porch, leaning against the white railing. Taking deep breaths, she forced her heart rate to slow. Immediately she regretted hitting Te, but damn it, the cocky son of a bitch deserved it. Her fiancé, Jarrod, had broken up with her because he claimed she was still in love with Te, and damn it, seeing him standing before her, she feared Jarrod might have been right. She sucked in air just starting to grow humid. As she closed her eyes she worked with the first visualization Edwin had taught her. She imagined calmness entering her body and spreading through her limbs. With each exhale her tension eased from her muscles. Jacy stood there for long moments until she felt calm enough to return to Edwin’s presence. Her foster-father would know why Te returned even if Te didn’t know himself. A footfall on the deck startled Jacy. She whirled around. “What do you want now?” The acerbic
question fell from her lips before she could stop herself. Reid stepped back. “Whoa, sis! You’re getting a bit feisty there.” Jacy smiled at the sight of the blond man standing before her. He wore a work shirt, jeans and boots, which, if she didn’t consider him a brother, she might have admired more. His easy grin lit up his face, and his blue eyes appeared to see straight through to the soul. He’d been her self-appointed protector for many years, even though she was older. “Sorry,” she said. “I thought you were someone else.” “Te.” His name hung in the air between them, and Jacy nodded slowly. “Yeah, him.” “So you’ve seen him?” Reid arched an eyebrow. “I take it the meeting didn’t go well.” “You could say that.” She studied Reid. “How did you know he was back? Have you seen him?” Her heart hammered with the thought Te might have told others of his plans. Not that it mattered, she supposed. They both were adults, and her personal life had never been the business of anyone else in the Conclave. At least it hadn’t been until Kade started pressuring her to marry. “Edwin told me. He said he wanted to see you.” Reid stepped forward, closing the space between them. “You know I’m here for you. If there’s anything you need, any ass you need kicked, I’m your man, all right?” Jacy chuckled and hugged him. “I appreciate the offer, and who knows? I might take you up on it someday. I better go see what Edwin needs. If you run into Te, be nice, all right?” Reid looked at her quizzically. “Not for my sake,” Jacy hastily added. “Something tells me there’s more to his return than simply wanting to be with Edwin. If he’s still the Te I remembered then he’s dealing with enough grief without you boys adding to it.” Her eyes softened. The knowledge of Edwin’s condition seemed like a heavy cloud hovering above her. Inside, her heart ached every time she thought of her foster-father, and she suspected Te felt just as bad, if not worse for not having been there. Reid saluted her. “Aye, aye, ma’am.” “Thank you.” Jacy stepped toward the door and inside. Her eyes quickly adjusted to the dim lighting as she made her way upstairs to Edwin’s room. She had no doubt he wanted to speak about Te’s return. Jacy squared her shoulders as she ascended the stairs. At the landing she passed the partially open door to Te’s room. Jacy stopped. She peered into Te’s boyhood room. His luggage seemed haphazardly tossed inside, and the trophies on the shelf contrasted sharply with the conflicted man she’d seen outside. Before she could step forward and stand in his sanctuary, Jacy hurried down the hall. Edwin needed her attention. His care came before everything.Tears misted her eyes. She blinked them away and paused outside his door to calm herself. When she was ready, she stepped inside. Edwin sat propped up in the bed. A half-empty glass of water covered with condensation sat on the tray
table. He turned and smiled as Jacy stepped inside. “Close the door,” he said. She did, trepidation filling her at the conversation about to happen. She didn’t know what to tell him. Te had returned.Edwin knew better than to bring up the past. For some reason Kade’s mission to see her married flashed into her mind and she gave an involuntary shake of her head. She stood by the side of his bed until Edwin gestured to the chair. “That’s better,” he said once she had sat. “Now I don’t have to hurt my neck looking up at you.” “How are you feeling?” Jacy asked. “Is there anything I can get you?” “As a matter of fact there is.” Jacy leaned forward ready to care for her foster-father. “I want you to do the Ritual of Healing. The time is right.” He paused and looked at her as if he expected some reaction. Jacy tried to think of the Ritual of Healing. She’d heard of one, but the details seemed vague. It required two people she knew and little else beside that. “All right,” she said. “You know I’d do anything for you. But why mention the Ritual now? You know we’ve been trying to send healing energy and performing healing rituals for you since the diagnosis was given. If you knew about this ritual, why did you not tell us?” “The time wasn’t right. Now everything is in place.” “Te,” Jacy said, naming the one thing that was different. Te had returned. Two people. A ritual. Her lips parted as she thought of the ways two people could raise energy. He couldn’t mean it. He wouldn’t ask it of her. Edwin knew she’d do anything for him, but she wouldn’t do that. “Are you sure?” “As sure as I am of anything. You said you would do anything to help. The ritual will not heal me. Nothing can now, I suspect. But it will gain me the time I need to train my Second.” Edwin reached for the glass and sipped from it. Jacy ached to help him as she watched the glass wobble in his hands. She didn’t. Edwin hated feeling like an invalid. “Let me do some research. I assume you have a time frame in mind?” “Tonight.” “Tonight?” “Tonight.” Edwin said, his tone making it clear his word was final. “You and Te will perform the Ritual of Healing tonight.” He closed his eyes for a moment and reached for the control which would lower the bed. “I need to conserve my energy to best receive the ritual’s power. Do your research, but after the sun goes down, you and Te will perform the ritual.” Jacy nodded. Shaking, she rose from the chair. “I trust you wouldn’t ask me to do anything harmful. If
you say the Ritual will help, then I’ll do it.” She leaned over and brushed a kiss against his cheek. “I guarantee after tonight you’ll be feeling better. We’ll give you the best ritual you could have.” She forced herself to smile. “I’m counting on it.” This time, a ghost of a smile crossed Edwin’s face. Jacy filed the image away for safekeeping among her happier memories. Unsure of what to say, she swallowed hard and left the room. The Conclave kept the research books in the magic room downstairs. As she descended the stairs, Jacy tried to keep her nerves in check. Her stomach fluttered when she thought of Edwin’s cryptic words about the ritual. Why did it have to be done tonight? And why with Te? A man and a woman could easily raise energy together, but surely Edwin didn’t mean for her to have sex with Te. Not after everything they ’d been through. Jacy paused on the stairs and swallowed hard. She pressed a hand to her chest and felt her heart pound. She promised Edwin anything to keep him well. She never realized she’d have to do something as drastic as a sexual ritual with Te. Not that the thought of fucking Te Mulligan was unpleasant. Not at all. From the fall of night-black hair that swept nearly to his tight ass, and his piercing eyes and chiseled jaw, Jacy suspected Te’s lovemaking skills had matured with age, as had his body. He had thelussor , and even as she lay in bed some nights, fingers working between her thighs to ease the price they paid for their magic, she knew Te also had tensions that needed relief. And from his lack of control when he saw her, Jacy suspected Te had a lot of tension. The house was empty with Reid and Kade at the barn, and Cord away on one of his sabbaticals. Jacy thought about the newest member of the Conclave as she walked down the hall to the magic room. Cord had arrived nearly nine years ago, a year after Te left. He seemed secretive. He spent most of his days doing chores in the barn, chores Edwin easily could have hired anyone else to do. Then he went into town or on to other farms. Jacy heard talk of him breaking horses, and he had taken one of Jazz’s colts into his care. She knew little to nothing about him, and from Cord’s disposition, it seemed like he wanted it that way. Jacy stopped just inside the door to the magic room. Rich dark walnut boards covered the floor where a circle had been inlaid with marble. A heavy table sat in a corner with brass reading lamps sitting on it. Along the south wall, books filled shelves from floor to ceiling. The shelves came with a sliding library ladder, and an antique chest served as the filing system. A computer sat in the corner connected to the Conclave’s T1 connection. Jacy crossed the floor, careful not to step on the marble circle, and went to the antique chest. A large leather-bound book sat on top where Edwin had cataloged all the rituals listed in his massive library. She quickly found the Ritual of Healing and was relieved to see the book on one of the lower shelves. The book, a heavy volume with only a name on the spine—Padmere—looked as if it hadn’t been touched in ages. A thin layer of dust covered the top, a testament to Edwin’s illness. He kept the room closed to anyone but the five of them, and in his health, he dusted the shelves monthly to prevent wear on the delicate books. Jacy filed the knowledge away, knowing the chore would be one which would busy her hands when she might need to find solace in work. Edwin’s thorough reference system pointed her to the exact page of the book, and Jacy carefully opened the volume on the table. She turned on a reading lamp, careful not to point it directly at the pages. She started to read. Jacy stopped. She looked up, as if she could see through the ceiling to the man lying in the hospital bed above her. “He meant it.” Jacy pressed her lips together. “It’s for Edwin. I’d do anything to see him healthy again, even have sex with Te.” She fought against the urge to bury her face in her hands.He may
have broken my heart ten years ago, but that doesn’t mean he’ll do it again. It is a ritual. An intimate one, but a ritual nonetheless. I can do this. I just have to stay detached. Only Jacy feared she might not be as detached as she wanted to be. In her bed at night, when thelussor became too much for her to handle, it was Te’s fingers she imagined sliding through her slick pussy. His cock replaced the vibrator sliding into her body and pressing against her womb. She wanted to clutch at his arms as he pumped his cock deep inside her and scream her release for the world to know. She had her fantasies, and they let her shudder to completion in her darkened room. Now she’d have the man in the flesh. The recent memory of seeing him standing before her rose to her mind, and she knew if they performed the Ritual of Healing it would be more than a ritual, at least to her. “The Ritual of Healing takes the energies created by two people and focuses them on an individual who needs healing. The best way to raise energy is through sexual encounters and is the only method covered by the Ritual in this book,” Jacy read aloud. She needn’t remind herself it was for Edwin, and she continued reading, determined that she would give him the best ritual she could. The thought of the ritual with Te set a tingling low in her stomach, and she tried to ignore it as she focused on the intricacies the ritual required. Nearly two hours later, Jacy felt certain she could perform the ritual from memory. She still needed to convince him to perform the ritual with her. Jacy swallowed at the thought of having sex with Te in a few hours. Gooseflesh rose on her skin, and her nipples hardened. She rubbed her arms to ward off the chill snaking down her spine and shook her head. If Te’s control over hislussor really was as bad as it seemed, the question might be better asked as how was she going to hold him off until the ritual. Jacy shook her head. The complex ritual required focus and concentration, two things she suspected Te didn’t have at this moment. Hislussor had risen nearly uncontrollably when he touched her. What would it do once they were finally making love?Sex. Sex. Fuck. Shag. Roll in the hay. Nothing about the ritual said anything about making love. She forced herself to be pragmatic about the situation. Whatever feelings she might have had for Te were in the past. He’d broken her heart when he walked away from StarMyst—she wouldn’t let him break it again. Determined to speak with Te while it was fresh in her mind, Jacy replaced the book on the shelf and walked out of the magic room. Something told her Te remained outside. After living in a large city, the sorcerer part of him called out to nature. It was part of what made StarMyst so special. The camaraderie of the other Conclave members, plus the acres of rolling forest and the horses, all of it combined in a type of natural living Jacy thought she couldn’t do without. At least, that was what she told herself. Jarrod’s words on the subject differed considerably. Jacy let her musings carry her outside until the wind rustled her hair and the sound of a horse whinnying in the paddock pulled her attention back to her surroundings. A quick glance showed the barn area mostly empty. She thought of the five hundred acres and knew if Te didn’t want to be found, he wouldn’t be. She stopped in the barn long enough to feed Spot a treat, and then headed down her favorite path into the woods. The path led past a natural spring that fed into a creek. A small wooden bridge allowed her to cross it and head down the many bends leading to the bottom of a deep ravine. Trees lined the hills, row upon row of oak and hickory trees, their lush canopies spreading overhead to nearly block out the sky. The scent of loam and wildflowers filled her nostrils. Her tension eased away with the rustling of the leaves and the sounds of birds chirping overhead. The idyllic setting comforted her. Her feet carried her down the path, past a large boulder, smooth and perfect for sitting. She meditated
there sometimes, letting the sounds of nature connect her with the wider world. She rounded a bend, the trail steep as it descended into the ravine. There beneath a large willow tree sat Te. Jacy stopped, the significance of his location not lost on her. She’d lost her virginity on that soft bed of grass growing in a clearing next to the willow tree. A lake as blue as the sky above sat behind it, the splashing of fish clearly audible. Te sat with his back against the willow tree, legs crossed in lotus position and hands lighting resting on his knees. The serenity surrounding him made Jacy hesitate to interrupt his thoughts. A deep frown crossed his face, lines furrowing his brow. Whatever ran through Te’s mind, it wasn’t happy. Taking a deep breath, Jacy stepped forward. “Te,” she said as she stopped beside him. She sat on the cool, soft grass smelling a hint of Te’s scent, the woodsy scent of his soap combined with the muskier scent of his skin. Jacy wanted to bury herself in that smell, wrap him around her, and never let it go. Te turned. His features softened. “You found me.” “I did. I hate to interrupt, but Edwin wants us to perform a ritual tonight—the Ritual of Healing.” Jacy hated blurting the words out there, but saw no need to dance around the issue. “The Ritual of Healing? I’ve never heard of it. Do you think it will help him?” “I think so. Edwin asked us to perform it.” Jacy kept her voice neutral, not wanting to give away the ritual ’s contents until she had to. Te looked away. “He’s not well, is he?” Sadness filled his voice. “He hasn’t been well for a while, and I’ ve been ignoring it.” Closing his eyes he leaned back against the tree and swallowed hard. Jacy reached to him. His grief called to her own, and she twined her fingers with his. The heat from his thigh radiated through his jeans, but she hardly noticed. Now was not the time for seduction, only comfort. “He doesn’t have long. The doctors have done all they can. I think he’s been holding on. For you.” She swallowed against the tears threatening to choke her voice. They fell over her cheeks, and as she bent her head, one dripped from her nose to splash on their joined hands. Te looked up. He tilted her chin so he could see her face, and slowly wiped away her tears with his thumb. “You’re worried. How could I have been such a bastard as to stay away from you? From this? From Edwin? If I can do anything to make it up to him, participate in his ritual. I will. No questions asked.” Te thought for a moment. “Tonight would be a good night for a healing ritual, I think.” With Te set on the ritual, Jacy knew she had to tell him the truth. “You may want to research the ritual first, Te. In order to complete it, we have to have sex.” Te’s sharp intake of breath filled the clearing. He looked down at her, and a very sexy smile played around the corners of his lips. “You’re right. I will want to go over this ritual.” He brushed his lips across hers. “If Edwin wants energy, then by God he’ll get it.” Feeling the heat from Te’s body, Jacy had no doubt sparks would fly.
It seemed easy, too easy really, to have Edwin tell the boys he wanted to spend some time alone with Te. Cord hadn’t returned from wherever he was, and Kade and Reid went to the small apartment Edwin kept in a nearby town for when someone wanted to get away from the farm. Standing in the magic room, the door shut behind them, candles lighting the room, Jacy averted her eyes from the piles of blankets creating a soft mattress in the center of the circle. Brand-new silk sheets she purchased once and never used lay over the blankets, topped by two pillows. Te stood across the circle from her, his body tighter than a coiled spring. His gaze followed every curve visible beneath her jade silk robe. It gaped in the front, showing more of her breasts than she would have liked, but she preferred this robe for her solitary magical work. Tonight it seemed to fit. A nurse stayed with Edwin upstairs. All distractions were removed for this momentous rite. “Shall we begin?” Jacy asked. Her voice barely wavered, a fact of which she was secretly proud. She expected romance for her reunion with Te, not the cold pragmatism that filled her. Either way, she helped Edwin. So long as the ritual worked, the emotions surrounding it mattered little. “What do you want me to do?” He gestured to the blankets in the center of the circle. Kiss every inch of my body. Lave my nipples with your tongue and then suck them hard into your mouth. I want to feel your fingers stroking my pussy deep inside, and then I want to feel your tongue plunge into my cunt. But first, I want to see you naked.“Disrobe,” Jacy said. “We must be naked as we enter the circle.” She watched Te pull his shirt over his head, revealing a sculpted chest. Small whorls of hair started between his pectorals and then formed a line over his chiseled abdomen. It disappeared beneath the waistband of his jeans. Te rested his hands on the button of his jeans and looked across the circle. “Ladies first?” he asked, a teasing glint in his eye. “Home sorcerer advantage.” Jacy arched her eyebrow and nodded to him. “Now strip.” She wanted him naked, wanted to get the initial shock of seeing his naked body over with before they started the ritual. She preferred to work magic naked. Her bare skin brought her closer to the powers she wielded. She wore her robe for modesty. When she worked magic with other members of the Conclave, she tended to wear street clothing. But now, only Te and she would stand within the circle. Te unsnapped his jeans. Slowly he lowered the zipper, his eyes never leaving her face. As he pushed his jeans off his hips, his black briefs held her gaze. His cock surged against the material, straining it, and she saw the angular promise of youth had turned into a honed man. Her breath caught in her lungs. With the candlelight casting a glow on his skin, he stood as masculinity personified. From wide shoulders down to his narrow waist, even the fall of midnight black hair that went nearly to his buttocks, he looked like the lover from her dreams. She fought against the urge to close her eyes. She clasped the edge of the sash holding her robe closed. Before she lost her nerve, she unfastened the knot. If she didn’t, she might never have the courage to do so, and Edwin’s ritual would never happen. She took a deep breath, forced her gaze back to Te’s face,
and slid the material from her shoulders. Te’s nostrils flared, and the acute lust on his face nearly drove Jacy to her knees.
He dragged out pulling off his jeans, knowing Jacy couldn’t keep her eyes from him. Seeing her standing there in the robe, the top of her breasts clearly visible, made him feel like a horny twenty-year-old again. Time had rounded out her curves nicely, and somehow he knew her breasts would fit perfectly in the palms of his hands. He pulled off his jeans and briefs, thankful he’d been barefoot, and dropped the clothing behind him. When he looked at Jacy again, he saw her internal conflict reflected in her eyes. He knew she only did this for Edwin, and a part of him warmed to think he was the only member of the Conclave with whom she’d have sex. Since seeing her again, he wanted to cherish every inch of her flesh with teeth and tongue, until he slid home into her body. Then she dropped her robe, and his breath left his lungs. She reminded him of a statue of a wood nymph he saw once. Her breasts curved, inviting his touch. He followed the curve of her hip over long legs he wished she would wrap around him. She had once, and the memory of her thighs clenching him as he drove her to orgasm still burned in his mind. He licked his lips. “You’re beautiful,” he said. Jacy’s lips parted. He wanted to kiss the surprise off them, and forgetting they were in a magic room, knowing the ritual hadn’t started yet, he strode across the circle to where she stood on the other side. He stopped before her, still dressed in only his briefs, and brushed a strand of hair from her shoulder. The lussor rose within him, a hunger for her body that would not be denied. With the pad of his thumb he stroked her neck, her cheek, and then bent his head to taste her lips.
Te’s husky words drove all thought from her mind. In the harsh light of her room, staring in her mirror, she thought her breasts were too small, her body too boyish to be called beautiful. But hearing the words coming from Te’s lips, she felt more stunning than the most beautiful cover model. He strode across the circle, his body language telegraphing his intent to fuck her. Even if his cock hadn’t been hard and ready, the glint in his eyes and the intensity radiating off him made her pussy grow wet. Her nipples hardened beneath his gaze, and when he stroked her neck with his thumb, she shuddered with awareness. And then his lips brushed hers. She leaned against him, her breasts brushing against his chest. The texture of hard against soft pushed a mewl of need from her lips. She wrapped her arms around him, pressing her belly against the ridge of his cock. “Te, the ritual,” Jacy said in a shaking voice. If they didn’t get into the circle, they’d consummate the ritual without the proper protections and the healing energy would never reach Edwin. She stepped back and drew a shuddering breath. Te nodded. Together, they stepped into the circle, and Jacy quickly circled it, chanting the protection spells. She took Te’s hands in her own. Heat radiated from him. “We come together this night to create energy to heal Edwin, our conclave leader and foster-father, of his
cancer. We ask that he receives all the blessings of our ritual, and that the gods look upon him with favor. As we will, so it shall be,” Jacy said. She nodded to Te, indicating his turn. Te spoke. “We come together this night to create energy to heal Edwin. Our bodies are our pledge, our joining our vow, that Edwin receives all the blessings of our ritual, and that the gods look upon him with favor. As we will, so it shall be.” She stepped forward, stood on tiptoe, and pressed her lips to his. Her arms wrapped around him, pulling him close, and his hands settled on her ass. He squeezed, bringing her even closer. A moan vibrated in his chest as Jacy traced his lips with her tongue. He opened his mouth, and she devoured him. Her hands slid through his hair, like a curtain of silk between her fingers, as she pressed her lips to his. She tasted him, drinking him in. She wanted to savor him to know his taste and be able to recall it at will. Her pussy ached, her nipples sensitive where they pressed against his chest. With his fingers, he urged her to wrap her legs around him, and with her secured around his body, Te lowered them to the blankets. Jacy’s mind whirled. She’d been dreaming of this moment for so long. Te laid her back on the pillows. She allowed herself to fall against their plush support, and she sighed with contentment. He pressed his lips to the hollow of her collarbone, laving it with his tongue. Then slowly kissed to the tip of her breast and pulled her nipple into his mouth. The warm, wet heat surrounding her flesh forced a moan from her throat. Jacy arched beneath him, wanting him to take her deeper into his mouth. She parted her legs, her pussy soaked with need. Threading her fingers through his hair, she held him to her breast. Back then it had been a coming together of need and lust. Now it seemed he cherished her body, and Jacy loved every moment of it. Herlussor rose, a need desiring to be fed, and Jacy unfurled her powers around him in a gentle cocoon. His ownlussor joined hers, and he sucked harder. “Te,” she gasped as he pulled away to turn his attention to her other nipple. His fingers slid over her abdomen to cup her hip. Just feeling him so close, yet so far away, nearly drove her over the edge. She whimpered as he grazed the edge of her nipple with his teeth, and wished she could touch more of him. She wanted to feel the steel of his cock, the planes of his chest, the corded muscles of his thighs. He blew against her nipple, his breath chilled against her wet skin. With lips and tongue he teased the tight bud. He worked between both breasts. The sensation of his lips on her flesh nearly drove her over the edge. “Please,” she murmured, arching her hips. Arousal flowed though her, driving her harder and faster toward the precipice. And then his hand began to move. His fingers dipped into the hollow where her leg met her torso, lightly brushing against the red curls between her legs. “Please, I want to touch you,” she said, giving voice to her desires. Against her breast, Te chuckled. “If you touch me, I’ll explode. I want you so much, Jacy. Do you know how long I’ve been waiting for this?” He trailed his fingers along her slit, coating them with her juices, then slid inside. His finger brushed against her clit, and Jacy cried out with the pleasure of it. She bucked beneath his hand, and when he slid two fingers into her drenched pussy, she nearly screamed from the pleasure of it. “That’s it, baby. Ride it.” He stroked her, curling his fingers so they brushed against her G-spot, and Jacy
closed her eyes. She shuddered at the promise in his words and dragged her fingers down his back. He trailed his lips over her stomach before replacing his fingers with his tongue. He stroked her pussy, licking her with long, sure strokes, before swirling his tongue around her clit, tasting her, teasing her. Jacy gripped the blankets beneath her for support. She clenched her muscles around him, feeling her orgasm building. “Come for me,” he whispered against her thigh. Pressing his tongue flat against her clit, he reached up and fondled her breasts. Jacy exploded. She shuddered violently, trying hard to muffle the scream threatening to explode from her lips. She tried to suck air into her starved lungs, and watched through half-lidded eyes as Te rose over her body. He braced his weight on his arms as he looked down at her. With a smile, he lowered his lips to hers, and she tasted herself in his kiss. The salty taste of her own juices made her plunge her tongue into his mouth. Te groaned. The head of his cock pressed against her opening. “Shouldn’t we slow down?” Te asked. “Make it last.” “Not this time. There’ll be enough energy, trust me,” Jacy spoke around ragged breaths. Power crackled around her. She arched her hips, pressing him into her body. The silken slide of his cock into her nearly drove her to another orgasm. He settled balls-deep inside her and pressed a hard kiss on her lips. “Oh yeah. There’s energy all right.” And then he began to move. Hislussor roared over her, and Jacy knew she was lost. Blue sparks filled the air, and she focused her attention on the man pleasuring her. Having Jacy beneath him pushed his willpower to the limit. Hislussor met hers early on, and he feared he might come right there. Then when she climaxed beneath his mouth, he fought hard to keep his own control. Her hot, tight pussy around his cock felt like heaven. Now, a blue haze filled the air and surrounded their bodies. Her sex contracted around him, making his cock jump. He began to move, forcing himself to thrust into her slowly. He wouldn’t blow this by coming now, not when hislussor was so close to being sated for the first time in years. Having his and Jacy’slussors sated was what made the ritual work. Simple fucking wouldn’t do it. Two sorcerers, both needing to feed the lussor , could complete the ritual. Jacy bucked her hips beneath him as she came, sobbing his name against her chest. Te groaned at her muscles contracting around him. He plunged into her body, his need a hungering beast. Energy shimmered around them. He felt it in the air and knew Jacy did too. She met him thrust for thrust, as he pounded into her body. Her tiny breathy sighs and husky moans urged him on, and then her hands clamped his ass. “Te,” she came again with a scream, pleasure radiating from her body into his. Te growled. His orgasm roared from the base of his spine, and he shouted with the force of it. He
pumped his seed into her, and knew, no matter what else had happened, they’d raised a hell of a lot of energy for Edwin. He didn’t dare hope for more. She spasmed around his cock, and together, they hurtled over the edge into bliss.
Jacy lay beneath Te, both of them still trying to catch their breaths. She clutched him to her, not wanting to let him go. Not tonight. Once they stepped out of the circle anything could happen, but right now, she wanted to be Te’s woman. He kissed her, this time his lips moved tenderly across hers, nearly reverent. She sighed as he hugged her tight, then rolled over so she nestled in the curve of his body. Lying there with her head pressed against his chest, she listened to his rapidly thudding heart. She tried to keep her mind focused on Edwin, wanting to ensure the energy reached its destination. What would have happened if he hadn’t left ten years ago? Jacy squeezed her eyes closed, not wanting to examine the dangerous question. Her breath caught in her throat. Years of pain and frustration threatened to overwhelm her, and she swallowed hard to keep the emotion at bay. She snuggled closer to him. Touching him from cheek to toes, his warmth wrapped around her, and she felt cherished, protected, all those things she wanted to feel and knew she shouldn’t. Her body tingled from Te’s touch. She traced a finger over his chest. “Thank you,” she said. “For the ritual.” She wanted to keep it light, not ask for more than he was willing to give. Beside her, Te stiffened. She feared she just said too much. She struggled not to pull away, to keep her body fluid against him.Quickly, she erected shields to keep her thoughts firmly in her own mind. “You’re welcome.” He pressed a kiss to her temple and reached to throw a sheet over them. Jacy snuggled against him, thankful when he finally relaxed against her. Whatever thoughts he might have had, he didn’t share. She worried her bottom lip and tried to be glad the moment had passed. ***** Around the breakfast table, Jacy tried to ignore the knowing stares from the other members of the Conclave. Kade glowered at her, while Reid had a bemused smile on his face. As usual, Cord still hadn’t returned. Te sat across the table trying hard not to meet her searching gaze. “So what the hell happened last night?” Kade asked. He tossed a piece of toast on his plate and glared at Te. “Why did we all have to leave?” “Edwin wanted us to perform a ritual for him,” Jacy said. Her gaze darted in the direction of the stairwell where upstairs, the doctor visited Edwin. Her stomach churned with worry about the ritual. She hoped the doctor held better news than last time. “Really? And the ritual just happened to involve Te?” Jealousy flashed in Kade’s eyes, angering Jacy. He had no right to tell her what she could, or could not do. Just because he was pushing her to marry for the sake of the Conclave—preferably him—meant little. And it’d be a cold day in hell before she ever
submitted to Kade’s demands. “Te is his Second,” Jacy said. Te glanced at her, but kept silent. Jacy wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of wondering if she endorsed his position. Right now, her body still tender from Te’s lovemaking, she didn’t want to get into Conclave politics, because she was inclined to back Te, even if he had taken his time in coming back. He’d be a better leader than Kade. “Kade,” Reid said, always the peacemaker, “if it was something Edwin wanted, then we should honor that, all right?” He finished off his eggs. “I’m going to go check on the horses.” Without saying another word, he rose from the table and took his plate to the sink. She glanced from Kade to Te, both sitting at opposite ends of the table with her in the middle, and tried not to think she sat in the middle of a crazy love triangle. The sound of running water and clink of dishes provided a too-amicable backdrop to the staring war happening at the table. “Was it something Edwin wanted?” Kade stared pointedly at Te. “Or now that you’re back you couldn’t wait to fuck Jacy.” Te jolted to his feet. “What Jacy does is none of your business. It seems you’ve let your power go to your head, foster-brother. Last I heard I was Second here.” Jacy reached for Te, closing her hand around his arm. “Te, please. Let’s not do this. Not now.” Kade stood quickly, glaring at her. “So you’re on his side, aren’t you? Well, I’m the one who has been acting Second in his absence. I’m the one Edwin trusted to represent him with the other conclaves. If Te thinks he is going to waltz in here and take my position away, I have news for him. I’m not going down without a fight.” Jacy looked toward the stairs, afraid Edwin might have heard the outburst. In his condition, the last thing he needed was a squabble among members of the Conclave. “Kade, please. Edwin is dying.” Her voice broke, and she swallowed hard. “If he wants Te here, then we have to respect his decision. We may not like it, but we have to respect it.” She purposely avoided Te’s gaze. “I did as the leader of my Conclave, my father, wanted. Edwin may not be my father in blood, but he raised me and is my father in all the ways that count. If you won’t honor that, then I’ll have to ask you to leave.” She gripped Te’s arm so tight she feared she’d leave a bruise. Taking a deep breath, she finished the last bite of hash browns on her plate. The sound of someone descending the stairs halted the argument. Jacy turned toward the door, rising to her feet when she saw the doctor entering. Doctor Ingress was a young woman, nearly thirty, and an expert in cancer treatment. Although she lacked magical powers, her father was a member of a conclave down in Texas, and Jacy suspected the young, beautiful doctor wanted to get away from her family’s influence. “Laura,” Jacy said. “How is he doing?” Laura looked grim, and Jacy feared the worst. “He’s hanging in there, but there’s been another decline in his white cell count. I’ll be honest with you Jacy, I don’t know how he’s hung in there this long. But Edwin’s a fighter. I’ve upped his medication to make him more comfortable. If you need anything, call, all right?”
Jacy sank back into her chair. “Thank you. We will.” “I’ve got to get to the clinic, otherwise I’d stay longer.” Her gaze took in the two men sitting at the table. “I don’t know what you were arguing about, but now is not the time to upset Edwin. Whatever quarrels you have, take them outside, all right?” With those stern words she turned and walked toward the door. Jacy closed her eyes and tried to will the tears away. Kade stormed from the room leaving her alone with Te. Jacy tried not to look at him, didn’t know what she might see in his face. After long moments, he, too, rose from the table. “If there’s anything I can do,” he said, his words trailing off when he saw her struggling to hold back tears. Jacy nodded, afraid to trust her voice. She had expected more after the ritual. Some positive sign Edwin’ s condition improved. Any small sign would have been a boon. Now, he seemed worse off than before. Did the ritual not work? Jacy shook her head and walked over to the sink. She didn’t want to think that. She refused to brood. Edwin usually slept after his doctor visits. A trip outside might clear her mind. Not even Spot or the horses could offer solace, but perhaps she could find some wandering the trails in the woods. If not, she could take one of the horses for a ride. It might not help her, but the horses still needed exercising. Resigned to her plans, Jacy quickly finished the dishes, then stepped outside. ***** Te strode through the forest. Underbrush crunched beneath his booted feet. With angry strides, he pounded his frustration into the ground. He feared the ritual failed. It couldn’t have been Jacy. Just the memory of her lithe body beneath him brought his cock to awareness. The smell of her skin, her touch, her taste, all of it combined in exquisite pleasure. He’d had the best fuck he’d had in a while. Any problems with the ritual certainly didn’t come from Jacy. Te leaned against a tree. Overhead, birds darted from branch to branch. Their songs and the slight breeze made it an idyllic day. If only his thoughts could be so tranquil. He sank to the ground beneath the tree, its rough bark poking through his chambray shirt. Resting his arms on his knees, he looked into the woods. He hadn’t wanted to come back. He nearly spoke aloud. But the others in the Conclave didn’t need to hear his turmoil. Not if he wanted to be an effective Second to Edwin. He thought back to the ritual. Perhaps his reluctance showed in the release of energy. Or maybe he lacked the finesse the ritual required. He buried his face in his hands and closed his eyes. He couldn’t bear to think that his stubbornness might have hurt Edwin, but he had to face the possibility. He might not be strong enough to be the second-in-command of the StarMyst Conclave. Never. Shaking his head, Te pressed his palms to the forest floor. Crumpled leaves and loamy earth welcomed his touch. He breathed deeply envisioning roots going into the ground from his spine. His palms tingled. Beneath him, energy hummed through the ground. A tangible link to life, with a thought he reached out and immersed himself in the flow.
His head tilted back. Parting his lips, Te lost himself in the sensations swirling through his body. Electric charges hummed through his veins. Around him the trees seemed to sing of life and cycles of living. A discordant melody wound its way through the power. Te focused. Sorrow pulled at him, an undertow in the energy’s current threatening to drag him under. In his mind’s eye, he saw. Jacy sat next to the lake. She rested against a willow tree, her hair a concealing curtain. With her head buried on her arms and knees drawn up to her chest, he saw little of her features, but the slight shaking of her shoulders and the powerful sorrow told him she cried. His heart clenched. She looked up, turning her head so she looked in his direction.Te. Her lips formed his name. Te yanked his hands from the ground. Shaking them, he discharged the energy and rose to his feet. Jacy needed him. Her red-rimmed eyes and tearstained cheeks called to him, raising a primal urge to cover and protect. She didn’t deserve such sorrow. It sickened him to think his lack of sorcerer skills might have ruined the ritual and made her cry. Long strides carried him to the clearing. He lowered himself to the ground next to her and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, pulling her against him. “Don’t cry,” he whispered. He caressed her hair with his big hand, noticing how well she fit against his chest. With her curves pressed against him, he reveled in the rightness of it. “Please don’t cry.” Jacy sobbed against him. “The ritual didn’t work. Edwin is going to die.” Her blunt words cut him to the bone. “I know, baby. It’s all my fault.” Jacy stiffened in his arms. Pulling back, she looked up at him. Te leaned forward and brushed his lips across her tear tracks. “No. You were—are—perfect.” Jacy looked at him and parted her lips. He had to taste her. The desire to kiss away her tears nearly overwhelmed him. He brushed his lips across hers in a gentle caress. Jacy leaned forward and braced one hand against his chest. The heat radiating from her fingers threatened to burn him, and Te deepened the kiss. With his tongue, he caressed her lush bottom lip. Cupping the back of her head, he tasted her, delving deep into her mouth to know her most intimate secrets. Her fingers curled into the fabric of his shirt, her other hand sliding up his arm. Her tongue touched his, a tentative touch at first, growing bolder. Between them, thelussor rose. Like static electricity, it clung to them, washing over their bodies with wave upon wave of energy. Te moaned, pulled back for air, then kissed Jacy again. He hauled her forward, pressing her against his hard body. Together, they fell to the ground, Jacy sprawled on top of him. Te shifted his hips as Jacy straddled him. She rubbed against his hard cock, and even two pairs of jeans couldn’t separate him from the heat of her pussy. Her tiny murmurs inflamed his desire. Threading his fingers through her hair, he rolled until he lay on top of her, between her thighs. The only thing that would make it more perfect would be if they were naked. He could remedy that. Slipping his hand between them, Te worked at the buttons on Jacy’s shirt. As the
last button slipped free, he shoved the material aside. The pale globes of her breasts encased in a tan lace bra sent a shudder of need through him. Her nipples pressed against the thin lace. Lowering his head, he took one into his mouth. “Te, wait,” Jacy gasped. He lifted his head. “What, honey?” “I can’t. We can’t.” She shook her head and reached for her shirt. Te rolled off her. “Why not? We’re both adults.” Thelussor still pounded in his veins. He struggled to keep in control. Watching Jacy button her shirt again, he wished he could kiss her senseless until she begged for the thrust of his cock. He rose to his feet and began pacing the clearing. He forced his body to cool. “Why not, Jacy?” Chapter Five
Jacy’s hands shook as she buttoned her blouse. Concentrating on the task kept her from having to answer Te’s question. She rummaged for a good answer to his question and found none. Nibbling on her lower lip, she tried to regain some control over her body. Thelussor snapped at her, frustrated at being denied. She looked at Te. He paced like a caged animal, crossing the clearing with long, punishing strides. His hair had come undone from the ponytail, and it swirled around him like cracking whips. The firm set of his jaw and steel-hard look in his eyes made Jacy want to look away. She didn’t. “We were caught up in the situation,” Jacy said. Her calm words seemed out of place in the midst of the turmoil raging within both of them. “It’s been a while for both of us, I think. The situation, it just—” she waved her hand in the air searching for a word, “got out of control.” Te whirled to face her. “All I feel around you is out of control.” A shock of awareness bolted through her. His words evoked a primal need, and herlussor rose to meet it. “We have to control ourselves. There’s too much going on right now.” “Yeah, there is. But it doesn’t stop me from wanting you.” Te strode forward. He stopped in front of Jacy and gripped her shoulders. “It doesn’t stop me from wanting to fuck you.” Jacy’s pussy clenched at the blunt words. “Don’t make this any harder than it already is.” She pulled out of his grip and turned around. “Oh, it’s hard all right, baby.” Te moved to stand behind her. His warm breath teased strands of her hair. Slowly, he ran his hand down her arm. Beneath his touch, Jacy shivered. “Why shouldn’t we give in to our desires? You want me. I know you do.” He leaned down until his lips barely brushed the side of her neck. “Your pussy is hot for me, isn’t it? You’re wet. Even now your body wants me to touch you.” He brushed the backs of his fingers against her breasts. Instantly, her nipples hardened.
Jacy stiffened her back. “That’s beside the point. You have your commitment to the Conclave. You’re Edwin’s Second, aren’t you? I have things I have to do for the Conclave too. Last night was one of them.” She regretted her harsh words, but needed to push Te away. She couldn’t risk falling in love with him again. Te released her. “You may believe last night was something you had to do for the Conclave, but I don’t think that’s the case. I was honest with you. I’m not sure why I came back, except that my foster-father is dying, and I didn’t want you to be alone when it happened. I have a lot to think about and even more to deal with. I think you do too.” With that parting shot, he walked past her and back down the forest path. Jacy shook. His words hit their mark, stabbing deep into her heart. She did have a lot to deal with, too much probably. Kade wanted her to marry, told her it was her duty as a female sorcerer. She needed to think about StarMyst, not just herself.She expelled a long breath and walked back to the house trying to sort out her churning thoughts. ***** Kade waited on the porch. Jacy approached, fighting the trepidation filling her. Sizing him up, she took in his arms folded across his chest and the obvious scowl on his face. He wore work clothes, and she guessed he’d just come from the barn. She didn’t want to talk to him, not now. She refused to be a coward, but she wouldn’t change her mind. Marrying right now was out of the question, laughable even. She summoned her strength around her, envisioning a solid diamond-hard wall surrounding her. Bracing herself, she stepped onto the porch. “Hi, Kade,” she said. “Jacy.” Kade stepped forward, blocking her path to the door. “I think we need to talk.” “If it’s about you hounding me to marry, then I don’t think so. It’s my life. I’ll run it as I see fit. I don’t recall anyone putting you in charge. Now I’d like to check on Edwin if it’s all right with you.” She narrowed her gaze at him and stepped forward. Kade stood firm. “But somebody did put me in charge. Te did when he didn’t come back. I’ve been looking after this conclave since Edwin’s been sick. I’ve been taking care of the horses, keeping us together. And how do you repay me? You refuse to consider my generous offer, and the moment Te shows up you fuck him like a common whore.” “What?” Jacy couldn’t believe the foul words Kade spoke. “You bastard!” She clenched her fist to stave off the urge to slap him. “Well, it’s obvious why Edwin sent us all away last night.” Energy burst inside her. A flick of her fingers, and a bolt of white-hot light shot at Kade’s chest. It hit him in a shower of sparks. He staggered backwards. “You bitch!” “For your information I was performing a ritual to help Edwin. Get out of my face. Just get out of here
before I do worse.” She rubbed her palm on her pants. “A ritual with Te.” Kade shook his head. “You know you can’t marry anyone until you get over him. Isn’ t that what Jarrod said?” Jacy held up her hand, ready to strike again. She’d never realized how foul Kade could be. “Fine, fine, I’m going. Just remember this when he’s gone and no one in the Conclave will give you the time of day.” Kade turned and stormed into the house. Jacy watched him go, hatred boiling within her. “It’ll be a cold day in hell before I think about marrying you, Kade Jassman, a damn cold day in hell,” she muttered to herself as she followed him inside.
Te’s mind reeled. Eavesdroppers never hear anything nice about themselves. The old adage failed to offer any comfort.I thought we had something. Damn it, we still have something. I can’t believe she ’d dismiss what we did as a “ritual” . He knew very little about her relationship with Kade except it seemed Kade pushed for something Jacy didn’t want. Te shook his head and tamped down his rising jealousy. No other man would know Jacy as he did, hold her, caress her, make love to her. Kade’s footfalls echoed on the stairs, and then the slam of his door as he retreated into his bedroom. Kade’s callous attitude toward Jacy and Edwin angered him. Turning away from the picture, Te waited for Jacy to step inside. He didn’t know what he’d say. She made it clear she thought of him as a distraction—one she didn’t need. He wouldn’t accept that. Rocking back on his heels, Te shoved his hands deep into his pockets. He exhaled as he stopped before a bookshelf containing pictures of the Conclave. Pictures of Jacy on horseback and at horse shows dominated the shelves. A few of him, mostly taken at sporting events, and some of Kade and Reid created the illusion of a happy family. There were no pictures of Cord. Te picked up a picture of Edwin and him on a fishing trip. Barely fourteen, he stood even with Edwin’s tall frame, and held a catfish up for the camera. It was a nice catch, and Te counted the day among his fondest memories. Just the two of them that day. Jacy had stayed home to train for a horse show, and Kade and Reid were off at school. Not for the first time, he wanted the ten years he’d spent away, back. Only listening to Kade’s words, he wondered if he’d made the right decision in leaving. “Don’t rehash the past, son. What’s done is done.” Edwin’s words echoed in his mind. Edwin. He could place this in perspective. Setting the picture back on the shelf, he started toward the steps. The front door opened and Jacy walked inside. Te’s heart caught in his throat. An overwhelming need to go to her forced him forward, his long strides carrying him across the living room. Jacy glared at him. The single look stopped him in his tracks. “I don’t want to deal with this right now,” she growled, and before he could answer, stormed upstairs. Te watched her leave and wished he’d come home sooner. But he hadn’t, and now he had to deal with
the situation. His heart heavy, he ascended the stairs to Edwin’s room. The empty hall echoed his footsteps. Automatically, he sought out Jacy’s door, noticing it was closed, as was Kade’s. Te paused in the hallway to listen, but heard no sounds from Jacy’s room. If she were crying, or upset, she wasn’t letting the outside world know. For a moment, he debated using his arcane senses, then dismissed the thought. He lacked the training.Another thing he might know had he stayed with Edwin. Te paused outside the door to his foster-father’s bedroom. Inside, machines hummed. If Edwin recovered and lived a full life, Te knew he’d never forget the sound of machinery helping to keep Edwin comfortable and alive. He didn’t want his last memories of Edwin to be of him as an invalid. “Te, you out there?” Edwin’s voice called. The sudden question startled Te. Pushing open the door, he peered inside. “It’s me,” he said. Edwin smiled. “Good, I thought it was you out there. I’ve not lost all my skills, I see. Why don’t you sit down? I think we have things to talk about.” Te took the offered seat looking, yet not looking, at the man in the bed. An old leather-bound book sat on the tray table next to Edwin’s glasses. A glass of water sat on the bedside stand along with an insulated pitcher. Today, Edwin wore a gray shirt that only made his skin seem more ashen. “The body is just a shell, Te,” Edwin said. “Don’t look so sad. With the doctors’ help I’m not in any pain, and your ritual did lend me some strength.” “It didn’t heal you.” Te balled his hands into fists and rested them on his thighs. “It didn’t work.” Edwin chuckled. “Did you think one ritual would send me into remission?” He sighed and shook his head. “Magic works at its own pace. All we can do is control the power and use it for a greater good. But you were never one to take the slow path, were you? I remember when you were a teenager. I couldn’t even say the word ‘patience’ around you. I’d just say the ‘p-word’ and you’d roll your eyes. Patience, dear boy, and all is as it should be.” “But if you die, then things aren’t as they should be. I thought the ritual would do more. It wasn’t Jacy. Never her. It was me, wasn’t it? Because I didn’t come back and take my training as I should have, I wasn’t able to send enough energy to you last night. “Tell me, I overheard Kade pressuring Jacy about marriage. Is it true? Is she going to marry?” His mouth went dry. He couldn’t lose her—not before he had a second chance with her. Intellectually he knew sorcerers needed to pass on their gifts—male and female. But the demands of magic wreaked havoc on female bodies, rendering many female sorcerers barren. “Do you want her to?” “What kind of a question is that?” Te studied Edwin with a narrow gaze. His foster-father seemed to be in his teaching mood, where every question received a cryptic answer. “No, I don’t want to see her marry unless she wants to. From her conversation with Kade, I’d say she really doesn’t want to get married.” “Jacy can’t wait for you to forgive yourself. Yes, I’ve spoken to her about her responsibilities, and she
understands them. Jacy will make the choices she makes. She’s an adult.” “But you won’t force her to do anything she doesn’t want to?” Te leaned forward. “I don’t want to see Jacy hurt in any way.” “Good. Neither do I. Now why don’t we take a look at some of your duties as my Second. Jacy can take care of herself, something you might want to remember.” With that admonishing remark, Edwin turned the conversation over to Te’s duties as a Second. ***** “I think we should all talk tonight,” Kade announced. Te tried to pull his mind away from the tantalizing aroma of Jacy’s perfume. She sat next to him at the dinner table. She ate slowly, an act he was certain was designed to drive him to distraction. Her plump lips closed around the fork—he wished it were his cock. Battling his body to stay calm, he fought to focus on Kade’s words. “About what?” Reid accepted the bowl of mashed potatoes from his elder brother with a frown. “I don’t think there’s been any change in Edwin’s condition.” He turned his attention to Jacy, knowing she took care of the details of Edwin’s care. Around a large oak table in the dining room, the four present members of StarMyst Conclave sat. The smells of roast chicken, mashed potatoes, stuffing and all the trimmings filled the kitchen. Te tried not to smile. Jacy hid her nervousness with busywork. He couldn’t fault her skills as a cook. The meal tasted scrumptious. “We need to discuss who will take over the Conclave once Edwin’s gone,” Kade said. Te didn’t like the exasperated tone in his voice or the pointed look Kade had given him as he spoke. “We’ve been through this,” Jacy said. “And keep your voice down. We don’t need to upset Edwin. In fact, I need to go check on him.” Pushing back her chair, she rose to her feet and hurried from the dining room. “I think the record needs to be set straight,” Kade said as soon as Jacy had left the room. “Make sure everyone is on the same page. We don’t have to fight.” This time, Kade made it clear he spoke about Te ’s return. “I only do as Edwin wishes,” Te replied. “The last time we spoke, he made it clear I was still his Second. I appreciate the work you’ve done in my absence, but now that I’ve returned, it’s time to let me take over my duties.” He reached for a platter of chicken. “Now that you’ve returned. What if you want to leave again?” Kade folded his hands in front of him and leaned back in the chair. Reid looked from his brother to Te and then back again. A sad smile covered his face. Te had the sense he wanted to say more, but didn’t. Partly out of loyalty to his brother, and maybe for another reason. Maybe he wanted Jacy once his brother became second-in-command. Te clenched his jaw. Kade’s
smug look sickened him.That bastard thinks he can step up since I’ve been gone. Edwin appointed me Second. I will not let him down. Not again. “That is my decision to make.” Te set his silverware down and focused his attention on the upstart sitting across the table from him. He worried about Jacy upstairs. She had taken the burden of Edwin’s care on her own shoulders, and the two men sitting across the table let her. “Edwin appointed me Second. He confirmed his decision this afternoon. We don’t need to meet to ‘discuss’ the issue, not if it means letting you take over. I will not go against Edwin’s wishes. He’s the leader of our conclave, and he is our foster-father. I don’t know about you, but Edwin’s done a hell of a lot for me. I won’t let him down.” Jacy stepped into the dining room. She stopped behind Kade’s chair and looked at him. He could see the questions in her eyes, the accusations that he had let her, and Edwin, down in the past. “You may want to spend some time with Kade tomorrow, Te. He’s done a lot to meet with the other conclaves as well as keeping StarMyst running. I’m sure his experience would be beneficial. It has been a while since you were here.” As she spoke, Jacy returned to her seat. She sat down, disinterested in continuing the meal. “You don’t think I can handle the job?” He focused all his attention on Jacy. She shivered beneath his gaze. Te fought a feral smile. “No, but I think you can learn from each other.” Both men glared at each other. “I have nothing to learn from him,” Te said. “The last I checked Edwin was still in charge of the Conclave.” “He is.” Jacy’s low voice broke through Te’s anger. “But Kade has been helping him. No one is saying Edwin didn’t name you Second, Te. What I am saying is that you can learn from what Kade has done in your absence. Don’t let your stubbornness hurt the Conclave.” Her gaze swiveled to Kade. “Either of you. Now if you’re finished, I believe it’s Reid’s turn for dishes tonight.” Te sat in his chair. Jacy’s words hurt. Clearly, she didn’t trust him. He intended to review the records and books as soon as possible. Glaring at Kade sitting across the table from him, Te knew he wanted to stay as far away from him as he could. Before she could say anything more, Jacy rose to her feet and stormed from the dining room. Her footsteps echoed on the stairs. To see Edwin or retreat into her own bedroom, Te wondered. Kade glared in the direction Jacy had gone, then left in the opposite direction. Reid started taking dishes from the table. “Go upstairs,” he said. “Go to her. My brother wants to run StarMyst. He’s made no pretense about his intentions. I can’t say whether it’s good or bad that you came back, but if you hurt one hair on Jacy’s head, I’ll hurt you. My powers may not be the equal of yours, but I’ll kick your ass. You understand.” Te nodded as a smile spread across his face. “And I was about to say the same thing. You know I only want what’s best for Edwin and the Conclave.” “I know. But if you wanted that, then maybe you shouldn’t have come back.” With those disheartening
words, Reid carried the dishes into the kitchen and left Te alone. Te stood. Jealousy burned in his gut, and he tried hard not to give in to the bitter emotion. Maybe Reid didn’t want him to come back. Maybe he wanted Jacy all to himself. It would never happen. Had Jacy wanted to be with him she would have been already. He knew her well enough to know she went after what she wanted. And right now she thought she didn’t want him. He’d make her see the error in her ways. Oh yes, just the memory of the ritual, of lying between her thighs and of her warm, welcoming pussy, hardened his cock with a swiftness that scared him. He strode from the room and up the stairs.
Jacy heard the door open, knew from the footsteps Te had invaded her sanctuary. She closed the photo album not wanting him to see her going over the past. What-ifs and should-have-beens were all she had now. Down the hall, the nurse spent time with Edwin, part company, part medical care. How long would it be, Jacy wondered, until they wouldn’t need her anymore? How long until the boys really did fight to control StarMyst? Jacy frowned. She didn’t even know who she wanted. Surely Te could do better than Kade in running the Conclave, but what if he decided to leave again? What if he thought it was too much? And how could she control herself if he stayed? Her nipples hardened as she remembered the ritual and the way Te’s cock felt inside her. He’d stolen her heart over ten years ago. She feared she’d never taken it back after he left. “What do you want?” she asked, her words harsher than she intended. She didn’t look up. He rounded the bed. Her heart hammered in her chest. A hint of his cologne teased her senses, and her pussy grew wet. Sitting on the bed, she longed for him to join her. Heat from his body radiated to her. “To talk.” Te’s words startled her. She looked up to find Te looking down at her. His soft gaze made her think of candlelit nights and a caring she dared not hope for. “Well, sit down then.” She inched closer to the headboard, wanting space between them. He dwarfed her childhood bed. The ruffled canopy had been removed shortly before she turned sixteen, but the fun horse-print sheets evoked images of a gawky teenager with a crush on a hunky older boy. She wondered if the same thoughts went through Te’s mind. “So what do you want to talk about?” “What happened downstairs? I know you think I don’t know what’s right for StarMyst, but I know a hell of a lot more than Kade thinks he does.” Te balled his hands into fists. “What do you know about StarMyst? What do you know about what we need? You’ve been gone. You couldn’t deal and you left. Whatever loyalty you feel for Edwin is admirable, but it would have been a hell of a lot nicer if it had shown up a few months ago, all right?” She felt an angry flush creeping over her cheeks. She clung to her anger, afraid of what she might feel if she let it go. It would be too easy to give in to her long-ago dreams. “I think I know what StarMyst needs. I know what you need, Jacy.” His voice grew husky. “You don’t
think I haven’t fantasized about your body beneath mine? I’m hard right now just thinking about you beneath me, on top of me, any way I can get you. You’re a hell of a woman, Jacy. I’m just sorry that all those years ago I was too stupid to realize how good we are together.” He leaned in, and Jacy tried hard not to be pulled into the depths of his eyes. She pressed her hand against his chest. Beneath her palm, his heart thudded. “All I want is for Edwin to be healthy again. Only that isn’t happening, and I learned a long time ago not to dwell on dreams that might never come true.” “I think you want more than that.” He brushed his lips across hers. “I think you want what I want.” He kissed her, hungry and hard. Herlussor rose, slamming into his with a maelstrom of need. His lips demanded, took, and she gave. His tongue swept into her mouth. Shivering, Jacy clung to him. He pressed her back against the pillows. “Te, please,” she whispered, pulling her lips from his. “Please what?” Te asked. He nuzzled her neck, his tongue stroking the soft flesh over her pulse. Nipping at the hollow of her throat, he unbuttoned her shirt. “We shouldn’t be doing this. It isn’t right.” Her head fell back as his lips grazed the top of her breast, and when he drew her nipple into his mouth through the fabric of her bra, a low moan escaped her throat. Her body wanted it. Thelussor beat at her, reminding her of all the times she pushed her needs away. Her pussy clenched, hot and wet, and waiting for the thrust of Te’s cock. “Just think of it as another ritual, honey.” He laved her nipple with his tongue, his hands reaching around to unhook her bra. “If it feels so good, it has to be right.” His teeth grazed her, and Jacy sucked in a ragged breath. Her skin tingled with his touch. Shirt and bra fluttered to the floor. Memories, dreams, they all collided in the touch of his fingers over her soft skin. She moaned as he nuzzled her stomach, his tongue tracing circles around her belly button. She wanted him to move lower. Her pussy begged for his touch, and Jacy wanted to growl with frustration. A few buttons and she shoved his shirt away from his shoulders, revealing his broad chest. Her fingers danced across it, wanting to brand each plane, each ripple into her memory. Her lips brushed his skin, and his swift inhalation was all she needed to continue. She caressed him, his body like warm marble beneath her fingers. Jacy pushed at his chest. Leaning against him, she shoved him to the mattress. His hands gripped her waist as she straddled him. Jacy kissed him. The brush of her bare breasts across his chest sent electric shocks through her. Yes, this was what she wanted. Te naked beneath her. An impish smile curled her lips. Pressing her mouth to his chest, she kissed him, suckling his nipples, laving them with long, flat strokes of her tongue. He shuddered beneath her. Herlussor egged her on, and she blamed it for the tiny licks she placed on his navel, following the arrow-straight trail of hair beneath the waistband of his jeans. His cock raged against the fabric. Jacy pressed her lips to him through the fabric. “Jacy, please.”
She unfastened his jeans, slowly sliding down the zipper. “Please what?” In control now, she watched him spring through the opening, only the cotton material of his briefs holding him back. “Do you want me to taste you?” Emboldened by her dreams and her desire, she slid him free of his briefs. A tiny drop of precum glistened on his head, and with a wicked smile, she tasted him. A single swipe of her tongue, and Te bucked off the bed beneath her. A ragged groan broke from his chest, half curse, half plea. Circling his hard cock with her lips, she sucked him deep into her mouth. Her tongue slid over his surface, the satin-covered steel of his shaft, her playground. Her cheeks hollowed, and Te’s fingers threaded through her hair. Paybacks are a bitch. You left me wanting more ten years ago, now I want to brand myself on your heart and soul so bad you’ll never want to leave.It might have been selfish of her, but Jacy didn’ t care. Her hands clenched on his biceps. Her fingers curled around rock-hard muscles, and she sucked him until he jerked in her mouth, close to coming. Jacy slid off him long enough to shed jeans and panties, then straddled him once more. Kneeling before him, she slid her hand over her stomach, down to her pussy. Her own wetness turned her on, and as she slid her fingers over her clit, her head fell back and her breath hissed from between clenched teeth. With two fingers, she finger-fucked herself. “You want in here?” she asked. Te’s gaze remained glued to the two glistening fingers sliding in and out of her pussy. He gripped her hips. “God yes,” he groaned. She stroked him with her wet fingers, spreading her juices along the length of his cock. “You want some of this?” “Yeah.” His ragged groan broke her defenses, and she sheathed herself on him. Jacy rested her weight on her arms, her lips brushing his. “You think you know what I want. Give it to me.” He fucked her with lips and cock. As he stroked into her, his tongue delved into her mouth. Legs still constrained by his jeans, he used his hands on her hips to pound into Jacy. Her pussy clenched around him, and Jacy thought she was going to come right there. When his hand slid between her thighs, his thumb brushing against her clit, she was ready to explode. She shuddered, her body clenching his, as her orgasm washed over her. She bit her lip to keep from crying out, though she wanted to scream her release to the heavens. Te increased his speed. Sweat glistened on his brow. Theirlussors entwined like two lovers, each one feeding off the other. Jacy came again from the strength of it washing over her, and beneath her, Te pushed toward the peak. He stiffened. A low growl vibrated through his body. His cock jerked as he spilled himself into her. She looked down at him with the muscles in his neck taut, his body coated with perspiration, a grin of completion on his face, and thought she’d never seen a more beautiful sight. She burned the image into her memory. Whatever happened, whether he left or not, she’d have this moment. Jacy wished she could hope for more.
Jacy shook him. One moment he was sure she hated him, the next she fucked him like there was no tomorrow. She’d blossomed into a magnificent woman, one he wanted to claim for his own. When he was around her, he didn’t know what to think, what to feel, and hislussor reminded him it’d been too damned long. Te leaned on the pasture fence staring at the horses cavorting in the fields. Inside the barn, mothers-to-be shifted restlessly and everyone waited for nature to take its course. Half expecting Jacy to be in the barns, he patted Spot on the nose. Rummaging in his pocket, he held out a treat for the gelding. Reid cleaned stalls. “Any idea where Jacy is?” Te asked. Reid grunted. He lifted the wheelbarrow and started out of the barn. “Probably in the woods. She likes to do tai chi in the mornings,” he said without breaking stride. “Thanks,” Te replied. Reid only grunted and pushed his load to the manure pile. Te knew his return to StarMyst only antagonized his fellow Conclave members, Jacy included. She twisted him in knots, made him worry, and confused the hell out of him most times. Striding across the lawn to the path leading into the forest, he tried not to dwell on the future. Soon, Edwin would die, and he’d have to take over the Conclave. The memory of Jacy’s body straddling his rose fresh in his memory. Her pussy, so hot and wet for him, had gripped his cock like a silken glove. When she had taken control last night, he thought he was going to jump out of his skin. She has to want me. She couldn’t fuck me like that and not want me.He pursed his lips as he paused, listening to birds chattering high in the tree branches.My body definitely, but it’d be nice if she wanted everything else attached to it too. A smile bent the corner of his lips. When Edwin called him back, he hadn’t known what to expect. Now that he found Jacy and she fulfilled all his fantasies and then some, he tried to reconcile his growing feelings for the woman who seemed to want no part of him except as a means to feed thelussor . He could live with that, but he wanted more. A whitetail deer bounded from the woods, leaping over the path before him. Te stopped. The wild creature bounded away, tail high in the air, and he half expected to see a few more following. The lone stag, already an impressive rack of antlers on his head, bounded into the forest and out of sight. In a moment of clarity, he saw her point of view and hated himself for even making her think that way. She thought of him like the stag, a fleeting presence in her life. The path forked. Instead of the right-hand trail leading to the lake, he took the left-hand trail that wound deeper into the woods. If he remembered right, rock outcroppings flanked the trail farther down, creating a tiny glen of solitude. He unfurled a hint of his power, brushing through the forest searching for Jacy. He sensed her, farther down the trail in the glen, her own energy a blinding sphere of light. Like a beacon, it called to him.
He remained mute as he strode in her direction. The soft crunching of grass and leaves beneath his booted feet surrounded him. Overhead, birds chirped and squirrels chattered in the trees. Inside, he held himself still, not wanting his energy to brush against hers and give her a heads-up of his arrival. He stopped just outside the glade. Jacy stood in the center dressed in a blue sports bra and leggings. She ’d wrapped her hair in a clip on her head, red strands framing her face in wisps of light. The bra cradled her breasts, holding them firmly against her chest. Sweat glistened on the light tan on her arms and abdomen, and he followed the gaze down to her trim waist where matching leggings covered her from waist to ankle. Worn athletic shoes covered her feet. Her body moved fluidly, muscles beneath the skin contracting and releasing to create a symphony of movement and serenity. Te held his breath. He watched her, one position flowing into another. Energy surrounded her, the energy of life, of cleansing, and of solitude. He stepped forward wanting to get a better look at the woman who took his breath away. In bed she rocked his world, out here, she was magnificent. A twig snapped beneath his foot. Jacy looked up, her gaze whipping to where he stood just inside the clearing. “I’m sorry if I interrupted you,” Te said, taking a step back. “Continue.” Jacy rolled her shoulders and stretched out her arms. He tried not to follow the pull of the sports bra across her chest. “It’s all right. I was almost done. What do you want?” She stood her ground. Wariness emanated from her. “I wanted to see you. To talk to you.” Te stepped forward until he stopped directly in front of her. His body tightened at the subtle musk of woods and woman surrounding her, and he watched her chest rise and fall with each breath. He fought the urge to wrap his hands around her waist and push her against the large oak tree behind them, and make her forget all about anything but his body inside hers. “Like you talked last night?” Jacy arched an eyebrow and wrapped her arms around herself. The defensive gesture wasn’t lost on Te. “You were the one who straddled me, remember?” His body did—his cock throbbed at the memory. “Don’t get me wrong, I’d like a repeat performance, but we have to talk.” “About what?” “About Edwin. About why Kade is so damn hot after you, and why Reid looks like he wants to tear my guts out. And where is Cord? Does no one care he hasn’t been seen in several days?” “Cord is his own man. He goes away for a while. He’ll be back when he’s ready, when he has his demons under control again. Only Cord knows what happened in his past. His disappearances are his way of working it out,” Jacy said. “And why do you care about Kade and Reid. Jealous?” “Hell yeah, I’m jealous. Reid follows you like a lovesick puppy dog, and Kade, well I know what Kade wants.” Te ran his fingers through his hair. This wasn’t what he wanted to happen. “Look, I don’t want to fight. I want to know your perspective on the Conclave, on what I can bring to it. This is important to me.
Edwin is important to me, and so are you. I want to hear your thoughts.” “I’m glad,” Jacy said. “Let me finish here, and then we can talk on our way back to the house.” “All right. Mind if I sit over there?” He went to a large boulder sitting on the edge of the clearing and sat down. Jacy shook her head and resumed her work. He watched her move, painfully aware he could watch her forever. ***** Crowded into Edwin’s room, Te sat on a hard-backed chair next to Edwin’s bed. The Conclave leader sat up, a tray table across the bed. On his other side, Jacy sat, ready to cater to his every need. Reid and Kade sat toward the foot of the bed, and Cord, back from one of his excursions, sat close to the door. The newcomer intrigued Te. Cord never said from where he came, only arrived and seemed to pick up his place within the Conclave. He looked at ease among the members of StarMyst, if reserved. Whatever role he played in the Conclave, Cord gave no hint. Te focused his attention on Edwin. He looked paler than he had in recent days, the lines around his eyes and lips more drawn. Te’s heart ached. He hated watching those he loved grow old and die. His old dog Charlie way back when, and now Edwin. “Thank you all for coming,” Edwin said. His hands shook as he drank from a glass of water sitting on the table, and Te watched Jacy fight the urge to wrap her hands around the cup and steady it for him. Of all of them, Edwin’s illness had to weigh the heaviest on her, and he longed to lift the burden from her shoulders. “I received word from the Sonora Rising Conclave that they would like to send a delegation here to visit. Traditionally, I would take part in such visits, however, we all know that isn’t possible. I called you all here together to let you know Te will be taking my place and performing his duties as my Second. Jacy, I expect you will take over the entertaining. I want the rest of you to help in any way possible.” Kade stiffened in his seat. Jacy looked from Edwin to Te, then back again. “How many are coming?” she asked. “Do they know where they’re staying yet?” “There will be four members of the Conclave—Richard and his wife Loreen, as well as Wayne, and Richard’s daughter, Marissa. They come to pay their respects,” Edwin said. He swallowed hard and looked to each member of his conclave. “I also suspect they will try to pry you away from me. We cannot appear in flux. You will all honor Te as you would honor me, and everyone will perform their duty.” Edwin took another sip of his water. “Jacy, I suspect this will be difficult on you. I have reason to believe Wayne may try to convince you a marriage may be advantageous.” Te clenched his jaw. Kade glanced in Jacy’s direction. She nodded to Edwin. “I understand. It wouldn’t be the first time, nor, I’m sure, the last. I know the drill, Edwin.” She reached across the bed to clasp his hand. “I can take care of things, and keep Te in line.” Her eyes twinkled as she thought about trying to keep Te “in line”. “Kade, I’ll want you to go over your contacts with Te before they arrive. The Conclave will be here
within two days.” “Two days?” Te gasped. “That’s a short notice.” “They want to put us off guard. It is a test, but one I’m sure we can pass with flying colors.” Jacy straightened. “I’m sure we can. I will have everything ready. Te and Kade, I’d like to meet with both of you to discuss some things.” Kade nodded his assent. “We should meet sooner rather than later. I would like Reid there as well. Cord, do you plan on staying for a while?” “I will be here for the visit,” Cord said. “But I won’t be playing gracious host, if that’s what you’re asking.” “Wouldn’t dream of it.” Kade’s sniped words made Te wonder if the two men might have had an argument over visits and Conclave duties. He made a mental note to speak with Cord as soon as possible. “Why don’t we go downstairs? Edwin, if you have any further news, we can discuss it tomorrow, all right?” Te took charge of the meeting. Rising from his chair, he glanced toward the door. “If you need anything, just ring for us.” His gaze indicated the small buzzer on the nightstand. “We’ll be downstairs.” “Okay, but I expect you back here early tomorrow for your lessons.” Edwin lowered the bed to a more horizontal position and pushed the tray table out of the way. “Thank you, everyone, for coming.” Te watched Jacy help Edwin arrange his pillows. The knowledge of how close they were to losing their leader, their foster-father, punched him in the gut.
Te grappled with the knowledge of his foster-father’s coming death. In some ways, Jacy envied him. Living in Chicago as he did, he removed himself from the daily struggle of life and death at StarMyst. Foaling mares, breeding season, Edwin’s illness, it all seemed so far away when you lived in a big city. Jacy knew. After returning from college, she’d fled to Kansas City thinking it was what she wanted. Only the harsh words of the man she was supposed to marry had driven her back to StarMyst as a stronger and wiser woman. Looking at Te, Jacy’s heart threatened to break anew. He glanced down at Edwin, sadness etched into his features. Jacy stepped outside, followed by Kade, Reid and Cord. She thought of her foster-brothers living on the farm with her. Of all of them, Cord seemed the most unaffected by Edwin’s illness. Of course, he arrived at the farm a year after Te had left, already a grown man. She wondered what secrets he harbored, for he frequently took off and when he returned shadows haunted his eyes. He’d never told her, and she never pressed. Jacy pondered the differences between Kade and Reid as she descended the stairs. Where Kade saw Edwin’s passing as a way to gain power, Reid looked out for the entire conclave. She pursed her lips, disgusted at the thought of being married to Kade. As much as the thought of Te becoming Second scared her, Kade’s ascension scared her even more.
Te longed to stay behind and speak with Edwin alone. The enormity of his burden weighed heavily on his shoulders. Instead, he followed the others downstairs. Jacy. How did she handle it? She remained so cool and calm. Yet he wondered if in the dark hours of the night she curled into a ball and cried herself to sleep. Was there a time when her pain became too much to bear? He shook his head, not wanting to dwell on such topics. On the first floor, he reached the meeting room. Instead of sitting in one of the chairs, he leaned against the doorframe, arms crossed in front of his chest. “You wanted us to meet?” he asked Kade. “It seems that Edwin had everything taken care of upstairs.” Annoyance flickered across Kade’s features. “I should be the one to represent StarMyst for this other conclave. I’ve heard of them. They’re ruthless, quick to enter into territories where they feel the host conclave is weaker. If we don’t handle this carefully there could be another wizard war on our hands.” “Don’t you think you’re being a bit overdramatic?” Jacy asked. “Sonora Rising has been known to be aggressive, but they’ve been our friends and Edwin’s friends for many years. I wouldn’t start jumping at shadows, not yet.” “But you do agree they’re a threat if not handled properly,” Kade countered. Jacy nodded. “Anyone can be a threat under different circumstances.” “So I should take control of this situation.” Te stepped forward. “Didn’t you hear Edwin upstairs? I am to be his Second when Sonora Rising visits. Iam his Second.” His hand tingled as he gathered energy into his palm. A flick of his wrist, and he could slap Kade with a bolt of power strong enough to knock him off his chair. Of all the Conclave members, Te knew he ranked above them in sheer power. “Are you threatening me?” Kade bolted to his feet. “If that’s what it takes, yes. Edwin gave us orders. Ever since I’ve been back you’ve been itching to take over my spot as his Second. And maybe you did act in that capacity temporarily. But I never gave up my position. Now you can either accept Edwin’s decision or you can get out.” He flexed his fingers, keeping his energy coiled within him. The power battered at his defenses. The casualness with which he could wield his power startled him. Any urges he had to smack Kade around were tempered by Jacy’s presence. “You can’t force me.” Kade stepped forward. “You’re not in control here.” “Oh, really?” Te lifted a finger, sending tendrils of power to push against Kade. Kade stepped backwards, eyes narrowing in anger. He raised his hand.
“Kade! Te! Stop! This is getting nothing accomplished, and I’m sure Edwin can feel this pissing match of power you two boys are trying to get into. If you want to fight, go outside.” “Jacy’s right,” Te said. “Edwin placed me in charge. Until he says differently, I’m acting under his orders. Your attempts to gain power won’t win you any friends, Kade. They may get your ass kicked out of the Conclave. I don’t know how Edwin put up with you for this long, but he has. And since he tolerates you, I will too. But do anything,anything to jeopardize this conclave or anyone in it, and I’ll forget all about being Mr. Nice Guy.” Power hummed along his senses. Te reveled in it, the rush of energy drawing from the land to energize him. Hislussor lay dormant, bathed in enough power to keep it quiet for a moment. Jacy stared at him with wide eyes. He took a step toward her. Jacy stepped back. Kade glared at the two of them, a malicious smile curling his lips. “Someone has to check on the horses, unless you’ve all forgotten your duties.” His searing gaze branded the room. “I should go with him,” Reid said. Neither man moved. “You were going to hurt him, weren’t you?” Jacy turned to Te. Te shook his head. “Only if it was necessary. He’s been lording over the Conclave in my absence. It can’ t happen again. Not for the safety of any of us.” Without waiting for an answer, he turned and left the room.
Power hummed in the air. Jacy looked at her three foster-brothers, thinking this was a damn fine ending to a meeting called so they could work together when Sonora Rising arrived. She half expected Te and Kade to kill each other. Horrified, Jacy stared at her foster-brothers. Her skin tingled. Power flared in the room, and she directed more energy to her shields. The tromp of boots on the stairwell echoed, reminding Jacy of Te’s angry exit. “Well, that was damn useful,” Cord said. “Have to take what isn’t yours, don’t you, Kade?” With that cryptic remark, he stood and walked to the front door. A few moments later it clicked shut behind him. Reid looked from Jacy to Kade, clearly torn between his brother and his foster-sister. With a heavy sigh he shook his head. “Whatever happens, it isn’t going to be easy.” “And you’re not doing to do anything to help it.” The words spilled from her lips before Jacy could stop them. Reid stopped in his tracks. “What?” He turned to face her. Shock and surprise mingled on his face, and Jacy tried not to let the emotions hurt her. Jacy resisted the urge to backpedal. “I don’t see you taking charge here. Kade acts like this is his conclave, when Te has a point. We may not like it, but Edwin placed him in charge. It is not for us to question the leader of our conclave, only to follow. Now I won’t lie and tell you I don’t have my doubts about Te, because I do. But until he does something to put the Conclave in danger, I have to support
him. Take a stand, Reid. For your brother. Against him. It doesn’t matter. Just take a stand, damn it.” “You can’t talk to my brother that way,” Kade said. “I thought you liked him.” “I do.” Jacy exhaled, trying to wrap words around the thoughts humming in her mind. “I like you all. I love you all like the brothers I never had. If you don’t think Edwin doesn’t know what’s going on, you’re stupid. Our fighting isn’t helping him get any better. I wish I had the answers. But, damn it, this is getting us nowhere.” She heaved an exasperated sigh and dragged her fingers through her hair. For years Reid had coddled her because she was his only sister. “She’s got a point, brother,” Reid said after long moments. “Look, I don’t want to get in the middle of things. Let’s just be civil until Sonora Rising leaves, all right? Then we can worry about our dirty laundry all we want.” Jacy nodded. Reid still had some growing up to do, but she suspected he matured just a little bit more by simply staying in the room. Kade bit back a curse. He paced the corner like a caged animal. Power rolled from him in waves, angry pulses that threatened to shove everyone out of his path. Stopping, he stared at Jacy. “What you feel for Te isn’t brotherly.” “No, it isn’t,” Jacy said. She wouldn’t admit she wasn’t sure what she felt, not when she had the upper hand in this conversation. “But I never said it was, either. Te and I have a history. It’s something neither one of us can ignore, and something we have to deal with. But you know what, we’re adults. What we do, or don’t do, is none of your goddamn business, Kade.” Kade stepped back. “And quit trying to throw men at me as if I were a prize mare ready to be bred, okay? I have a bit more choice than those girls out there in the barn do, and I intend to exercise it.” Hands on hips, she glared at him. “Now you can stay here, or you can go to hell, but I’m going to see how Edwin’s handling all of this and let him know we won’t let the Conclave fall apart.” Whirling on a heel, Jacy left the living room. She paused long enough to reassure Edwin they could handle Sonora Rising’s visit, and then walked back down the hall. Her heart pounded as she paused outside the door to Te’s room. Several times she’ d been in the room since he left, mostly to open or close the windows and for routine housework. Why she bothered with keeping his room ready, Jacy didn’t know, except in her heart, she’d hoped he would come back. Jacy pushed open his door. Just inside the open door, Jacy stopped. Closing it behind her, she waited for Te’s reaction. He sat in the desk chair, back to the door, staring out the window overlooking the front yard. In his hands he held an old picture, one Jacy thought she recognized of her and Spot. The signet ring of his office flashed on his hand. Jacy walked across the floor. Her loose stride belied the pounding of her heart. At any moment she feared Te would turn around and tell her to get out. Get out of his room. Get out of his life. Undeterred by his lack of acknowledgment at her presence, she paused behind him and rested her hands on his shoulders. Te jumped.
Jacy closed her fingers around his muscles. Tension coiled through them like steel springs, and she massaged gently. Beneath her ministrations, he stiffened. Jacy continued to knead. Her fingers explored the contours of his body beneath his skin She pressed her fingertips against his collarbone, feeling an especially taut muscle. Working it with gentle touches, she focused on sending calming energies to him. This close to him, the scent of his cologne enveloped her, and the freedom to touch his body beat a cadence through hers. Herlussor rose, and she tamped it down. Now wasn’t the time for such things. When his shoulders felt looser, she moved to the back of his neck. Her heart went out to him as she realized they’d put the stress into his muscles. Reid, Kade and her, with the fighting and jockeying for position. For the first time she put herself in his position—nearly twenty, having just taken the virginity of a sixteen-year-old. Not only were there legal ramifications, but she knew she had stared at him like a moon-eyed girl in love for the first time. She had been. The thought of all that, plus his responsibilities to the Conclave, had simply been too much. Maybe even Edwin told him it was for the best. Her hands slid over his shoulders to his upper arms. Corded steel, solid enough for her to hang onto in the throes of passion, met her touch. Closing her eyes, Jacy gave in to the sensation of touching his body. His heart pounded. She saw it in the pulse along his neck, felt it in his body. A glance into his lap proved to her he wasn’t immune to her touch. His cock pressed against the denim. Jacy licked her lips. She trailed her fingers along his arms, then moved to face him and dropped to her knees. Te reached for her, his fingers skimming the line of her jaw. “What are you doing?” The husky timbre of his voice sent shivers down her spine. “Taking care of you.” She pressed two fingers against his mouth. He parted his lips, and his tongue slid out to caress her fingers. A hot flush suffused her skin. She reached for the button on his jeans. Te reached for her. A wicked grin curved Jacy’s lips. With a thought, she wrapped bands of magic around wrists and ankles, keeping him bound to the chair. She glanced at him, unsure how he would handle the sudden restraint. Te arched an eyebrow at her actions, but nodded. Jacy lowered his zipper. The rasp echoed in the silent room, a counterpoint of their quickening breaths. His cock pressed against the fabric of his zebra-striped briefs, and Jacy cupped her hand against it. Heat filled her palm. Te gasped. Risking a glance at him, she saw his closed eyes, his head tilted back, and his throat worked as she slid her hand along his length. She freed him from his briefs. He sprung toward her mouth, almost as if his cock wanted her to kiss it. She obliged. Jacy ran her tongue along his shaft, marveling at his hot, silky skin. The musk of fully aroused male filled her nose, and Jacy breathed deeply. Wrapping her lips around his cock, she drew it into her mouth, hollowing her cheeks as she sucked hard. Te groaned. Jacy cupped his balls. Herlussor rose, and she sent it out in tiny tendrils along her fingers, wrapping it
around his thighs and stomach. Muscles clenched beneath her hand, and she heard the cadence of his breathing change. The fact she had such power over him drove her, wetting her pussy and making her ache to feel him inside her. She waited, wanting to be the giver, not the receiver. She swirled her tongue in the slit on his head, probing deeply as she squeezed his balls. Then, she drew him far into her throat, so far he slipped into it, as if he could fuck her pussy from her mouth. Jacy groaned around him. “Please,” Te groaned above her. Jacy ignored his pleas, taking her time as she explored every inch of him with lips and tongue. His salty taste aroused her, as did the sensation of his ownlussor rising against hers, demanding release. Sliding her hands around his waist, she slipped her fingers beneath jeans and underwear to cup his ass and draw him even deeper into her mouth. “God yes,” he moaned. Jacy clenched her fingernails on his buttocks, squeezing and releasing in time to her suckling. Her pussy found the same rhythm, clenching and releasing. She wanted him to spill into her mouth, wanted to feel the hot rush of his seed, and although she sensed Te trying to hold himself back, his climax neared. Jacy ran her tongue along the underside of his shaft. He shuddered. Muscles clenched, his thighs working on either side of her face. She sucked him hard, her lips sliding along the length of his shaft, her cheeks hollowing with every suck. Closing her eyes, she imagined riding him, her pussy sliding up and down his cock. Harder. Harder. She wanted to give him a release from the tension building inside him. The rhythm of her breaths matched his. Her cheeks hurt, and she continued, knowing it wouldn’t be much longer until he came. Her body ached, knowing its needs would go unfulfilled. She longed to lay him out before her and massage his entire body until she eradicated all his tension. Te struggled against the restraints. He needed to touch her, to cup her hair and hold her sweet mouth around him. Around his cock, Jacy grinned. A harsh groan echoed from his chest, rattling through his body. He tightened, his cock pumping as hot seed spilled down her throat. Jacy swallowed quickly, still laving his shaft with her tongue. She wanted to get every last drop, wanted him to feel a complete and total orgasm. Te slumped in the chair. Jacy sat back on her heels and dismissed her magic with a thought. She licked her lips. Standing, she brushed a kiss across his cheek, then turned and left him still sitting in his bedroom. Chapter Seven
Jacy shut her bedroom door behind her, stripping as fast as she could. Naked, she grabbed her favorite vibrator from its box beneath her bed and lay against the pillows. Her breath came in harsh pants, her body aroused by sucking Te’s cock. Closing her eyes, she caressed her pussy, sliding her fingers along her drenched slit. Lips parted, she teased herself, all the while wishing it were Te. I’m so fucking horny.The salty taste of him clung to her lips, and his scent lingered in her nose. All it took was a little imagination, and it wasn’t her fingers, but Te’s working their way through her damp folds. She brushed her clit. Her hips bucked from the bed, her body begging for something more. Jacy grabbed her vibrator.
Her bedroom door opened. Jacy jerked upright, dropping the purple toy onto the bed beside her. She closed her legs and tried to cover herself. “Ever heard of knocking first?” she asked, cursing her breathy voice. A masculine chuckle announced Te’s presence. He stepped inside, his gaze raking her half-naked figure lying on the bed. Jacy hoped he couldn’t see her toy, the red heat of embarrassment filling her cheeks. Closing the door behind him, he openly admired her body. “Thought you could get off easy, didn’t you?” He flicked his fingers, and Jacy found herself flat on the bed. Her spread-eagled legs bared her weeping pussy. She tried to move and couldn’t. She tried not to grin.“Te—” More magic gagged her. Jacy hungrily watched him stride toward the bed. A bit of magic and both the door and room were sealed to the outside. Nothing, not even a scream, could penetrate the walls. She shivered at the concept. Her already soaking pussy tightened at the thought of Te making her scream. She wanted to. God knows she wanted to feel his hard cock inside her. He leaned forward and blew a gentle breath across her folds. Jacy shuddered, a low moan of pleasure rising in her throat. The magical gag kept it from escaping. With Te’s face inches away from her sex, Jacy fought the exposed feeling enveloping her. He saw every curve, each inch of her shell pink skin and the neatly trimmed hairs protecting her mound. “Do you want me to touch you?” Jacy whimpered. Te reached forward. He trailed his fingers along her outer edges. “Damn, Jacy. You’re so wet. Did I make you wet? Did sucking my cock make you ache for my touch?” Easily, he slid a finger inside and stroked her gently. His words turned her on and sent a new flood of moisture to her pussy. She wanted him. Damn Kade! Damn Reid! Damn the Conclave, even. Man to woman, she wanted Te in the most primal way. The care she lavished on him would be returned tenfold. Deep in her heart, she knew this wasn’t a game, and it excited her even more. His thumb found the bead of her clit, and he massaged it. “If I ran the Conclave, you wouldn’t leave my side. I’d fuck you until we were both exhausted, and then when you thought you couldn’t take any more, I’d make love to you. Slow and sweet until you cried out from the pleasure of it all. In the barn, in a bed, hell, even in the woods, or up against a tree, I’d take you until you sobbed my name. I want to hear you beg me, Jacy.” He flicked his fingers at her and suddenly, the gag lifted along with her bonds. Jacy sucked in a deep breath. She whimpered, not from the digits stroking her, though they felt good too, but from the lack of restraint. Lying there, knowing he had total control of her body, burned her to the core. She kept her heels pressed into the mattress, legs parted, not because he forced her, but because she wanted him to see her aroused pussy. She grinned. “I’ll never beg, Te.” Her breath caught as he pressed his thumb against her clit, and then stepped away. “I can leave,” he said.
Jacy glanced at his jeans with the top button undone. His cock bulged against the denim. Standing there in only a pair of jeans, the rest of his body bare, Te looked quite fuckable. His broad shoulders, the chiseled planes of his abdomen, even his bare feet aroused her. If he left now, in a few moments he’d be jacking off thinking of her, just as she stroked her pussy into orgasm. Together or separate, they’d achieve their climax. No, he wouldn’t leave. Not yet. Capturing Te’s gaze with her own, she slowly licked her upper lip. “You can’t leave, not yet. I don’t think you’ve gotten what you want from me.” Te sucked in a harsh breath. He rested his hands on the foot of the bed. “You think so? I don’t think you really know what I want from you.” With that remark he crawled between her parted legs, his head level with her breasts. “And I don’t think you quite know what you want from me.” Te lowered his head to an engorged nipple and slowly drew it into his mouth. Jacy closed her eyes as ecstasy poured through her body. Arching her back, she begged him to suck her harder. He tongued her nipple, his lips playing with the sensitive skin of her areola. Threading her fingers through his hair, Jacy worked it free from the tie holding it back. The silken strands floated over her body, and she ran her fingers along their length. Te lifted his head and began to lick and nip her other breast. “Te,” Jacy gasped. She bucked, her pussy aching for Te’s cock to fill it. His fingers skimmed over her side, cupping her hip. Jacy shifted beneath him. “Patience. All good things are worth the wait,” Te said. He laved the tender skin between her breasts, and then slowly kissed a trail to her navel. Jacy wanted to scream from frustration. As his tongue made long, slow licks around her belly button, then lower, along either side of the strip of hair covering her pussy, Jacy bit her lip to keep from crying out. It didn’t matter to her if the room was soundproofed, she didn’t want to give Te the satisfaction, not yet. He licked her cunt. His tongue drew long, sure strokes, parting her folds and swirling around her clit. Jacy arched her hips against his face. He teased her, yes, yet there was something else in his ministrations, a tender caring she didn’t want to contemplate. Not now. Later, she’d think about the long, slow thrust of his tongue inside her, or the way he gently nibbled on her clit until she couldn’t stop whimpering. Te pressed the flat of his tongue against her. Jacy came. The spasms started in her pussy, radiating out through her body. She clenched her hands in the comforter. Thrashing on the bed, she rode out the waves, and then through heavy-lidded eyes looked at Te between her thighs. He looked up at her, his lips smeared with her juices. In that moment, she thought she’d never seen a more handsome man. Hislussor caressed her, his own need for release sending shivers of fire through her nerve endings. Her ownlussor lay languid against him, already sated by the pulse-pounding orgasm she’d just experienced.This is what it was meant to be. With Jarrod there was nothing, only two bodies coming together. It should be like this, energies and desires mingling until I can’t tell where my energy ends and his begins. She shivered at the direction her thoughts were taking, but then Te paused long enough to strip before crawling up her body, and his cock brushed her pussy. Just then, she really didn’t want to think about much at all. Te braced his weight on his arms on either side of her. Power flickered over her, and Jacy realized she
could move her limbs. Wrapping arms and legs around Te, she arched her hips, sheathing him. “Yes,” she growled at the feel of him inside her. Te kissed her. He claimed her lips, his tongue delving inside. He branded her, claimed her as his own, and Jacy didn’t care. She returned the kiss with equal ardor, mirroring the slow thrust and retreat of Te’s body. His slowness drove her crazy. She longed to arch her back and impale herself on him, but his careful control kept her waiting for his every move. Her fingers dug into his back. Herlussor rose, washing over them, and with a growl, he thrust into her. The tempo of his lovemaking matched the pounding of thelussor in her veins, a pounding she knew was echoed by Te. He drove her higher, each thrust deeper than the last. The sounds of heavy breathing and bodies coming together filled the room, and when she smelled her own musk, Jacy shuddered. Once, twice more, and a second orgasm filled her. Jacy cried out, the high keening sound of her voice echoing off the walls. She clutched at Te as if he were her lifesaver. Te thrust once more, and with a groan stiffened and came. Her pussy muscles milked his cock as he shot his cream into her, and Jacy just looked up at the man braced above her in wonder. She could get very used to this very easily. Slowly, Te relaxed and rolled to the side. He brushed his lips across her temple. “Don’t play with fire unless you’re ready for the flames,” he whispered, then rolled off the bed, pulled on his jeans and left. Jacy lay on the bed, her body languid from the incredible sex she’d just had. Drawing in deep breaths, she listened to the door close, felt the shimmer of magic as the soundproofing fell and heard him walk back to his own room. Another slam of doors, and a few moments later the shower turned on. Jacy reached for her pussy, drawing her fingers across the wet and sensitive folds, and exhaled a heavy sigh. The sated companion of herlussor told her all too well how she enjoyed the flames. Rolling to her side, she stretched pleasantly tired muscles and stared at the wall. One of these times Te and she would have to talk, really talk about what happened. Sonora Rising would be arriving soon, and she wanted to make sure everything was in place. Standing, she found her clothing and dressed, then running her fingers through her hair, padded barefoot down to the kitchen. She should probably take stock of what they needed to entertain the arriving conclave. And she’d have to discuss with Edwin what kind of facilities they would need. The onslaught of necessary duties compelled Jacy to action. They’d talk after Sonora Rising left. She only hoped she’d have some answers by then, because right now, she didn’t know what to do. All she knew was that Te still had the ability to touch her like no man ever had before, and she wanted it for as long as she could have it, preferably forever. ***** Days of preparations, two days of meetings, and now, finally Sonora Rising had left that morning. Te admired the woman following him up the stairs to Edwin’s room. Kade and Reid had taken off for town to restock the fridge, leaving him and Jacy with the chore of reporting to Edwin on the meeting. Pride filled him when he thought of how Jacy had handled things, assuring Sonora Rising that StarMyst remained in good hands, and presenting a strong front to the visiting Conclave. Te glanced at Jacy and smiled.SonoraRising got what they came here for—proof StarMyst remains as strong as ever. And he credited Jacy for pulling off the entire visit without a hitch. She was a veritable whirlwind,
entertaining the two women, and taking the men on tours of the farm. He appeared by her side, and her gentle touches communicated the silent message of their togetherness. Kade, Reid and Cord appeared when required, then disappeared, leaving the two of them with the sole responsibility of entertaining the visiting conclave. Te didn’t mind, even when, true to Edwin’s predictions, Wayne had proposed marriage. Jacy graciously declined and then twined her fingers with Te’s. It warmed his heart. Two days of innocent touching and no chance for much more. Thanks to Edwin’s teachings thelussor rode a dull roar in his blood instead of the inferno it might have been. Te knocked lightly on Edwin’s door before opening it. His foster-father lay in bed. Pain medication kept him sedated most of the time. Asleep, he gave the illusion of peace. Only when awake did Edwin show the true ravages of the disease inside him. His fragility made him appear a shadow of the man he once had been. Each day saw him slip a little further away. The harsh overhead light only seemed to make the tiny lines bracketing his eyes and lips more pronounced, signs he had not taken his medication to have this little talk. “How are you feeling?” Te asked, dreading the answer. He helped Edwin sit and arranged blankets around him before taking the chair closest to the bed. Jacy sat next to him. Te reached over and threaded her fingers with his. Jacy clutched at him as if he were a lifeline. He glanced at her and saw her eyes shine with unshed tears. Yesterday, Edwin had only been able to eat soft foods. Today he’d had a meal shake and two glasses of water. Jacy clenched his fingers. She knew as well as he did the limited days of their foster-father’s life. “Thank you for taking care of the Conclave,” he said. “You did an excellent job, Jacy. When Richard left he told me he was quite pleased with you two and he expected StarMyst to stand for many years to come. Thank you.” “You’re welcome,” Jacy said. She swallowed hard. “I would have done no less had you been there instead of Te. I don’t even think Wayne was too hurt by my refusal of his marriage proposal.” Her strained chuckle filled the room. “I know. You handled everything perfectly.” Edwin sighed. “Te, Richard tells me he thinks the Conclave will be in strong hands when I’m gone. I’m pleased to hear it. All our work will not be in vain.” A smile tilted the corners of his lips. Te nodded. The praise pleased him, but it sounded like Edwin was saying goodbye.Now that he knows StarMyst will be in good hands he’ll have no reason to stay. “We even had two new foals during the visit. Both fillies. I’ll be sure to have pictures brought up to you.” He wished he could hold Edwin to his life by sheer force of will. Sitting there discussing Conclave business with Edwin only cemented his belief Te would take over. In his heart, Te knew he couldn’t force his foster-father to stay, and even if he could, it wouldn’t be fair. “I look forward to seeing them.” Edwin looked from Jacy to Te, then back again. “You know Kade cannot be allowed to take over the Conclave. He seeks power for its own sake. He never was magically strong, not like either of you. If he tries to claim what isn’t his, it may break us all.” He coughed. The harsh rasping noises filled the room. Te leaned forward, supporting Edwin with a hand on his back and shoulder, then helped his foster-father take a drink. Edwin leaned back with a sigh. “There is a book. Kade doesn’t know about it, and you must not tell him. In the magic room, a secret panel beneath the circle. There you’ll find the sacred records of StarMyst passed down from mage to mage. I received the
book from my father, and he received it from his. When it is time, you will have access to the book, but only you, Te. Promise me you’ll get the book.” “I promise.” Te nodded solemnly. He’d seen the pictures of the StarMyst patriarchs hanging in Edwin’s library. Having Edwin tell him about the book only reminded him about the long heritage he’d become a part of when Edwin brought him home. Of course, back then the Conclave had been bigger, but as their parents died, one by one, the Conclave shrank to what it was today. The awesome responsibility weighed heavily on Te’s mind. “Jacy, you have been like a daughter to me, and I love you always. Your heart is your own. Do not let any mage—Kade, Te, no one—try to take it from you without your consent. Know I approve of whatever decisions you might make.” Edwin sipped water. Te looked at Jacy. Tears rolled down her cheeks. In his own way, Edwin said goodbye. Te tried not to think of the implications, of decisions that would need to be made. Grief constricted his throat, and he wrapped an arm around Jacy’s shoulders. She leaned against him and he cradled her against his shoulder. Dear, sweet Jacy whose heart filled with grief as he watched. He wanted to kiss away her tears and make her pain go away, but he couldn’t. Te swallowed hard and felt the sting of tears. His heart ached for Jacy and for a future without Edwin. “Thank you,” Jacy said, her voice choked with tears. She wiped her face with the back of her hand. “Te, I love you like a son. I’m so proud of you for coming back here. I know it wasn’t easy, but you did what you had to do. I told no one what happened between you and Jacy. If she can find it in her heart to forgive you for leaving, and you can forgive her for not telling you, then I can die a happy man.” “Don’t say that,” Jacy said. “You’re not going to die. Not yet.” Jacy’s tears dampened his shirt. “Oh Jacy, I wish it were so easy. My body is failing, and the last thing I want is to go to the next life without giving you my blessing.” He turned to Te. “Both of you. If there is one thing this dying old man wants it is to see both of you together and happy.” Jacy buried her face against Te’s shoulder. He kissed the top of her head.Cry for both of us, my darling. He fought against his own tears. “You don’t know how long I’ve wanted to hear you say that,” Te said. He rubbed Jacy’s arm, offering her comfort. “Thank you. It means a lot to me.” “I only wish I’d known what would happen when your parents died. I would have talked them into making me your guardian. Sadly, I learned that too late for you, though thankfully the others didn’t have to go through what you did. I’m sorry you had to suffer. I’m sorry you went through those foster homes. More sorry than you’ll ever know.” Edwin’s face contorted with pain. “Excuse me, I need to take my medicine.” Jacy bolted to her feet. She opened his pill bottles and handed him three white pills and a glass of water. Carefully, she held the glass while he drank, painfully swallowing the pills. Edwin sat back. “Go now. I will sleep for a while. Just remember everything I said.” Jacy nodded. Tucking the covers underneath Edwin’s chin, she pressed a kiss to his forehead. “I’ll
remember,” she said. She whirled away, but not before Te saw the sheen of fresh tears in her eyes. He gripped his foster-father’s hand. “Thank you. I won’t forget.” He stood and hugged Edwin the best he could. Edwin looked toward the empty door. “She’s quite the woman. This is going to be hard on her.” “On all of us,” Te said. He sighed, not wanting to break down in front of Edwin. He worried about so much. “It’ll be hard on all of us.” Forcing a smile, he turned and went in search of Jacy. Once outside Edwin’s room he sucked gulps of air. He struggled to hold his own grief at bay. Jacy needed his strength. The tears on her face twisted his heart into knots. He hated to see her suffer for any reason. With his own grief firmly under wraps, he went to her room. He opened the door, closing it behind him and adding a magical seal. He didn’t want any of the others to come looking for her. Jacy lay curled on the bed. She faced away from the door, her shoulders shaking with her sobs. Their sound wrenched his heart, and he went to the bed and sat down on the edge. “Jacy?” he laid his hand on her shoulder. “It’s me, Te.” She turned to him. Tearstains marred her cheeks. Her eyes started to turn red from crying, and she sniffed. “This is it, isn’t it? He’s not going to last much longer.” Te bit his lip. Her soft words pulled at something deep inside him. Instead of answering, he folded Jacy into his arms. She nestled against his chest, then clutched at his arms and cried. Tears rained down her cheeks, tears of loss and tears of grief. Te cradled her, rubbing her back and crooning to her like he might to a scared filly. “I can’t do this.” His chest muffled her words. “I can’t go on, knowing he’s going to die. What’s going to happen? What will happen once you go away too?” Te closed his eyes as silent tears fell down his cheeks. “I’m not going anywhere, honey.” He caressed the side of her face, running his fingers over her tear-slick cheeks, and rested his finger underneath her chin. Jacy shook her head. Te tilted her chin so she looked into his eyes. He laid his soul bare. With tears rolling down his cheeks, his heart breaking at the imminent death of his foster-father, he stared at the woman he loved. Loved. Something blossomed deep inside his soul. He loved Jacy. “I’m not going anywhere, Jacy. I’ll stay here for as long as you want me.” He brushed his lips across hers. In his arms, Jacy shivered. “And if I don’t want you?” Te tensed, fearing the worst. He flashed back to his childhood, standing on the steps of the foster agency. “Why don’t they want me?” he’d asked the social worker. She’d smiled and spouted platitudes, but deep inside he knew no one loved him. Jacy’s words poked at old scabs, and he prayed they would hold. “I’ll stay anyway.” Te forced a grin on his face. “I’m too stubborn to leave.” Jacy chuckled.
His heart warmed to have given her that measure of levity. “Oh, Te.” She laid her hand flat against his chest, his heart thudding beneath her palm. “You would, wouldn’t you? You’d pester me day and night until I agreed to take you back.” “With eyes like a lost little puppy,” he said. “I’m sorry for leaving all those years ago. I panicked. It was wrong, and if there is anything I could ever do to erase the hurt I caused, I would. You rocked my world, Jacy.” His fingers slid along the column of her neck to stroke her shoulder. He dragged his hand over the edge of her breast, his thumb brushing against her nipple. Jacy shivered. “You offered me the one thing I wasn’t worthy of. Your body. Your heart. Your virginity.” He realized he’d named three things, and didn ’t care. He stroked her nipple, loving the way her lips parted and a heady gaze filled her eyes. “But now that I have you, I’m not planning on letting go.”
Jacy stared into Te’s eyes, not quite believing the words falling from his lips. She dreamed of his apology, had rehearsed how it would go in her mind. Never, did she imagine it happening so close to Edwin’s death. Te’s heartfelt words shook her. She wanted to say something, to do something to mark the momentous occasion, and then his fingers brushed over her nipple. It tightened beneath his touch. Her body hummed. She wanted more, and her pussy grew hot and wet from his casual caresses. She moved her palm over his chest, pausing to draw circles around one beaded male nipple. “I should have told you.” She leaned forward and pressed a kiss against the side of his jaw. Rising in his arms, she rubbed her body against his and nearly moaned aloud at the delightful friction. If anything could cement his revelation it was the coming together of two bodies with love. “Yeah, you should have.” He nibbled the side of her neck. “I could have made it better for you.” He latched onto her earlobe and sucked gently. Jacy moaned. “It was perfect,” she whispered. She trailed her fingers over his chest down toward the waistband of his jeans. His muscles fluttered beneath her touch. Reaching around him, she clutched his strong shoulders and used his strength to anchor her. His lips and tongue played along her earlobe, the side of her neck, dipping into the hollow behind her ear. He tugged on her shirt. Jacy released him and held her hands over her head. He leaned away long enough for him to toss her shirt away and reach behind her to unhook her bra. Her breasts spilled free, and he feasted on them with his eyes. He caressed her, gently circling her nipples until he bent his head and drew one beaded tip into his mouth and sucked. With his tongue stroking her and the moist heat of his mouth surrounding her, Jacy clutched his shoulders. Her pussy ached for his touch, hot and wet and ready. His reverent touch shook her, bringing a flood of emotion to the surface. Tears shone in her eyes, and she blinked them away, not wanting Te to receive the wrong message. He loved her. He had to, for otherwise his touch wouldn’t be so gentle, so giving against her skin. Almost as if he told her with actions, instead of words. He grazed her nipple with his teeth, the pleasure pain sizzling through her. Jacy coaxed thelussor from deep within her and unfurled it over Te. He shuddered at the seduction of power as her need wrapped around him and held him tight. His ownlussor , far less controlled than her own, washed over her body, igniting her wherever it touched. She gasped as he drew her nipple deep into his mouth and sucked hard. “Te, please.” With shaking fingers, she unbuttoned his shirt, shoving it away from his magnificent chest.
Her fingers splayed over the hard muscles of his pectorals, the staccato beat of his heart pounding beneath her palm. She wanted him inside her. She stroked the line of hair between his pecs, following it down over his navel to where it disappeared into his jeans. His cock rode hard behind the denim. She unbuttoned his jeans. Never letting go of her breast, Te dropped his hands to hers and stilled the lowering of his zipper. Te buried his face between her breasts and drew a shuddering breath. “You make me so hard, honey. I want to fuck you so hard I drive the thought of anyone else from your mind.” “Then do it.” Jacy pulled her hands from beneath his and unfastened her jeans. She pulled away from him long enough to slide jeans and panties over her legs and kick them aside. Fully naked, she returned to the bed. She leaned against him, drawing her breasts over his chest. She licked his earlobe, catching it between her teeth. “You want to feel how wet I am? How hot I am for your cock?” She circled her fingers around his wrist and drew his hand to her pussy. Pressing it against her, she ground herself against his fingers until they slipped inside her wet folds. Te slid two fingers into her. Jacy moaned and clenched her vaginal muscles around him. He finger-fucked her, pressing his thumb against her clit. “Oh please.” Jacy slid back until her ass rested on the bed and she wrapped her legs around his hips. “Please.” Her hips rose to meet his fingers, and when he added a third, her breath caught in her throat. He stretched her, stroked the deepest part of her, and yet she still wasn’t satisfied. He pulled away, making her whimper. “Just a moment, honey. I’m a bit overdressed.” She watched through half-lidded eyes as he stepped from his jeans. His cock sprang free, rising to nearly touch his stomach. She stared at the vein-lined shaft and licked her lips. He stood before her, not a randy twenty-year-old, but a man full grown and in complete control of his body. Spreading her legs, she watched him come to her with a cocky swagger in his gait. Te grabbed her ankles. He lifted her legs, pressing her knees toward her chest as he crawled across the bed. Spreading her open, he lowered his face between her legs, then slowly drew his hands over her calves and down her thighs until he could stroke her outer lips. “You’re so wet for me, Jacy. Damn.” He parted her labia and blew a breath of air across her clit. Jacy shuddered. She closed her eyes, head falling back as pleasure radiated through her body. Aching for his touch, she cupped her breasts in her hands and slid her fingers across her nipples. He watched her, and then he lowered his lips to her. A swipe of his tongue across her sex sent shudders vibrating through her body, and when he wrapped his lips around her clit and sucked, she couldn’t stop the scream of pleasure that ripped from her. Her hands slid across her belly to twine in his hair, holding his face to her as his tongue stroked her, sliding into her channel and licking her inner walls. Sparks danced behind her eyes as her body tightened, readying for climax. Arching her hips, she wanted him deeper, harder inside her, and her body tightened as she came. She pulsed beneath his lips and tongue, her pussy flooding with moisture. He lapped it up, and when she finished, rose over her, once again holding her ankles so she was nearly bent in two.
Jacy bit her lip. Her pussy ached, begging to be stretched full by him. Complete. That was what she wanted, the full-bodied completeness of Te’s cock buried deep inside her. And suddenly he probed at her opening, her juices slick and welcoming. He slid in, filling her farther than she’d been filled before. He buried himself balls-deep inside her, his head brushing against her womb, his balls pressed against her ass. Jacy clenched her vaginal muscles around him, and the groan vibrating from his chest warmed her. She wiggled her hips against him. He slid out slowly, so slowly she thought she might die from the exquisite torture of his body moving against hers. With just the head of his cock inside her, he pushed forward until he was sheathed deep. He tortured her. She wanted him hard and fast. Bucking her hips, she tried to force him deeper, but with a masculine chuckle, Te held himself still. Jacy worked herself on his cock, moving back and forth to find the delicious rhythm she craved. Her skin burned. Her nipples tingled. Te pulled out once more. Jacy whimpered, the void he left behind aching to be filled. He surged forward. “Yes,” she hissed from between clenched teeth as he pounded into her. Out and in he fucked her like a man possessed, like she wanted to be fucked. Her body tightened. She came, her muscles convulsing around him. Shudders raced through her body. Power, like sparks, surrounded her, and she bit her lip hard enough to draw blood as she fought to scream the power of her release. Te held her tight. He thrust into her willing flesh, burying his shaft deeply. His cock head brushed her womb, and Jacy shivered. Again and again he slid into her, her wet warmth surrounding him like a cocoon. Power flowed over his skin. He shivered with it, the hair on his arms and neck rising with the electric energy in the air. His body tightened and with a surge he came. Jacy held him tight. Burying her face against his chest, she waited for him to expel the last of his seed into her, then followed him as he rolled to the side. Te held her. With his arms wrapped around her, and pressed against his body, Jacy knew he would be her bulwark in any storm. He’d protect her like Jazz protected his mares. A contented smile crossed her lips and she snuggled closer to Te. Chapter Eight
From the kitchen, the sounds of sizzling eggs and popping grease wafted into the dining room along with the smell of bacon. Biscuits baked in the oven. Floorboards creaked behind her, and Jacy smiled. Te’s presence shone like a beacon, his sorcerer powers evident to any with the talent. She forced herself to ignore him as he crossed the kitchen and stopped behind her. Brushing aside her hair, he pressed a kiss against the nape of her neck. “Breakfast smells good,” he said. “You smell good.” “I smell like bacon.” Jacy plucked at the blue denim apron covering her from neck to knee. “It’s bacon!” Te murmured as he nibbled her jawline.
Jacy turned her head until her lips found his. She drank from him, his kiss moving across her mouth, his tongue sliding in between her parted lips. Setting the spatula down on the counter, she reached up and twined her fingers in his hair and pulled him to her. A low moan rumbled through Te’s chest. Jacy shivered. Her tongue stroked his, drawing it into her mouth so she could suck on it. His hand slid up her side to cup her breast. The smells and sounds of cooking faded away beneath Te’s lips. Behind them someone cleared his throat. Jacy pulled away. She felt the heat radiating from her cheeks, a flush of passion rather than embarrassment, and her lips felt bruised from Te’s heart-stopping kiss. She flashed him a promising smile, then turned to face the intruder. “Is breakfast ready yet?” Kade asked. Jacy fought against the frown tugging at her lips. “There’re platters on the counter, Kade, if you’re hungry. I’ll be finishing this batch in a moment.” She turned back to Te. Standing on tiptoe, she pressed her lips against his. “Later,” she whispered. “Later,” Te mouthed. He caressed her ass as he walked to the counter and picked up a large plate and began filling it. Kade shot them both dirty looks, then filled his plate and retreated to the dining room. Jacy turned her attention back to her cooking. Kade had grown increasingly intolerable. With the rapid decline in Edwin’s condition, he’d made it well known he wanted StarMyst and he wanted Te gone. Pursing her lips, she turned the bacon. When it came to Kade, he was a powder keg ready to blow. ***** Jacy leaned against the fence watching the mares and their new foals play in the paddock. A little chestnut filly wandered away from its dam toward her, and Jacy extended her hand to let the foal place its soft muzzle against her palm. She sniffed, then wheeled around returning to the safety of her mother’s side. Jacy grinned. A bay colt with a perfect diamond on his forehead cantered around the paddock, kicking up his heels with boisterous energy. Within the gangly limbs and large foal head she saw the lines of a champion. A hand closed around her shoulder. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Kade roared. Jacy whirled around. Kade stood inches in front of her, and she fought the urge to back up. His larger frame dwarfed her. His angry glare raked over her body like grubby fingers mauling her. Disgust filled her. “What the hell do you thinkyou’re doing?” She pressed her hand against Kade’s chest and pushed— hard. “Get away from me!” Kade stumbled backwards. Power surged too quickly for Jacy to counter and whipped her against the fence. The edge of the boards bit into her flesh. Jacy bit her lip to keep from crying out. Balling her fist,
she gathered power. “You don’t want to fight me.” Jacy forced herself not to lash out at him. In the barn the day Te arrived, she’d felt the depth of her anger. She refused to do something she’d regret later. The responsibility weighed heavily on her shoulders and only Edwin’s teachings kept her from searing him where he stood. “Now what the fuck was that for?” Jacy stepped forward, balled fists at her sides. “You’re fucking Te.” Kade moved closer. “All these months and I would have happily fed thelussor . That prick comes back and you tumble into bed with him again! Don’t think I’m stupid, Jacy. I know what happened when he left before. He got a little piece and decided he couldn’t deal. I was here. I could have dealt, but you would have rather had the unwanted troublemaker than me.” “That’s not fair! Te had a different childhood than we did. Besides, you’re just jealous.” Jacy lunged at Kade. She punched him, her fist flying into his jaw. It didn’t take magic to get her point across. “You bastard! Go away!” “You can’t be rid of me that easily.” Kade reached for her. “Kade, no!” Reid’s yell cut across the yard. Jacy whirled and saw him walking from the barn. Kade whirled to face his brother. With an angry glare, he shot a bolt of power at his less-magically endowed little brother. Reid flew into the air and slammed against the side of the barn. He crumpled to the ground. Jacy started to run toward him, but a hand on her arm stopped her. “You’re mine. You’ve always been mine,” Kade growled. He shoved her to the ground. Air whooshed from her lungs as she dropped to the hard turf. She kicked at Kade, hoping to connect with his knee or groin. He caught her foot, and spreading her legs, he dropped between them. Jacy released her pent-up rage and power. Kade staggered, eyes wide, as the energy thrust him aside. He toppled on the grass. Jacy scurried to her feet as Kade rose. He grabbed her shoulders and hurled her backwards. Her head hit the bottom rung of the fence. The loud crack echoed in the yard. Stars swum before Jacy’s vision and the last thing she felt was Kade’s hand on her breast.
Power crackled, punctuating the shouts filling the air. Te stepped onto the porch, a dishtowel clutched in his hands. He took in the sight—Jacy’s limp form on the ground and Kade bending over her. Dropping the towel, he bolted from the porch.I lost her once. I won’t lose her again. His stomach clenched. He drew power from the ground as he ran, ready for an all-out assault on the bastard who dared hurt Jacy. Red tinged his vision. Extending his hands, he shot a burst of power at Kade. The man jerked, but remained bent over Jacy. “No!” Te roared. He skidded to a stop and wrapped his fingers around Kade’s collar, hauling him off Jacy’s supine body. A glance at her still figure told him she’d been knocked cold by the blow to the head and his stomach churned.
Te punched Kade. The left hook sent the other man tottering, and he stumbled as Te rained blow after blow on his body. “If you’ve hurt her, I’ll kill you,” he roared. He vented his rage on Kade’s form. He crumpled to the ground. With a burst of energy, Te wrapped him in a shield and raced back to Jacy’s side. He knelt, a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. Her eyes were closed, her lashes fanned out against pale cheeks. Reaching down, he caressed her cool skin. “Jacy. Jacy, wake up!” He bent over and kissed her lips. She remained still. “Jacy! Damn it, Jacy, wake up!” He searched for broken bones and found none. Sliding his hand behind her head, he pulled away bloody fingers. A moan sounded by the barn. Turning, Te watched Reid struggle to his feet. Within his shield, Kade roared and screamed epithets at him. Te didn’t care. Gingerly, he slid his arms beneath Jacy and, cradling her to his chest, carried her back to the house. “This isn’t over yet,” Kade yelled. Te ignored him. He’d hurt Jacy. A fierce need to protect her filled him. Once he cared for her, he’d come back out, and Kade had damn well better not be on StarMyst property when he did, because pummeling Kade wouldn’t be enough. Not for hurting Jacy. The force of his anger shocked him. “I can’t stand to lose you,” he whispered to the still figure in his arms. “Not again.” He took the stairs two at a time, carrying her up to her bedroom. Te laid her down on the bed, crooning to her as if she were a wounded filly. He hurried into the bathroom and grabbed towels and bandages. Setting those beside Jacy, he picked up the phone and punched in the number to Edwin’s doctor. She’d know how to handle Jacy. He bandaged her head, all the while talking to her. “Jacy, please don’t leave me. Wake up, Jacy. It’s all right. You’re in your room, and I’ll keep you safe.” He repeated the words over and over again, hoping his reassurances would coax her back to consciousness. Jacy moaned. “Jacy! Oh please, baby, wake up.” He laid his hand on her shoulder and pressed a kiss to her cheek, but her eyes remained closed. She groaned in pain. The front door slammed. “Where the hell are you, Te? Jacy’s mine!” Footsteps echoed downstairs. Te stiffened. “I’m sorry, baby.” Pressing a kiss against Jacy’s cheek, Te rose to his feet.
He ducked into Edwin’s room long enough to see his foster-father in a drugged sleep, then darted downstairs. Kade stood in the middle of the living room, hands on his hips. “You can’t take Jacy away from me.” “No one is ‘taking’ Jacy. She’s a grown woman and does what she wants, in case you haven’t noticed.” Te stepped forward. “If you’re going to fight me, let’s take this outside. I don’t want to disturb Edwin or Jacy.” His thoughts darted upstairs where the woman he loved lay unconsciousness. The front door opened and the doctor stepped in. Te sighed with relief. “She’s upstairs in her room. She hasn’t woken up.” The doctor nodded. “If you can’t help, get the hell out. I don’t want you disturbing my patients—either of them.” “That’s exactly what I told Kade.” Te glared at him, and the other man backed slowly out the door. Te watched him, torn between racing outside to beat the snot out of Kade or rushing upstairs and hovering as the doctor examined Jacy. One look at the competent woman made up his mind. “Let me know if there’s anything I can do. Hopefully I’ll be back before you’re finished, but he will not hurt Jacy ever again.” The doctor nodded and hurried up the stairs. Te stormed outside after Kade. Shouting voices came from near the corral. Reid wobbled on his feet as he faced down his brother. “I can’t believe you hurt her. You hurt, Jacy.” Reid glanced at Te. “Everything would have been all right if you hadn’t shown up.” Anger and hurt laced his words. “We’re not going to do this.” With a thought, Te surrounded Kade in a sphere of energy. Kade pounded and yelled, but not even his voice penetrated the wavering wall of power. “As for you, Reid, you should have seen this coming. You should have seen the power-drunk madman your brother was becoming.” He sucked in a deep breath, staving off the urge to deck Reid. Anything Reid might have done came from his own love of Jacy and his brother. Te knew he couldn’t blame Reid for this, no matter how tempting it might be. Planting his hands on his hips, Te stared at the two brothers. He turned and faced Reid. “You go inside and clean up. As much as I may want to, as long as Jacy lives, I’m not going to kill your brother. The doc is looking at Jacy. When she’s done, I want her to look at you. That’s a nasty blow you have to your face.” Already a large, purplish bruise formed around Reid’s eye, and he stood as wobbly as a newborn foal. Reid nodded. “You won’t hurt Kade?” Te shook his head. “Only as much as he’s hurt Jacy.” With a thought, he directed a bolt of power into his shield and Kade screamed wordlessly as pain flowed through his body. Te flicked his fingers and another bolt twisted Kade’s face into a grimace as his body bucked in the current of power. “I told you to go to the house!” “Is Jacy going to be all right?” For the first time, Reid sounded worried. Te swallowed hard. He fought against a well of pain deep inside him. Right now she lay on her bed with
the doctor tending to her. He shrugged off a feeling of hopelessness. “I hope so. Fuck, I hope so.” He expelled a breath. “Go, let the doctor take a look at you. You were trying to protect Jacy against your brother. Kade was trying to hurt Jacy. I don’t know about you, but I think he deserves to fry.” Te staved off his anger. If he wanted to he could turn Kade into a charred corpse, but doing so wouldn’t help Jacy and it wouldn’t help the Conclave. Reid cast a disgusted look at his brother. “Don’t kill him. Leave some for me.” Spitting blood and saliva on the ground, he limped to the house. Te turned toward Kade. “I should kill you, you son of a bitch.” He channeled his anger into his power, leveling another white-hot bolt of energy at Kade. The man screamed and crumpled to the ground. Te dropped the shields. “Do you still think Jacy belongs to you?” Kade groaned. Te kicked his ribs hard enough to feel flesh and bone break beneath the toe of his boot. “I asked you a question. Do you still think Jacy’s yours?” “Take the bitch.” Te slammed the toe of his boot into the man’s knee, feeling it pop beneath the pressure. “What’d you call Jacy?” “Nothin’.” Kade spat blood from his lips. “Take her. I give up.” The three words should have filled Te with elation. Instead, he stared at Kade with disgust. “You’re not fit to lead the Conclave. Get out of here. Leave now. Don’t come back into the house. Get the fuck off StarMyst property and stay off!” He kicked Kade again for good measure, then turned and ran to the house. He had better things to worry about, like Jacy. Te nearly hit the front porch at a dead run. He stopped himself as he opened the door and saw the doctor applying a salve to a cut on Reid’s face. He halted. The doctor looked up. “How is she?” “Resting. She came to shortly after I began my examination. She should probably have some bed rest, but I don’t think she has a concussion. Make sure you change the bandage on her head, but she’ll be fine. She’s a tough lady.” The doctor capped the tube and placed it back in her bag. “You’ll be all right,” she said to Reid. “I’d also advise rest for you. Don’t work too hard, but you should be fine.” “And Edwin?” Te asked, afraid the ruckus might have disturbed his rest. “He’s still sleeping. That’s a hefty dose of morphine we’re giving him. I don’t think he even noticed.” “Thank you.” Te started toward the stairs.
“Te, wait,” Reid said. Te stopped and turned toward the younger man. “Jacy loves you. It’s in her eyes when she looks at you. Hell, it’s plain as day on her face. If you hurt one hair on her head, what you did to Kade will be nothing compared to what I do to you.” Te nodded, certain Reid meant every word. Reid stared at him with a determined glint in his eyes. “It’s nothing compared to what I’d do to myself, Reid. Why don’t you rest? I can take over chores for the next couple of days and it won’t hurt the horses to exercise themselves.” Turning, he took the steps two at a time to reach the woman he loved. Upstairs, he paused outside Jacy’s door. He loved her. He’d always known it. In the back of his mind, he knew he’d never truly stopped loving Jacy. He nearly lost her. The depth of his feelings humbled him, and he slowly opened the door. Jacy rested on the bed, her eyes closed, her lips slightly parted in sleep. Closing the door, he sat down on the edge of the bed, removed his boots, and crawled in beside her, cradling her in his arms. Nestled against her body, he thought only of holding Jacy. Jacy stirred. “Te,” she said. Her eyes fluttered open. “I’m here, Jacy. I’ll always be here.” Te pressed a kiss to Jacy’s forehead. She smiled and snuggled against him. “I love you,” he whispered. “Love you too,” Jacy murmured, then her deep, even breaths told him she’d fallen asleep in his arms. He looked down at her, wanting to pump a fist in the air and shout in triumph. She said she loved him. Jacy loved him. Instead, he held her close to his heart and said a silent thank-you to the man in the other room who had called him back to StarMyst. ***** Like a wisp of smoke from a fire, Kade had left. His presence hadn’t been seen on the farm for three days, but Te felt his absence in the stony glares Reid gave him. Jacy seemed distant, and although he spent as much time with her as he could, he sensed her withdrawal He tried to question her on it, but she only said the fight rattled her. He didn’t doubt it, but couldn’t help but wondering whether his exercise of power had hurt her more than Kade’s blows. Had he shown her a side of him she couldn’t live with? By driving away their brother, even though he’d acted like a bastard, had he forced Jacy away too? Te didn’t have the answers, and he didn’t like it. Staring at the book he’d been trying to read, he realized he had been reviewing the same paragraph over and over again. Closing the leather-bound volume on control of thelussor ,one of many on a list Edwin had given him, he stood and rolled his shoulders. The sound of laughter drifted from the kitchen. Jacy’s laughter. Te smiled. It’d been a while since he had heard her laugh. The thought pulled the corners of his lips down into a frown, and he strode from the library, curious as to what would make her chuckle so lightheartedly.
He exhaled a deep sigh and tried to banish the dark thoughts of Kade and the fight from his mind. It was over and done with—not even Reid knew where his brother had gone. The apartment in town remained vacant. Te knew he couldn’t call Kade back and demand a do-over, and frankly, he didn’t want to. That bastard hurt Jacy. She was still recovering. Jacy chuckled again, the light notes of her laughter mingling with Reid’s chuckle. What were the two of them doing in the kitchen? A flush of anger filled him, quickly banked, when he thought of his unsuccessful attempts to cheer her. Now, seemingly out of nowhere, Reid had her laughing. Te battled jealousy over Reid doing something he couldn’t do himself. Upstairs, Edwin lay in a drug-induced sleep, his time growing shorter each day. Telling himself he needed a break and wasn’t worried about Reid being alone with Jacy, Te strode from the library. The smells of warm sugar cookies fresh from the oven filled the air. His stomach rumbled. Baking cookies, a tradition at StarMyst. Memories of Edwin and him baking cookies, with Jacy and Kade sitting on stools in front of the counter decorating them, filled his mind. Te blinked at the sudden sting of tears. It seemed so far away. So much had happened, and he tucked the memory away like a cherished treasure. The kitchen grew quiet. Te paused in the hallway, a prickling feeling along the back of his neck told him he would only interrupt. The laughter had died away, leaving an empty silence in its place. Whispered words, too faint to discern, filtered from the kitchen. Feeling like he should turn around and return to the library, Te stepped forward. He paused in the doorway of the kitchen. Reid rested his head on Jacy’s shoulders, and she rubbed his back. Soft masculine sobs filled the room. With her head bent, Jacy’s hair obscured her face, but saw her shoulders shaking as if she, too, were crying. He fought against a stab of jealousy that he couldn’t be the one to comfort Jacy, but looking at them, he wondered who comforted whom. “Shh, it’s all right,” Jacy whispered. “I’m sure Kade will return when he’s ready. You’re his brother. He can’t leave you.” Her soft words tightened the noose of guilt around his heart. His actions and his actions alone had driven Kade away. “I’ve lost my brother,” Reid said, his words muffled by his sobs and Jacy’s shirt. “And now I’m going to lose Edwin too.” Te’s throat tightened. He knew exactly how Reid felt.I lost my parents, and now I’m going to lose my foster-father. If I had siblings, damn it, it would hurt like hell to lose them too.I’m such an ass. A fucking, conceited ass to come back here and take over as if nothing had happened. A small voice in the back of his mind reminded him Edwin wanted him as his Second. He tried not to think about the disaster they all knew Kade would make of the Conclave as its ruler. A hunger for power and the magical arts didn’t work well together. Te stepped back. Beneath his boot a floorboard creaked. Jacy turned her head, and he caught the full force of her tearstained gaze. In her eyes, love shone. A longing so strong, he nearly stepped forward to embrace her in his arms. Only the sight of Reid stopped him. Te swallowed hard. He wanted to do something, anything to ease the pain he knew both of them felt. “I’m sorry,” he mouthed, not daring to speak aloud and alert Reid to his presence. “I’m so, so sorry.”
Jacy nodded slightly, then turned her attention to the grieving man in her arms. She loved him like a brother.Te repeated the thought to himself like a mantra as he turned on his heel and walked outside. He tried to convince himself he hadn’t done anything wrong, but as he stepped beneath the brilliant sunshine to do afternoon chores, he wondered why he felt like such a jerk. Chapter Nine
Jacy’s attention wandered far from the kitchen and Reid. Te’s soulful “I’m sorry,” made her ache for his heavy responsibilities. Jacy suppressed a shudder at the thought of Kade’s hands on her flesh. Te didn’t need to apologize, he’d saved her. Reid stepped out of the circle of her arms and swiped the back of his hand across his cheeks. “You probably think I’m a wuss for crying.” Sorrow choked his voice. Jacy smiled softly. “No, I don’t. You’re going through a lot. We all are. I’m sorry Kade had to leave, but you have to admit it’s the best for StarMyst.” “Uh-huh.” Reid grabbed a can of soda from the refrigerator door. He took a long swig before speaking. “I can’t say I’m happy about it, but you’re right. He wouldn’t have run StarMyst as well as Edwin. But damn it, Te didn’t have to run him off.” “Te didn’t run him off.” A muscle jumped in her jaw, and Jacy fought against the anger spiraling inside her. “Your brother tried to rape me. He thought I was his broodmare. You were there. Hell, Reid, you tried to stop it. I’m sorry Kade’s gone.” She clenched and unclenched her hands in a futile attempt to keep her temper under control.I shouldn’t lash out at him. Just because he’s finally given in to his grief over Edwin doesn’t mean I should vent my anger at him. I hurt too. I don’t want Edwin to die. But he is, and we need someone competent running StarMyst. She didn’t dare voice her thoughts. Instead, she grabbed her lukewarm bottle of water from the counter and clenched it in her fist. “I’m going out to the barn to check on the babies. I’ll be back in time for supper.” She hoped Reid remembered he had to cook tonight, and she hoped he made something other than frozen pizza. “Don’t worry. I won’t forget to cook.” He grabbed a large cookbook off the counter and made a show of looking through the recipes. “The doctor said she’d be around this afternoon to check on Edwin. She shouldn’t need anything.” Usually she stayed in the house to deal with the doctor, but right now she wanted to be outside—with Te. Without waiting for an answer, she strode out the back door. Jacy’s thoughts turned toward the man she hoped to meet in the barn. Te had looked so torn when he left. Jacy wanted to wrap him in her arms and comfort him.If we ran StarMyst together, I could help him with things like this. He could lean on me, and I on him. His tender admission of love touched her, and she hoped she had replied aloud.I was so out of it, I don’t know if I only thought the words or said them. She loved Te Mulligan. She had always loved him.Jarrod was right. I never did get over him.
Jacy paused in the barn aisle. Te leaned against a stall door, Spot’s head resting on his shoulder. The gelding lipped at Te’s long hair. Te chuckled and patted the gelding. Jacy stepped forward. Straw crunched beneath her foot, and Te turned. “Jacy.” In the single word he uttered, Jacy heard his regrets that he didn’t get to her sooner, his fear that Kade might have actually done something, and his love. Jacy walked to him. She said nothing, just kept her gaze focused on his face. His shirt stretched across his broad shoulders, and she knew if she dropped her gaze to his trim hips and long legs, she’d find herself wanting to make love to him. She restrained herself, wanting to offer comfort instead of sex. Jacy stopped before him and laid her hand on his shoulder. “It’s all right. I should have seen it coming.” “Oh Jacy.” Te enfolded her in his arms, and she rested her head against his broad chest. The steady beat of his heart lulled her, and the crisp cotton radiated his body heat to her. She brushed her legs with his, and even through two pairs of denim, the raw strength in his body awed her. She hugged tighter and squeezed her eyes closed. She wished the world would fade away, leaving the two of them in each other’ s arms. Slowly, Te released her. His hands lingered on her waist. “Are you all right? How are you feeling?” Jacy looked up at him. “I’m back to normal,” she said. “I didn’t come out here to talk about me. We need to talk about StarMyst.” Te stiffened. “About StarMyst.” He spoke slowly, as if he didn’t believe her words. “What are we going to do when Edwin’s gone? You’re his Second. You’ll take over. But it won’t be a seamless transition. There will be things to do, stuff to think about. We have to talk it over.” Jacy exhaled. Te remained wary. His fingers slipped from her waist, and she regretted the loss of contact. Reaching up, she closed her hand around his biceps. His silence worried her. She studied his face, her gaze following the cords of his neck to the dusting of black hair visible in the open throat of his shirt. She licked her lips. “Jacy, don’t.” Hislussor brushed against her. “If you want to finish this conversation, don’t look at me like that.” Her gaze followed the line of buttons down to where they ended at the waistband of his jeans. The bulge of his cock behind his fly told her hislussor wasn’t the only thing that had risen. She trailed her hand down his arm. He threaded his fingers with hers, hauling her against his chest. Jacy gasped. “If you’re beside me, the rest doesn’t matter,” Te growled a moment before he kissed her. His tongue delved into her mouth. It swept across hers, retreating and thrusting again like a miniature cock in her mouth. Her nipples hardened against his chest, the feel of his hard, lean body against hers sending shivers down her spine. She reeled from the intensity of his kiss. His lips branded her, possessed her, and she wanted more.
A stall door pressed against her back. When had they moved? Jacy clung to Te. She cupped the back of his neck, pressing him closer to her. On tiptoe, she touched him from knees to lips. Te caressed her back. His hands slid over her shirt, tugging it free of her jeans. One swipe, and he slid his hand beneath it, his palm splayed on her bare back. Thelussor wrapped around her like steel bands and pressed her closer to the heat of Te’s body. She needed nothing more than the touch of Te’s lips on hers to keep her pressed to him, but thelussor sliding over her flesh felt so good. It had been long, too long since she’d felt the touch of sorcery against her skin. Only Te. Jarrod didn’t matter now, because in her heart, there had only ever been Te. Jacy moaned. Te nibbled along her jawbone, tongued the sensitive place behind her ear, then drew her earlobe into his mouth. He sucked. Her head fell back and her leg wrapped around his hips. His hand slid around her ribs to brush the underneath of her breast. “Te,” Jacy whispered. She clung to him, her hands roaming over his broad shoulders, down his back to slide beneath the waistband of his jeans. Bracing her against the stall door, he removed her shirt and bra. Thelussordidn’t ask, it demanded. Jacy arched against him. Her fingers fumbled on his buttons and with a savage growl, she yanked his shirt open. Buttons spilled in all directions, ricocheting from the stall door. Sliding her hands up his chest, she shoved his shirt from his shoulders. With his hips, Te pinned her and let his shirt fall down his arms. He unfastened her jeans. Now. Moving against him, feeling the ridge of his erection pushing against her pussy, Jacy wanted to feel the thrust of his body in hers. With glorious abandon, she flung thelussor from her in strands, feeling it caress their skin. Te dipped his head to her nipple and suckled, a low groan emanating from his throat. Jacy caressed him. Her hands branded a path where they touched. Flicking her fingers over his hardened nipples, she reveled in the shudder coursing through his body. Jacy leaned forward and pressed her lips to his skin. He tasted of passion and musk. The scents of hay and leather combined with Te’s own scent to heighten her senses. He slid her down until her feet touched the ground, long enough to push her jeans and panties over her hips. Jacy kicked her sneakers off and wiggled out of her jeans. Her hands reached for him, and Te quickly removed his own clothing. He stood in the barn aisle gloriously, beautifully nude. His cock stood at attention, a single drop of fluid forming on the tip. Jacy reached for him. Skin against skin, she rubbed her breasts against his chest. Springy chest hair brushed her nipples, and she nibbled a path along Te’s jaw to his lips. He kissed her, his tongue delving into her mouth. Backing her against the wooden stall door, the bite of boards into her flesh only increased her passion. She wrapped her legs around his waist. Te rubbed the head of his cock against her, teasing her with its nearness. Arching her hips, Jacy tried to drag him closer. She needed him inside her, needed to be complete. “Please,” she moaned as he brushed her clit. “Te, please.” He thrust forward, burying himself in her. Pleasure filled her body, thelussor sighing as two beings
merged into completeness. Te held himself still. He looked down in her eyes and brushed a kiss across her lips. “I want to remember this moment.” Jacy blinked back a sting of happy tears. Sucking in a breath, she pressed a kiss to the hollow of his throat. “Forever,” she sighed. Then he moved. Slowly at first, as if he savored each thrust into her warm, tight pussy, then harder, faster. Jacy rode him, each stroke taking her higher. Clenching her muscles around him, she vowed to hold him there forever. And then he took a nipple into his mouth. The tug of his lips shot straight to her core, and she moaned. His teeth scraped her tender flesh. She came. Like lightning, her climax shot through her body, her pussy contracting around him as if to milk him dry. In his arms, she shuddered, her keening wail startling the horses. Te groaned. He held her tight, lips fastened to her nipple, hands tight around her waist, and fucked her. Harder and faster until she came again. Stars flashed behind her eyes. Clinging to Te, she willed his release, wanting him to experience the soul-shattering completion she’d just felt. At last, he stiffened and with a roar, emptied himself into her. Jacy clung to him, feeling his warm seed filling her. She relished his tight embrace. Then he relaxed his hold, cradling her against his chest. She rested there, both of them breathing heavily from their spent passion. Standing naked in the barn aisle didn’t bother her. In Te’s arms, she felt protected and cherished.
After cleaning up in the tack room bathroom, Jacy invited him on a walk. Strolling through pastures lush with grass, his hand in hers, Te refused to fight the serenity wrapping him in a warm cocoon. In the distance, a horse whinnied. The answering calls brought a smile to his face. With the woman he loved beside him and knowing that Edwin trusted him to care for this piece of paradise, Te realized he’d never really felt as much at home as he did at StarMyst. Once again, Cord absented himself from the homestead, and Te wondered what the secretive man would think of his actions. In the end it didn’t matter. Edwin placed Te in charge. He smoothed the lines he felt furrowing his brow and vowed not to let anything intrude on this idyllic moment. Jacy squeezed his hand. She glanced at him, a soft smile on her face. Out there with the wind tousling strands of her hair, the sunlight bright above her, he thought he’d never seen a more beautiful creature. He stopped, pulling Jacy close to him. Bending down, he brushed his lips across her forehead. “You’re beautiful.” He punctuated his words with another kiss. A pink flush crept over her cheeks. Next to him, she shivered. Sated, thelussor remained dormant and, with a grin, Te curled his fingers in the air, conjuring a bouquet of daisies. He handed them to her as her blush deepened. “You shouldn’t have.” She smelled the flowers, closing her eyes as their perfume surrounded them. “Edwin taught us not to squander our power.” “It isn’t squandering power if it’s something for you. I could create a castle out of thin air so you could be my princess and I your knight in shining armor. It wouldn’t matter if thelussor rode me for a week afterwards, because it would all be for you.” He didn’t know from where the flowery words had come, but he loved the appreciation in her gaze and the way it warmed him to see her smile. He brought her hand to his lips and brushed a featherlight kiss across her knuckles.
“Oh Te.” Jacy sniffed the flowers again and then shook her head. “If only it could be like this forever.” She pulled his hand to her chest, holding it against her beating heart. “But it won’t last.” “Why can’t it?” He turned to face her. He remembered her words when she came to the barn. She’d wanted to talk. About him. About StarMyst. A knot of dread formed in his stomach. “What were you trying to tell me before?” Jacy pulled her fingers from his and clutched her hands around the bouquet. “I wanted to talk about StarMyst.” Her voice wavered. The trembling of her lower lip warned him she hovered on the edge of tears. He brushed his thumb against her lush lower lip. “What is it about StarMyst? Is there something you’re not telling me?” He rested his hands on her shoulders. He scrutinized her, from her trembling lower lip to the death-grip she had on the flowers. The stems darkened, stained by the juices she’d unknowingly crushed from them. Jacy’s silence thundered around him. He flashed back to a troubled child once again brought back to the state because a foster family just didn’t know how to “deal” with him. Closing his eyes, he breathed deeply. Jacy had to want him. She couldn’t be tossing him aside. When she said nothing, he battled the urge to wrap her in his arms. “Dear God, Jacy, you’re scaring me. Just say whatever you’re going to say.” “StarMyst.” A lone tear trickled down her cheek. “What are we going to do when Edwin’s gone?” Her voice broke on a sob and she pressed the flowers to her chest, as if by holding them, she could regain the happiness of the earlier moment. “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.” A wave of tenderness washed through him. He didn’t want Jacy to suffer. His own heart ached with the thought of Edwin’s death, but to watch her crumple broke it in two. “Jacy honey.” He wrapped his arms around her, allowing her to bury her face against his chest. Slowly, he rubbed her back, wanting to offer comfort. “We’ll go on. I’m his Second. I’ll take over StarMyst.” Jacy sniffed. “But Kade. And Reid. And Cord. What about them? They’re all I’ve ever known. StarMyst is all I’ve ever known. Edwin’s a father to me.” Her shoulders shook from the force of her crying. Jacy’s tears dampening his shirt seemed to burn into his flesh. He blinked against the tears filling his eyes. Later, he knew he’d give in to the soul-numbing grief Edwin’s illness caused. Until then, he had to protect Jacy. “Edwin has been a father to me, too.” “What about the others?” Jacy hiccuped. “I can’t let them go. StarMyst is their home too.” She sniffed and looked up. “You wouldn’t kick them out, would you?” Looking into Jacy’s eyes, he knew he would promise her the moon if it would make her happy. “As long as they agree to abide by Edwin’s decisions, then StarMyst can be their home too.” He hated to bring up Kade. “I won’t tolerate anyone trying to hurt you. Not ever again.” Jacy sighed and leaned her head against his chest. “And what about you? Will you hurt me?” The flowers fell to the ground as she wrapped her arms around his waist, pulling him closer. Te inhaled the soft scent of her hair and pressed his lips to the silken strands. “Never,” he whispered. “I’ll
never hurt you again.” Gently, he cupped the back of her head, and let her cry. “I love you, Jacy. I’ve always loved you.” Against his chest, Jacy smiled, and the soft gesture brought a small measure of peace. ***** Te leaned forward in the chair, trying to ignore the tubes and lines running from Edwin’s body to the various monitors and pumps surrounding him. He’d seen them before, but with the knowledge of what he was about to do, the sight of them, weighed heavy on his mind. An IV drip ran into his arm, a morphine pump attached to it. His frail body looked as if the skin hung on it, and new lines around his face testified to the harrowing illness he faced. “I’m here,” he said, watching as Edwin roused himself. Te helped, using the controls to raise the head of the bed and plumped pillows behind Edwin’s back. Edwin smiled. His thin lips stretched tight across his gaunt face. His hair, once lush and thick, stood up in a hundred directions, the wispy strands all that the chemotherapy left him. Te fought the lump of sorrow in his throat. They all knew Edwin’s condition. Dwelling on it wouldn’t make it any better. Edwin allowed Te to help him bring a glass to his lips and drink a few mouthfuls of water through a straw. A few drops dribbled over his chin down to his blanket-covered chest, but he seemed not to notice. “With recent events, I think it’s time we settled things, don’t you?” Edwin asked. A heavy weight settled on Te’s chest. He nodded, knowing Edwin was about to pass judgment for allowing Kade to leave. Trying not to show the worry he felt, Te figured Edwin would be well within his rights to revoke his position as Second. Surely Jacy or Reid had told him of Kade’s departure. Helplessness filled him. He struggled to keep the emotion in check. Clamping his hands into fists, he rested them on his knees. “I know what happened with Kade. How he tried to hurt Jacy. You did the right thing. You stayed strong for the Conclave.” Edwin closed his eyes and drew a long, shuddering breath. “StarMyst needs you. Have you made a decision?” Shock gave way to relief when he realized Edwin wasn’t angry. “A decision about my acting as your Second? I thought that was taken care of already.” Te’s brow furrowed in puzzlement. Edwin nodded. “You’ve been acting the part since your arrival. But I want to know if deep in your heart you’re ready to pledge your life to StarMyst. I want to know if you’re ready to take over when I die.” Tears stung Te’s eyes. He blinked them away, hoping his foster-father didn’t see the brief show of grief. “Of course.” Te hated the rough sound of his voice. He wanted to appear strong, capable when he spoke to Edwin, not a little boy frightened of losing his father. Te swallowed hard. “I’m ready to take over StarMyst.” He reached out and clasped his foster-father’s hand. “You concentrate on getting well.” Edwin laughed. The hoarse chuckle deteriorated into a spate of coughing. Rough, fluid sounds filled the room as Edwin tried to catch his breath. Te bolted to his feet and wrapped an arm around his foster-father to help stabilize him. He offered a drink of water, and Edwin sipped greedily. He exhaled roughly, and Te hated the grating, wet sound his breath made in his lungs. “I am not getting better, Te.” He sucked in a rattling breath and leaned back on the pillows. “Don’t delude yourself. Look to the future, not the past.” “I can’t.” At the blunt demonstration of Edwin’s weakness, Te’s grief overwhelmed him. Tears slid down
his cheeks unchecked, and he swallowed against the lump in his throat. His chest constricted, tight, too tight, as if Edwin’s talk of dying sucked the air from the room. He leaned back and clasped his hands. He hated watching Edwin die like this, so frail, so very much in pain. “Damn it, Edwin, all I can think of is the years I wasn’t here. I was afraid.” He clenched his eyes closed. “I didn’t want Jacy to shove me away. I didn’t want to see her with another man.” He inhaled, reminding himself Jacy loved him. She’d said so. Her presence offered a beacon of light in his life. Thoughts of her love pushed his grief back enough so he could concentrate on the present. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” He clasped and unclasped his hands, at a complete and total loss as to what to do. Edwin smiled softly. “But you came. I don’t care how long you were away, Te. All I care about is that you’re here now. You’re ready to take on the mantle of StarMyst. Jacy loves you. She told me when she came to see me, when she could no longer mask the new light in her eyes. Thelussor grows strong in you, and in her. Kade couldn’t take the reins of power. He never could. That’s why he left. I’m only sorry he tried to hurt Jacy before he went. If I were stronger maybe I could have done something, but I couldn’t, and it’s done.” Edwin’s zen-like words reassured Te. He rested his hands, palms flat, on his knees and managed a weak smile at Edwin. “All right,” he said. Edwin held out shaking hands. “We need to say the words before it’s too late. Take my hands.” Te reached out and gently clasped Edwin’s hands in his. He hated the coolness of his foster-father’s flesh. Small tremors shook Edwin’s frame. “As guardian of StarMyst I speak. I ask the powers to accept Te Mulligan as my Second to ascend. It is he who will watch over the welfare of the Conclave. He will direct the powers, the rituals, the lives encased within StarMyst. Do you accept this responsibility, Te Mulligan?” Edwin’s voice sounded surprisingly strong for his illness. Te looked his foster-father in the eyes. There, he saw the truth—Edwin didn’t have long to live. He wanted the ritual completed before he passed over, wanted to be sure StarMyst wouldn’t be left without a leader. “Yes,” Te said. Tendrils of magic flowed from Edwin to him, tiny ribbons of power that wound their way around the two men’s clasped hands. A need to affirm his desire to take the responsibility offered to him filled Te. “Yes, I will become the Second in Ascension for StarMyst. I will take care of everyone in the Conclave, and I will bear this responsibility.” “As witnessed by the gods and by me, I give this power to you.” Edwin squeezed Te’s hands. The energy flared and then died. Weary, Edwin leaned back against his pillows. “Thank you,” he said. “Thank you.” His eyelids drifted closed, and gently, Te helped him lay back and tucked the covers around him. “You’re welcome,” he whispered as he stepped out of the room to allow his foster-father to rest. Chapter Ten
The sliver of a full moon shone outside, casting a pale glow over the world. In Edwin’s room, the lights on the monitors and pumps kept it from being completely dark, and in the pale light they cast an orange
glow over Edwin’s sleeping form. Te leaned back in the chair and resisted the urge to rest his legs on the edge of the bed. Unable to sleep, he sent the night nurse home. He wouldn’t be able to sleep the rest of the night, and Edwin wouldn’t need any more care until the morning shift worker arrived. The ebb and flow of home health workers passed nearly unnoticed, and it was only in moments like these Te really stopped to think about what it would all cost. He sent a thought of gratitude to Edwin for setting up an accountant to deal with the money. Whatever knowledge Kade might have had about StarMyst’s financial state—though Te wondered how much knowledge he really had—vanished with him, and Jacy had done her best to keep him informed of the farm’s expenses. Te looked at his foster-father. Even in sleep, pain cast shadows beneath his eyes, his breath rattling in his chest. The nurses would check his vitals, look at his feet for circulation issues, and shake their heads. “I wish there was something I could do,” he whispered. The Ritual of Healing seemed so long ago and even that hadn’t provided the improvement Te wanted. Shadowed by darkness, he allowed his grief to rise. Here, hidden from prying eyes, the tears rolled down his cheeks, a silent testament to the power of his sorrow. His throat clenched. His heart pounded.I don’t know what I’m going to do without him. At least with Edwin still in the bed he was still a part of the Conclave. The word tugged at him, bringing with it images of his parents’ deaths.Edwin never knew I saw them die. I watched the house burn down, and there was nothing I could do about it. From foster home to foster home he’d gone, and it was only within Edwin’s home had Te truly felt wanted.Jacy wants me. He’d passed by her room and watched her sleep on his way to watch over Edwin. She slept so peacefully. He wondered what dreams filled her head. Edwin sucked in a breath of air. He seemed to hold it, chest extended. For a moment nothing moved, then Edwin exhaled, and it seemed both machines and man resumed their normal course. Te exhaled a breath he hadn’t known he’d held along with his foster-father. He blinked his eyes and tried to set himself to rights. On the eastern horizon the sun started to rise. A new day. Power ceased to flow. A wrongness in the air alerted Te, and when he reached out with his arcane senses, he realized Edwin no longer held any power.He’s dying. Te rose to his feet. As much as it would hurt Jacy, he knew she would want to be there by Edwin’s side. Reid too, if he wanted. Downstairs a door slammed. Te stiffened, then heard the thump of a bag on the floor and realized Cord had come home.We’re all here. Te leaned forward and grasped Edwin’s hand in his own. “I never called you father,” he whispered, bringing the cold, slack hand to his cheek and pressing it there. “I’m so sorry, Father. I’m so sorry for whatever pain I might have caused you. I’ll take good care of StarMyst. I’ll take good care of Jacy. Just forgive me for running away.” Edwin exhaled, a sigh more than a breath. It fluttered from his lungs, leaving his body slack. Te waited. Tears pooled in his eyes and rolled down his cheeks.
Edwin remained still. A ghostly cast covered his features, and Te fumbled to find a pulse. Nothing. He pressed two fingers to Edwin’s wrist.Maybe I’m not doing it right. He leaned forward and felt along Edwin’s carotid artery. Still nothing. The oxygen left the room. For a moment he stood there, staring at Edwin, wondering what to do. He was gone with a quiet breath, his heart simply stopped. Te rose to his feet. Tears ran unchecked down his cheeks. Downstairs, someone rummaged in the kitchen. In the hallway, he heard soft footsteps. Jacy. He knew it was her before she poked her head into the room. She wore a pair of plush slippers shaped like horses, and her long white T-shirt looked as if it might have come from his closet. She looked from him to Edwin, then dropped her head into her hands. “No,” she sobbed. “No. No. No.” Te rushed around the bed and wrapped Jacy in his arms. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. She nodded against him and he held her. After long moments, she stepped away. “We have to call. The doctor told me what to do.” Swallowing hard, she picked up the phone and punched in three numbers. 911. Standing next to Jacy, he stared down at his foster-father.I am now the leader of StarMyst. Power filled him, and he felt a heavy mantle settle itself around his shoulders. He wrapped his arm around her. A few minutes later, the sound of sirens raced up the driveway. ***** Through it all, Te watched as Jacy slowly pulled away from him. She stood stiffly beside him at the small graveside service, not even leaning into him. When the lawyer read the will listing him as administrator of the trust into which Edwin had placed all his assets, he received looks of disgust from Reid and Cord, and Jacy sat stoically through it all. When he asked her what was wrong, she said “nothing”, then went out to the stables to be alone. Te clenched his teeth as he battled the need to demand she tell him what was wrong. Te sat in the recliner, the one Edwin always occupied, in the living room. Reid and Jacy sat on the couch opposite and Cord leaned against the wall. “You got what you wanted.” Reid glared at Te, then turned away to glance at Cord, as if he expected the other man to do something. Te bit back a retort. No one wanted Edwin gone, least of all him. He bottled his frustration inside and glanced at Jacy. She stared at him, her eyes cold and dark. “How do you guess, Reid?”
Jacy flinched. Like an insect in a spider’s web, Te knew he was trapped. Yes, he wanted Jacy. But he didn’t want Edwin gone. He would have gladly waited another ten years before taking over his role within StarMyst. Reid shrugged. “The way I see it, Edwin is out of the picture. You have Jacy. You have StarMyst. You’ ve driven my brother away. Which one of us is next?” “Kade left of his own accord, though if he hadn’t I would have forced him to leave. You know why, Reid. Because he hurt Jacy. Hell, he hurt you, too. I’d think you would be happy to know you didn’t have to fear for your life, but apparently I was wrong. I will do anything to keep Jacy and StarMyst safe. You know that.” Te stood. He crossed the few steps to the couch and knelt down before Jacy, taking her hands in his. His gaze never leaving her eyes, he brushed a featherlight kiss across her knuckles. Jacy started to pull her fingers away. Te longed to ask her what was wrong and knew this wasn’t the time or the place. Later he’d get her alone and ask. Until then he wanted to stay by her side and show her he wasn’t going anywhere. He gripped her hand tighter, feeling her reluctantly relax into him. “You wanted Edwin gone, didn’t you?” Reid’s accusation hurt. “What?” Without releasing Jacy, Te turned his attention to the youngest member of the Conclave. “What the hell did you mean by that? I loved Edwin like a father. Hell, hewas a father to me. How could you say something like that?” Cord stepped forward. “Reid’s right. You were back in Chicago until the very end. You came in like a vulture and took control of the Conclave. How do we know you didn’t do something to hasten Edwin’s death?” The world dropped from beneath Te’s feet. Bile churned in his stomach. “Where the hell are you getting these ideas?” His fingers gently slid from Jacy’s. “I did no such thing. I loved Edwin like my father. I can’t believe you’d think such a thing.” He searched Jacy’s face, desperately wanting to believe she had no part of the other men’s accusations. “I wanted you back, but now Edwin’s gone.” Jacy’s soft words split his heart in two. She looked at him, tears shining in her eyes. Emotions churned in her gaze—love, grief, loss, fear. Te wrapped his arm around her, holding Jacy close. He pressed a kiss to her hair. “I love you, Jacy. Do you really think I’d let something happen to StarMyst?” He gave her another quick squeeze, then rose to his feet to shield Jacy from Reid and Cord’s madness. “Did you put him up to this?” He glared at Cord, not trusting the newest member of the Conclave. The man came and went at odd hours, odd times of day. He never seemed to stay in one place. “Take it easy, man. You got to admit it’s a hell of a coincidence.” Cord held out his hand, motioning for Te to sit. “Take it easy? You accuse me of killing the man I called father, and I’m supposed to take it easy?” Te
fought the urge to pace like a caged animal. He kept looking at Jacy, hoping to see some sort of redemption in her eyes. Instead, he saw only a deep sorrow “I did nothing but stand beside Edwin and support him during his time with us. I love Edwin, just as I love StarMyst. I’m sorry I was gone for so long and took too long to return. I can’t tell you all how sorry I am about that, but I did nothing to hasten Edwin’s condition.” Cord shook his head. “But now that you’re back, you’re running the show. I heard what happened. Kade wasn’t perfect. He had his faults. But now he’s gone and not even his own brother knows where he is. I can’t say anything good has happened since you’ve returned to StarMyst.” “Kade attacked Jacy. Reid was there. He tried to save her. Now if you can’t get that through your head, then you can just leave too.” Jacy gasped. “What about me?” Reid rose to his feet. “Do you want me to leave?” “No. I don’t want anyone to leave. But if you do one thing to harm Jacy, or StarMyst, then yeah, your ass can be bounced to the curb too. But I don’t think you’ll do that.” He stepped up until he was toe-to-toe with Reid. “Now, if you’re done hurling accusations at me, I’d like to speak with Jacy alone, please.” Cord shrugged and left the room. Reid turned to Jacy. He walked over to her and pressed a kiss against her forehead. “I’ll be here if you need me.” She nodded and watched as Reid left. Te’s stomach knotted. He sat on the couch beside her and reached for her. Reluctantly, Jacy leaned into his embrace. As she settled her head on his shoulder, he wrapped his arms around her. He wished they could stay like this forever, with her in his arms, and not have to worry about the outside world. “What is it? Why have you pulled away?” He pressed a kiss to the top of her head, relieved to feel her sink against him. Jacy sighed. “Now that Edwin’s gone and you have the Conclave, I wonder about things. Jarrod broke off our engagement because he said I still loved you. I tried to live in the city for him, and it didn’t work out. You left StarMyst and never looked back until now. And, oh god, there’s this aching hole of grief. Edwin’s gone. I wanted you back, but I never wanted to trade Edwin for you.” Pain filled her voice, tugging at his heartstrings. Tears rolled down her cheeks, quickly dashed away. He caressed her hair, her shoulder, meshing her against his body. Thelussor rose, wrapping around them, and with iron will, he tamped down the hunger. “I have no intention of leaving, nor do I have any intention of hurting you or StarMyst. You know that.” “Do I?” Jacy twisted in his arms to look at him. “Do I really know you’re not going to leave? Everyone I love leaves me.” The raw pain in her eyes stung him, reminding Te of promises broken and innocence lost. “I came back.” Te hated saying the next words. “I will be honest with you. I have to go back to Chicago.”
Jacy stiffened in his arms. “But only for a little while, just long enough to pack, finish up some business, and deal with my condo. Once that’s settled, I’ll never leave StarMyst unless you’re by my side.” He smiled, thinking of just the two of them in Chicago without the weight of the Conclave on their minds. “Why don’t you come with me? We can go to the aquarium and the museums, and spend time along the shores of Lake Michigan. It will be just the two of us. We won’t have to worry about anything.” “I don’t know.” Te pressed a kiss to her temple. His lips caressed her hairline, making soft little caresses as he followed the line of her cheekbone. Slowly, he nibbled to her lips, where he kissed her. His lips moved across hers. He fought the rising of thelussor even as his cock hardened, to feel Jacy’s lips moving against his. With his tongue he traced the seal of her lips, and with a sigh, she opened her mouth. He slipped his tongue inside. She tasted like sorrow. He still tasted salt from the tears she’d shed. Stroking her tongue with his own, he wished he could bathe away her pain, much like a cat washes its fur. Her arms wrapped around his neck. She clung to him. His hands slid over her back, down to her narrow waist. She felt even smaller, as if grief had diminished her. How long would it be, before she could look at the newborn foals in the fields —foals Edwin never saw—before breaking out in tears? He wanted to bring joy to her, not pain. Yet, when she thought of Edwin’s passing conjoined with his arrival, Te wondered how that could ever be the case. Herlussor rose, tentatively touching his own. Te rejoiced. He reined in his powers, not wanting to overwhelm her. He cradled her face in his hand and gently pulled his lips away to draw in a breath. Then he returned to her, tasting her, drinking from her. Jacy pulled away. “What if you go to Chicago and not come back?” Unshed tears choked her voice. “Nothing in the world could keep me from returning to you, Jacy.” He ached for her. “I love you. I love you so much it hurts inside. Do you really think I won’t come back?” Jacy shook her head. “I don’t know what to think. Edwin’s gone. All bets are off. You don’t have to say things just to make him happy anymore.” “Is that what you really think?”I know I hurt her before, but I thought we were over that. “Edwin’s gone,” she said. Her soft voice wounded him. “It’s like there’s this huge hole in my soul that nothing can fill. I feel like I buried half of myself when we buried him. Every morning I wake up, I realize he’s gone. And nothing, not even you or Spot, or the foals, can bring that back.” “Oh, honey.” He wrapped his arms around her, hugging her close to his chest. “I know. I know.” Tears stung his eyes, and he blinked them away. He’d deal with his grief in his own way. Later. Right now, Jacy needed his care. “I know, but I’m here for you. We’re all hurting and angry right now. It’s not fair, and it isn’t right. But that’s the way it is, and we have to help each other. We can’t let this split us apart—any of us.”
Soft sobs shook Jacy’s frame. Relief washed over him. Rarely had she let him hold her since Edwin’s death. He heard her crying sometimes, in the night when he couldn’t sleep, but when he had gone to her room she said everything was all right, and even on the nights she allowed him to snuggle beside her, she remained stiff beside him. He admired her need to be strong, but no one could be strong all the time. Even the strongest people needed someone on whom to lean. “I’m here for you, honey. I love you.” His soft words only made her cry more, and Te held on to Jacy. All his sorcerer’s power wouldn’t be enough to keep them together if Jacy didn’t want to remain with him. Feeling completely helpless and hating it, he consoled Jacy the best he could and prayed things would get better. ***** The drive back to Chicago gave him time to think. Too much time really, Te realized as he drummed his fingers on the steering wheel with impatience. The slow driver ahead of him seemed to have no particular destination in mind, speeding up and slowing down at will. Te growled in his throat as the driver decelerated again. A blast of power, that was all it would take. A quick zap and the car could go somewhere. Anywhere! Te shook his head. But every minute he remained behind this slowpoke was another minute away from Jacy. Jacy. Just her name made his heart twist painfully in his chest. Since Edwin’s death they’d drifted apart. He wanted to show her how much he would be there for her. He wanted to show her how much he cared. Yet the more he worked at it, the further Jacy drifted. She’d refused his offer to come to Chicago with him. Her refusal hurt. Damn, it hurt. Te sucked in a deep breath and tried to ignore the feeling like his soul was being flayed alive.I thought we had something. I love her. And she said she loved me. He whipped into the other lane and passed the slowing car, happy at last to have the road to himself.It’s Edwin’s death. We’re all grieving. I just have to make Jacy see the pain is less when it’s shared. Thinking only of Jacy, he pressed the accelerator down and merged onto the interstate.
Te stepped inside his condo and closed the door behind him. He flipped on the light switch to the living room, frowning as the light sputtered and died. A feeling of disuse hung in the air. Te dropped his overnight case by the door and strode to the utility closet where he kept the spare light bulbs. Enough city lights shone in through the break in the curtains so he could see where he walked. In the living room, the light flashed on his answering machine. Te pressed play. He listened to three hang-ups before Donovan’s voice came over the phone lines. “Te, it’s Donovan over at Triverate Industries. I know you said you’d be out of town, but there’s a special project I need your expertise on. Can you give me a call when you get in—any time, day or night. We’re putting this on hold for you. Hope to hear from you soon.” The line went dead. Te listened to the date-time stamp. Donovan had called less than a week ago. The other message was another hang-up, probably a telemarketer. Still in the dark, Te sank to the chair and dialed his friend’s number. It rang three times. Te glanced at his watch.
“Donovan here. Glad you made it back all right.” Behind him, the sound of a party nearly drowned out his voice. “Just a moment. Let me step out so I can hear you better.” The noise grew distant, then quiet. “You got my message?” “Just got in,” Te said. “You have a project for me.” He preferred to remain silent on the reason he went out of town, and he trusted Donovan not to pry. He also didn’t want to make any commitments, not until he knew the scope of the job. When he worked as a contractor for Donovan some of the projects took months. He didn’t want to be away from Jacy for that long. “I do. I’m at a damn networking meeting right now, but I’ll fax you the specs later tonight.” “I can’t promise anything. Not until I take a look at your plans, but I’ll give you an honest read-through.” “I’ll expect your call tomorrow.” With his customary curtness, Donovan disconnected the call. Te hung up the phone and leaned back in the chair. Jacy. She stood at the crux of his decision. Take another job and show her he wasn’t just after Edwin’s trust, or get back to her as quickly as possible.If I take this job, would she only see it as my abandoning her again? He sighed and shoved wayward strands of his hair away from his face. Picking up the phone again, he dialed the number to StarMyst. Cord answered. “Hey, Cord. It’s me, Te. Is Jacy around?” He forced himself to still his fingers on the arm of the chair. “Let me check.” He put the phone down, and in the background, Te heard his footsteps. A few moments later he returned. “Yeah, she’ll pick it up in the barn. Just a moment.” Cord laid the phone down again. Te counted the seconds until he heard the click of the barn phone being picked up. “Te?” Jacy sounded breathy, as if she’d run in from the paddock. “You sound out of breath, baby.” “Yeah.” Jacy exhaled. “Sorry, I was in the paddock when you called. Cord, you can hang up that line now.” “All right,” he mumbled, and a click sounded. “You made it to Chicago.” She sounded interested. “Just got here. Haven’t even changed the burned-out light bulb yet. But I wanted to let you know I made it all right. I’ll be back as soon as I can. I miss you.” Te’s heart clenched when he thought about staying away longer than the three days they had agreed upon. “You won’t be back by the weekend?” Jacy swallowed hard. “I had a client call while I was away. He has a job for me. I might not be able to turn it down. I’ll know in the morning though, and I’ll let you know either way. You’re always welcome to come to Chicago with me. I’ll even drive down and get you.”
A whinny pierced the silence on the other end of the phone. “I figured something like that would probably happen.” Jacy sighed. “I really have to get back to the arena and finish my work. I’ll call you later.” The line went dead. Te stared at the dead phone and slowly hung it back up. Right now he didn’t know whether Donovan would have a proposal good enough to keep him away from Jacy. Chapter Eleven
Sitting on the couch, Jacy balanced the paperback on her bent knees. The antique lamp cast more shadows than light, and she concentrated on reading the book. With a sigh, she wondered why Edwin refused her idea for track lighting above the couch. Just enough to read by, she’d told him, but he refused. Her heart twisted. Thoughts of her foster-father brought pain. Memories of a happier time filled her mind, but even they, too, forced tears of loss to sting her eyes. Exhaling, she peered over the book at the mantel and pictures standing there. With a shake of her head, she turned her attention back to her book. A floorboard creaked. Jacy reached out with her power, sensing Reid standing behind her. Leaning back, she looked at her younger foster-brother. He scowled at her. “You should have gone with him.” Jacy dog-eared the page of her book and laid it in her lap. “What? I thought you didn’t want me to have anything to do with Te.” Jacy bit her lip. She’d wanted to go, but feared ending up like she had in Kansas City, a fish out of water and looking for a way home. She averted her gaze from the window where she’d sat and watched Te until his truck rounded the bend and disappeared from sight. “You’re hurting, Jacy. Hell, even Cord can tell something isn’t right. I don’t want to see you like this. Go to Chicago. Go to him.” Reid folded his lanky frame into the recliner where Edwin used to sit. “I can’t.” A sob choked her voice. Jacy picked up her book, intending to bury herself in the fictional lives of a couple who could work everything out and live happily ever after. Words of a forever kind of love brought to mind Te, and the love scenes made her think of making love to him. She remembered the way his gentle hands caressed her body. His lips. His touch. The feel of his hard cock sliding into her hot, wet pussy. She closed her eyes and drew a shuddering breath. Her nipples hardened, and she hoped in the low light Reid didn’t see the physical evidence of her thoughts. Reid leaned forward, his elbows braced on his knees. “You’re being a coward, sis.” Jacy whirled to face him. The book toppled from her lap to land sprawled on the floor. “What?” She ignored it. “What did you call me?” A flush of anger covered her cheeks. Thelussor rose, sharp and hungry, and Jacy held onto it. “I said you’re a coward.” He emphasized each word. Jacy clenched her fist. “I am not a coward.” She glared at Reid. Where in the hell did he get off calling her a coward? She’d done more for StarMyst than the three of them combined. Jacy bit her lip. Four. If
she included Te, four. She exhaled and shook her head. “This is about Te, isn’t it?” Reid nodded slowly. “Yeah, it is. You can strut about like you run this place, and hell, you do. The horses, the cooking, the cleaning—you do it all. Yet you can’t face the member of this conclave who fought for you. I may not like Te. In my mind he still drove Kade away. Yeah, I know Kade tried to hurt you, and he’s a bastard for doing it. Te isn’t the hero of this piece. But you’re shoving him out of your life. If you think he’s going to leave, call him on it.” Reid grinned. “Hell, I’ll even dial the phone.” He picked up the phone and started punching in numbers. Jacy grabbed the handset. “Wait.” She stared at it, listening to the nasal-toned operator telling her if she’ d like to make a call to hang up and dial again. Slowly, she replaced the phone in the receiver. “When did you change your mind about him? I thought you hated Te.” “I didn’t. I still think he should have come back sooner. I still think there was a better way for him to handle the situation with Kade. But any bozo with eyes can see he’s madly in love with you. And hell, Jacy. You’ve never let any man get to you. Not even Jarrod, when he called you on your feelings for Te, made you feel as strongly as Te does. I don’t know if it’s love, but it’s a hell of a lot better than feeling nothing.” Reid rose to his feet and sat down beside Jacy. “Look, you have every right to deck me for calling you a coward, but that’s what you are if you run from your feelings. If you hide from how you feel, you’ll never know how good it could be, or how bad. And not knowing is a lot worse than knowing.” Reid looked down at his clasped hands. “You sound like a man who is speaking from experience.” Jacy leaned back on the couch. “But I don’t know, Reid. What if Te leaves again? What if he decides the country life isn’t for him?” “Then you fuckin’ go after him.” Reid grinned impishly. “Pardon my language. But you do. If he loves you, it won’t matter where you are. You could be in a lean-to next to a one-room shack without indoor plumbing. If you love him, that won’t matter.” Jacy reached out and covered Reid’s hands with her own. “You sound like you know,” she repeated. Reid nodded. “Maybe I do. But the point is, you won’t know unless you quit being such a coward and decide to feel. And if that bastard hurts you, I’ll kill him. So see, you’ve got nothing to lose.” “Only my heart,” she mumbled, but deep inside, Jacy knew she’d given it to Te long ago. Reid cupped her hand in his own. “And I think he realizes he’s the luckiest man alive, if he has your heart, Jacy.” He reached across her and picked up the phone. “Now shall you dial or shall I?” Jacy leaned back on the couch. “Oh, you dial. You orchestrated this little charade, didn’t you?” She shook her head, finding it difficult to see Reid as anything but a pesky little brother. When had he grown up? She furrowed her brow as he dialed the phone. Reid held the receiver to his ear, a quirky smile curving the corners of his lips. He bobbed his head as the phone rang, and Jacy tried hard not to laugh at him. “Te, it’s Reid.” He fought to keep a smirk from his face and failed miserably. Eyes twinkling, Reid looked at Jacy and shook his head. He placed his hand over the receiver. “I think he’s disappointed it wasn’t you on the line. I bet he has a raging hard-on just thinking about talking to you.”
Jacy gasped. “Reid!” “Yes, sorry, I’m here. What am I doing? A mission of mercy in all probability. Someone wants to talk to you.” Without further preamble, he shoved the receiver at her, ducked underneath the cord, and fled the room. Jacy held the phone to her ear. Her stomach flip-flopped.I’ve treated him so badly. I’ve been so distant. Jacy listened to Te’s breathing on the other end of the phone line, the sound soothing her jangled nerves. “This better not be a trick, Reid. If it is, I’ll wring your neck.” Te bit back a frustrated growl. The sound reverberated down her spine and straight to her sex. She remembered his husky moans and low growls as she nibbled her way over his body, and her pussy tightened at the thought. “It’s no trick, Te.” He sucked in a breath. “Jacy?” The nervous, excited way he said her name made her stomach flutter. In the barn, she’d been worried he might say things she didn’t want to hear, so she assumed the worst, then cut and run. “It’s me. I’m sorry if I sounded snotty earlier. You caught me off guard, and I had visions of Jarrod. Plus, I really did have to get back to a very opinionated colt.” She shifted on the couch until she lay half-sprawled. “It’s all right, but you’ve got to stop comparing me to him. I hope everything was fine in the arena.” Comfortable talking about her horses, her apprehensions melted away. “It was, thanks for understanding.” The benign conversation grated on her nerves, but only because she wanted to tell him how much she felt for him. Jacy shook her head. She couldn’t—no, wouldn’t—leave Te hanging. “I’m sorry. I’ve been a bitch since Edwin died, and I’m so horribly, horribly sorry. It seems those I love go away, and I don’t want you to go away either. So I withdrew. I was a coward. And I’m sorry.” She bit her lip. Tears sprang to her eyes at her foolishness. “Hey, baby, it’s all right. You’re going through a lot right now, and Edwin’s death isn’t easy on any of us. Why don’t you come to Chicago? We can get away for a while.” He exhaled. Jacy sensed there was something he wasn’t telling her. “I would, but the horses need me. I told you that. I can’t leave Reid here alone. Who knows when Cord will drop out of sight again, and this is a big place for one guy. You’ll be back in a few days, won’t you?” She couldn’t keep the hopeful tone from her voice. “I hope so.” Te exhaled. “A client is faxing me information on a job. I might not be able to pass it up. I don’t want to come back to StarMyst empty-handed, and this guy is a friend of mine.” Jacy tried to understand. He had a life before he came back to StarMyst, and he couldn’t just wrap himself back up in the farm and the horses and the magic. No, he did something high-tech in Chicago, and probably did it damn well. “Would you stay if you knew what I was thinking?” She cursed the
manipulative words as soon as they left her lips. Te’s breathing hitched. “What are you thinking?” The husky timbre of his voice washed over already sensitized nerve endings. Her nipples hardened in her blouse, and she wished it were Te’s hand there to caress them. Instead, she slid her fingers over her shirt, down over her nipples. She swirled her fingers around them. Closing her eyes, she sighed. “I wish you were here. I’m lying on the couch, rubbing my fingers over my breasts.” She peered behind her to see if Reid remained in the room, but he didn’t. She sent thelussor out in a sweep of the home. She was alone. “God, Jacy.” In the silence, she heard the rasp of a zipper. “Just talking to you is making my cock hard. If I were there, I’d fuck you right there on the couch. Mylussor is pounding at me, demanding release.” Jacy bit her lip. Her power rose around her, a swirling vortex of need demanding she find satisfaction. She unfastened her jeans. The hiss of the zipper echoed in the room, and over the phone line, Te moaned. “You just unzipped your pants. God, Jacy. You’re wet for me. I know it. Don’t torture me like this.” He panted, and Jacy imagined his fingers wrapped around his cock, stroking. A heady flush of heat covered her body. “Yeah, I am.” She slipped a finger past her damp curls and stroked her outer lips. “I’m soaking wet.” She brushed her clit. Her breath caught. Leaning her head back, she imagined Te stroked her pussy. “I want you to eat me. My pussy aches for your kiss. Your lips, your tongue. Eat me, Te.” Separated by hundreds of miles she almost felt him kneel between her legs. Shifting on the couch to accommodate him, she shucked her jeans and panties over her hips, down to tangle around her ankles. Her feather-soft touches sent tiny shocks of pleasure through her. For long moments she lay there, caressing her pussy, listening to Te masturbate on the other end of the phone line. “Te,” she said, her inner muscles clenching, “I think I’m about to come.” Tiny contractions radiated from her finger where she slid it into her and quickly added a second one. “Baby, don’t.” Te’s rough growl slid over her, a heady verbal caress reminding her of silk sheets and long nights of fucking. “Not yet. Not until I do.” “Then hurry up.” Jacy lifted her hips off the couch. The wet sounds of her sex surely could be heard through the phone, and when she pressed her thumb against her clit she imagined it to be Te’s tongue. Several hundred miles was too far away. She wanted him here. With her. Now. “I’m buried so deep in your body. Your hot, wet pussy surrounds my cock. It’s tight, too tight for me to keep my cool. And thelussor . It’s rising around me like a tornado, pulling me, pounding my body. I want to be inside you. I want to come inside you.” Jacy’s fingers increased their rhythm as she listened to Te’s husky words. “Fuck me, Te. Fuck meee.” The word ended on a wail as she came. Her body pulsed, and it was all she could do to hold the phone. Te came. His short bark of triumph cascaded over the phone lines and elicited a second orgasm. A satisfied smile curved her lips, as she stifled a yawn. “You’ll be back in a few days, right?”
“Oh yeah. I’ll be back.” With whispered good nights, they hung up the phone. Jacy lay on the couch for a moment, then pulled her jeans and panties back over her hips. He better be back. The next time they made love, she wanted the real thing. ***** She sensed him before she saw him. The crunch of tires on the gravel barely registered as she placed the dripping plate in the dish drainer. Te. Herlussor sensed him, even as she turned from the sink. The front door opened. “Te,” Jacy said, stepping into the hallway. He stood in the foyer, clutching an overnight bag. With windblown hair, and after driving seven hours, he looked marvelous. She grinned. Her gaze traveled over his face to the T-shirt stretching across his broad chest. Worn jeans hugged his thighs and legs. She didn’t even bother to wipe her dripping hands. “Te,” she squealed, throwing herself forward into his solid body. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her lips to his. His overnight bag fell to the floor with a heavy thump. His lips devoured her. Possessing her, his tongue slid into the space between her lips and swept into her mouth as if he owned it. Delicious shivers darted down Jacy’s spine, and she clutched at him tighter. The silken strands of his hair caressed her fingers, and she wanted him to touch her all over. Just lie there and let him stroke his soft hair over her body. She opened her mouth to his kiss, welcoming the invasion. Her leg slid up his. “Mmmm,” she murmured when the need for air parted them. Through her thin shirt, she felt the hardness of his chest pressing against her breasts, her nipples, and she rubbed against him, wanting more. Twinlussors rose. Hunger consumed them. He stepped to the right, backing Jacy against the wall. Her legs wrapped around his waist. Through his jeans, his hard cock demanded entrance to her body, and she rubbed against his length. His neck. His earlobe. She kissed him everywhere, wanting to brand the salty taste of his skin into her memory for all time. I love you. I love you.She thought the words at him, hoping he understood. All the times during his absence she’d turned to ask him something, or tell him something, and he wasn’t there, coalesced into this moment. He yanked her shirt from her jeans. His hand slid over her skin. Unerringly, his thumb found her nipple, and Jacy shuddered against him. Like two magnets, the pull between them demanded they join. The lussor surrounding them only heightened her arousal. His thumb brushed her nipple. Jacy rested her forehead against his shoulder, her lips moving across his skin even through the shirt. She bit him, the light bite of her teeth making him shudder in her arms. A throat cleared behind them. Te’s hand stilled on her breast.
Jacy opened her mouth and raised her gaze to see Reid standing at the foot of the stairs. Channeling her power, she sent a bolt at him, just enough to prod him toward the door. “Reid, get out.” She nearly growled the words. Te pinched her nipple. “You can’t kick me out of—” Jacy pushed harder. She flung her power at him, a whip of energy that crackled along his skin as it hit. In the grip of thelussor she thought of only one thing—Te’s cock inside her. Reid’s eyes widened, and he scurried for the door. “Now where were we?” she whispered against his skin, punctuating her words with another love bite. As if afraid of another interruption, he slid his hands down to her waistband and slid open the button. The rasp of the zipper sounded like music to Jacy’s ears. She wiggled her hips as Te shoved her pants down. He reached between them and unfastened his own jeans. His cock sprang free. Jacy kicked off her jeans, then wrapped her legs around Te’s waist. The tip of his cock brushed her pussy, and she moaned in delight at his hardness sliding against her slick flesh. Te braced his body. With his hands around her waist, he kissed her. His tongue slid against hers. The slide coaxed a moan from her throat. Suckling on his tongue, Jacy slid her hands down his back. She wanted him. Now. Grabbing his ass, she rocked her body against him, partially burying his cock in her pussy. Te groaned. “I want to make this good.” Jacy licked her way along his neck and gently took his earlobe between her teeth. “Itis good.” Thrusting her hips, she took him completely inside her body. “Oh yeah,” she breathed, contracting her muscles around him. He belonged there. Te remained still. Need built inside her. She wanted the silken slide of his cock inside her. She wanted to be impaled on him. Thelussor rode her body, heightening her passion. Tension ran through Te’s body, keeping him from moving, and Jacy nearly pounded her fists on his chest. She wanted to cry out with frustration. Instead, she clenched her fingers on his firm butt cheeks. “I want you to fuck me,” she growled. Te held back no longer. He thrust into her, the power slamming her back against the wall and his cock deep in her pussy. She clung to him, meeting him stroke for stroke. Each brush of his cock against her womb sent spirals of pleasure pounding through her. She whimpered, tiny sounds of need growing louder and fiercer as he slammed deeper and deeper into her body. It hurt. Her head smacked against the wall. Jacy didn’t care. With a thought, she sent power to form a barrier behind her to keep her from harming herself on the wall. His fingers gripped her hips. His thigh muscles tensed, and the tiny moans of need he made rumbled through her chest.
She screeched, her muscles contracting around him, milking his cock as he continued to pound into her. She dug her nails into the flesh of his ass. Shudders raced through her body. Stars exploded behind her closed eyelids, and thelussor washed over her like a tide against the shore. Te thrust again before stiffening against her. His hot seed filled her body, and he rested his forehead against the wall above her shoulder. “Ah, Jacy,” he breathed in the aftermath, as his breath still panted and his heart pounded against her chest. “My sweet Jacy.” “I love you, Te. Don’t you ever leave me again,” Jacy whispered. She pillowed her head against his chest and hoped he’d come home to stay.
Te vaulted from soaring with the knowledge of Jacy’s love and wondering how the hell he was going tell her he was returning to Chicago for a two-week assignment.And where the hell am I going to put my stuff? He had a few pieces of furniture he wouldn’t part with, and they hadn’t begun the lengthy task of clearing out Edwin’s things. Coming down the stairs in his stocking feet, he saw a light on in the living room. Jacy. As he rounded the corner he saw her sitting on the couch, a book balanced in her lap. She frowned at something, before shaking her head and turning the page. The floor creaked as he stepped into the room. She looked up from her reading. She smiled, the simple emotion lighting up her face. His heart twisted. He didn’t want to tell her, but knew if he didn’t, it wouldn’t be good. Gathering his courage, he sat down in the chair across from her. “What are you reading?” He hoped the mundane conversation would build his strength for him to tell her the truth. Jacy shrugged. “An old book of Edwin’s. Apparently this guy is quite the author.” She tossed the well-worn copy ofForever War by Joe Haldeman onto the couch beside her. “It’s not a bad story, even if I’m not into science fiction too much.” Jacy frowned, then quickly smoothed her expression. “What’s up?” “You know I have to go back to Chicago tomorrow.” Jacy nodded and the frown returned to her face. “Yeah.” “You can still come with me. Remember that job I told you about? Well, I’m going to accept it, and I’ll be gone for two weeks.”There I said it. I didn’t sugarcoat it, yet I didn’t make it sound worse than it would be. “Why? What kind of job?” Jacy folded her arms across her chest. He felt her back away from him. “It will be my last job in Chicago. Donovan is a good friend, and this is very important. He wants me specifically. It’s a security job. More I can’t say, I’m sorry.” Te pressed his lips together, certain he wasn’t getting through to Jacy. “Look, I love you. I want to show you I’m not relying on anything from Edwin. I can provide for us, even if we didn’t have all of this.”
“You never wanted anything of Edwin’s.” Her verbal slap hit him in the gut. “What?” “You left. I know, I know, I’ve gotten over it. I’ve forgiven you. But now that you have the Conclave ahead of you and us, you’re going to go back to Chicago to your life doing computer security. Why? Isn’ t this enough?” Jacy clasped her hands together to still their trembling. Her shoulders shook. Tiny sparks of power flew from her, striking him, and Te knew he deserved each one. “I promised Donovan I’d help him out. I want you. I want the Conclave. I don’t know how to show it to you.” “Then don’t go. Stay here.” Jacy shook her head. “Can’t you do that stuff remotely? Telecommute or whatever they call it. How can StarMyst compare to the glamour of the big city? I’d go with you, but I wouldn’t fit in. I hate cities, and the bigger they are, the worse they are. I won’t become a city girl, and you apparently can’t stay in the country. Just go.” Jacy squeezed her eyes closed. “Just go,” she whispered again. Te balled his hands into fists at his sides. “How can you even ask me such a thing? Dear God, Jacy haven ’t I done enough to prove to you I love you?” He bolted to his feet and stared at her. He fought to keep a leash on his anger, but damn it, Jacy pushed him far enough. “I love you. That should mean everything, but apparently it doesn’t.” Jacy gasped. She looked at him, eyes wide. “It does.” She lifted her hand in the air, then dropped it. “I’ ve…I—” She growled frustration and pounded her fist on the couch. “If it fucking means something then you’ll believe me when I say as soon as I finish this job I’m coming back to you, Jacy. I offered to take you back to Chicago with me. Sure, it’s not your scene, but it’s only two weeks. I endured ten years of hell because I love you. I’ve always loved you, and if you don’t see that now, then I don’t know if you ever will.” Words filled his mind, and he quickly dismissed them. If nothing he’d said so far convinced her, he wondered if he ever would. He had to give it one final shot. “You’re not the only one who is grieving, Jacy. But I’ve been there for you every step of the way.” He forced himself to kneel before her and leaned forward. He brushed his thumb against her trembling lower lip. “I’ll return. Once I finish the job for Donovan, I’ll return to StarMyst. Just so you know, I didn’t come back for Edwin’s inheritance. I came back for you. I’m only sorry I didn’t come back sooner. And if you don’t believe me, well, I’m sorry about that too. Guess I’m damn good at saying sorry.” He sat there and watched her battle the emotions inside. Jacy sniffed and rose to her feet. “Well, I’m sorry too. I’ll see you in two weeks.” She rose to her feet and stormed outside. He knew she was being unreasonable, but running after her and telling her would do no good. Jacy could be stubborn to a fault. He rose to his feet and walked in the opposite direction, hoping she remembered she loved him when he returned from Chicago. He hoped she’d talk to him before dinnertime. Chapter Twelve
Sprawled in a chair with a longneck balanced on his thigh, Te stared at the dark television. Three days since he’d seen Jacy, and each one of them a torture. He picked up the phone to call, only to stare at the receiver and replace it slowly. Te shook his head. Jacy was Jacy and pushing her wouldn’t do any good for either of them.He’d just have to wait. Pursing his lips, he fought back a sigh. The thought of taking the job back to StarMyst had appeal, but damn it, he could be stubborn too. He told Jacy two weeks, and two weeks it’d be. Maybe it would give both of them time to cool off. Horns and engine noise filtered from the street below, and Te longed for the near-silence of the woods. He knew now, listening to the booming bass of a car, why Jacy probably hated the city. Too many people packed into too small a space. He should go to her. The thought circled in his mind like a vulture, preying on his worry and his love. Te shook his head. Sitting there, he scanned the room, thinking of the things he wanted to take back to StarMyst and the things he could leave behind. Already several boxes sat neatly stacked in the hallway, awaiting his return trip. The monotonous work of packing cleared his mind and helped him think. Te stared at the signet ring on his finger. The stone winked in the waning sunlight coming through the window. With Edwin gone, he truly felt as if he led StarMyst. I have to take control and ensure the Conclave doesn’t suffer.Maybe that’s why Jacy’s been so moody. Maybe she’s worried about what I’ll do to the Conclave. Te shook his head. She had to know he wouldn’t do anything to harm his home. He grew up at StarMyst. The house, the land, all of it held fond memories for him. He finished the beer and set the empty bottle on the end table. Back to packing, he guessed. A glance at the clock told him he had another hour before Donovan was to come over to discuss the latest development on his plans. As he rose to his feet, thelussor stirred. A slight rumbling, but just enough to set him on edge.Jacy? Te shook his head. She wouldn’t be close enough to stir his power. No, most likely he needed to work on his control. Frowning, he went into his den and thought about what he needed to pack. ***** I hate the city. I hate the city. I hate the city.Clenching her fingers around the steering wheel, Jacy tried to maneuver through the interstate and wondered what possessed her to make the drive to Chicago. Reid hounded her—no, nearly tormented her—with the fact she had to go to him. She couldn’t leave Te hanging like that he said, not after what he’d witnessed in the hall. “Dear God, Jacy. You love him. Quit worrying so much and go after him.” Even now, Reid’s words echoed in her ears. It’d been easy, too easy really, to get Te’s address and directions out of Edwin’s files. Edwin kept meticulous notes, down to which exits and what time of day was best for driving through Chicago. Her lussor stirred. Nibbling on her lower lip, she exited the interstate and began navigating the city streets. Sooner than she thought, she pulled into the underground parking garage for his condominium building. Jacy took a deep breath as she parked in one of the visitor parking spaces. Beside her on the seat sat her overnight bag.
Before she could lose her nerve, she grabbed it and her purse, opened the car door, and stepped outside. She felt him. Through concrete and steel, the vibrations of hislussor against hers made the touch of magic a sensual caress. Her nipples hardened.Jacy. Her name spoken in a masculine voice filled her mind. Jacy stopped. She’d heard of couples whoselussor bound so tightly it enabled telepathy, but she’d never known anyone, or experienced it before.Te? Her questioning thought seemed to echo. Babe. Is it really you? Jacy’s breath caught in her throat.I could be imagining this. She forced herself to step forward and punch the button for the elevator.But then again if I am, it’s so nice to hear Te’s voice again, even if it is in my own mind. The elevator dinged and Jacy stepped inside. It only took a few minutes to arrive at Te’s floor. Jacy’s heart hammered in her chest. Just thinking about his broad chest and lean hips dampened her pussy and hardened her nipples. Thelussor roared to life hard enough to make her gasp. The elevator doors slid open. Te. She felt him. Hislussor pounded, a beacon of energy calling to her. She sensed another presence in his apartment—male—and for a moment her steps faltered as she worried about interrupting something. Jacy shook her head. She strode across the hallway like she owned it. Without looking at the tasteful gold number on the door, Jacy knew she stood at the right condo. The lussor raged, reminding her she hadn’t been practicing her control exercises. Only some lumber and a latch separated her from Te, and she wanted him—now! She knocked. Jacy sucked in deep breaths of air, trying to calm her breathing. Through the door she heard footsteps. A pause, then the latch clicked. The door swung open. Te stood on the other side of his threshold a furrow in his brow.I shouldn’t have come. He doesn’t look happy. He blinked, once, twice, then a grin spread over his face. “Jacy. Is that really you?” Jacy drank in the sight of his body as if she were a parched woman. His hair hung in a loose ponytail, and she longed to run her fingers through the strands. An old shirt stretched thinly across his torso, and he wore jeans without any shoes or socks. She stared at his feet. The sight of his bare feet aroused her. She wanted to cup them in her hands, massage them gently, then run her tongue over the top of his feet, up his legs, until she found his hard cock waiting for the touch of her lips. “Jacy?” His words pulled her from her reverie. She stared at him, her lips parted. Te stepped forward.
He threaded his fingers through her hair and brought his lips to hers. Tenderly, he kissed her. His lips drank from her, sliding across hers, and Jacy melted into his embrace. She pressed her palm to his chest, delighting in the feel of his hard body next to hers. Where his lips touched, tiny sparks of fire burned. She ached for him. Her nipples hardened, and she sighed, opening her mouth to his exploration. The need for air parted them. Te looked down at her, eyes dark and hungry with desire. Hislussor caressed her, touching her even as he slid his fingers from her hair and stepped back. “Come inside,” he said. “I have company, but that’s soon remedied.” It took Jacy a moment to grab her bearings. Picking up her satchel, she stepped inside to see a man sitting at the dining table, an open file folder spread before him. “I don’t mean to interrupt.” She pulled her gaze back to Te. “I just had to see you.” “It’s all right,” the man said. “I’m Donovan, and I’m the bastard who’s kept him away from you.” With a grin, he rose to his feet. “I don’t see any reason why you can’t continue this remotely. You’ve done all the close-up work. If you could recommend that colleague of yours for future projects, we’ll finish this one up and I’ll get out of your hair. Shall I call you tomorrow, late?” He winked at Jacy, and his easy manner instantly put her at ease. “That would be good. Thanks. I won’t leave you hanging, but I’m sure you understand the sooner I get out of Chicago, well, the happier I’ll be.” Te wrapped his arm around Jacy’s waist, pulling her close to him. “With a woman as pretty as her, well, I can’t say I blame you.” A cell phone rang. Donovan pulled it out and looked at it. “It’s the wife. Better go. Nice meeting you, ma’am.” Te closed the door. His big body blocked her in, and he stepped forward, pressing her against the door. “I can’t believe you’re here,” he whispered a moment before his lips touched hers. Openmouthed, they came together. His lips branded her where they touched, moving across hers, insistent and demanding. His tongue slid across hers, spreading liquid fire through her veins. Thelussor came to life, roaring around them, and their twin powers made the air sizzle. Jacy fisted her hands against his shirt, tugging at it, wanting to feel naked flesh beneath her fingers. Te moaned. The sound vibrated from his mouth, through her body, and soaked her pussy. She wanted him—now. Her back bumped against the door. Te’s hands circled her waist, hauling her against his hard cock. A tiny mewl of pleasure escaped her lips. She trailed her hands over his chest to his hair, threading the silken strands between her fingers. With the energy rising around them and Te’s hands on her body, Jacy knew she had to be the luckiest sorcerer alive. He pulled her shirt free. His hand slid beneath it on an unerring path directly to her breast. Palming the globe, he brought her nipple to full attention. Pleasure zinged through her. With his other hand he cupped her ass, bringing her hard against him. She wrapped her legs around his waist. “Wrap your arms around my neck, baby. I don’t want to fuck you up against the door.” His husky voice caressed her nerve endings. Jacy shivered and buried her face against the hollow of his throat. His long strides carried her to the bedroom. Laying her down gently, he peeled off the rest of her clothing before stretching out on the bed
beside her. Jacy rolled to him. Her hands explored his torso, tugging at his shirt so she could trace the planes of sculpted muscle. He quickly threw it over his head, and Jacy sighed at the sight of masculine perfection before her. She nuzzled the dusting of hair between his pectorals, pressing her lips to first one, then the other hardened male nipple. Drawing it into her mouth, she laved the bead with her tongue. The motion sent mirroring sensation to her body, her nipples hardening in response, the feel of a mouth sucking them deep and hard. She wanted nothing to come between her and the gloriousness of Te’s naked body. Keeping her lips on his chest, she unfastened his jeans. His cock pressed against his briefs, and Jacy stroked it. A shudder ran through Te’s body. She trailed her lips over his chest, wanting to know every inch of his body. The need to possess him, to take his hard cock into her mouth and suck hard drew her onward. She shoved his pants over his hips, smiling at the sight of his rigid member against the curls of midnight black hair. She stroked him. Just the touch of her fingertips, but Te stiffened as if a live wire ran through his body. She circled her fingers around his girth, then began to stroke, slowly, base to tip. Te moaned. Closing her eyes, Jacy wished he were inside her. Over and over he’d plunge into her body, until she cried out with ecstasy. Yes, that’s what she wanted, but not yet. She lowered her lips to him. “Jacy, you’re killing me,” Te groaned. He cupped the back of her head, holding her while she swirled her tongue around the head of his cock. Slowly, inch by inch, she took him into her mouth until he bumped the back of her throat and she’d taken him all in. Jacy smiled and hummed, the vibration making his cock jerk in her mouth. She loved bringing him such pleasure. To know she could bring him to the brink of release as easily as he could her was a heady elixir, and one she planned to drink from often. A small drop of liquid formed on the tip, and she laved it with his tongue. “Jacy, please.” Te’s pleadings only made her suck harder, her head bobbing up and down. She wanted to make him come, wanted to feel the hot jets of his seed coating the back of her throat, and wanted to taste his salty essence. Reaching between his legs, she fondled his balls. Her pussy ached to be touched, and she squeezed her thighs together.Not yet. She loved him. With words and actions, she had to tell him. The desire to proclaim her love commanded her to tongue the vein on the underside of his cock and made her smile as his fingers tightened in her hair. “I’m coming!” Te’s hoarse shout filled the room as he bucked beneath her. Heady feminine power filled her. She had Te exactly where she wanted him—in bed and flat on his back. Thelussor wrapped around her, plunging into her body. Jacy moaned as she tasted his hot essence. His hips bucked and he cried out again and again, as his orgasm seemed to last forever. At last, she pulled her lips away from him with a small pop, and straddled his hips. Jacy leaned forward and kissed him. She swept her tongue into his mouth, wanting him to taste her.You are mine. I am yours. This is as it should be. Thelussor constricted around them, working tighter and tighter bands until Jacy rubbed her drenched pussy against his hardening cock. Leaning forward, she
brushed her breasts against his chest. Gripping his hands, she brought them above his head and delighted in the vision spread out before her. “I love you,” she said. “I’m going to fuck you until you forget about anything else but me. You’re mine, because I’ve always been yours.” His cock sprang to life. Jacy sheathed herself on it and clenched her muscles around him. “Yes,” she whispered, moving slowly, then faster as the demand for a release of her own built within her. Harder and faster she pumped until the head of his cock brushed the deepest place within her. She moaned, her head thrashing from side to side. Te gripped her hands, as if only he could anchor the storm building within her. “That’s it, Jacy,” he said, twisting his hips to give her maximum pleasure. Her world narrowed down to the grip of his hands on hers and the thrust of his cock inside her body. Only the man spread out on the bed beneath her counted. Only he could make her feel this way. She shuddered, her breath hitching, as he transferred her hands into one of his and reached between their bodies. He flicked his finger across her clit. “Fly for me, baby. Fly.” His husky urging drove her higher. When he flattened his thumb against her clit, she cried out in mindless pleasure. Her body convulsed, her cunt milking him dry once again as she came. She screamed his name. Erupting into shudders, she gasped for air. Pleasure raced through her, singeing every nerve ending. She didn’t think she could ever feel this good again. Then Te twisted to bring her beneath him. Inside her, his cock began to harden once more. “Now that I have you, Jacy, I’m not letting you go again.” He brought his lips down onto hers in a bruising kiss, and Jacy gave herself over to the sensation of being in Te’s arms. Thelussor drove all rational thought from her mind, and Te began to thrust once more. ***** Deliciously sore, Jacy snuggled next to Te. She glanced at the clock radio next to the bed, not surprised at the nearness of the dawn. They made love and dozed, only to wake and make love again. “Te?” She brushed her fingers over the line of his jaw. “Mmm.” He nuzzled her hair, his hand drifting down to cup her breast. Jacy grabbed his wrist. “Wait. I came to Chicago for a reason. There’s something I have to tell you.” Te shifted, sliding one of his legs between hers. “You mean this wasn’t the reason you came to Chicago?” He brushed a kiss against her hair. “I’m hurt.” He chuckled, taking the sting out of his words. Jacy rocked against his hard thigh. “I wanted to tell you I’m sorry for being so upset. I guess when you said you were going back to Chicago, I thought it was like the last time. But I understand it isn’t. Even if I hadn’t seen the boxes in the hallway and you hadn’t made love to me like I was the only person in the universe for you, I know now. Sometimes you have to give a horse a little rein to get it to understand you, and sometimes you’ll have things you need to do. I only hope next time I won’t be so stubborn and I can go with you.” She rose up on one elbow and watched as a smile spread over Te’s face.
“Oh Jacy, I must be the luckiest man alive to have a woman like you. I’m so glad you came back to me.” He hugged her tightly, then pulled back and brushed a strand of hair away from her face. “But you know why I was meeting with Donovan? Because I’m ready to return to StarMyst. It’s my home. It’s where I belong. I belong there, with you.” “You mean it?” Jacy threw her arms around him and buried her face against his chest. Tears of joy stung her eyes, and she blinked them away. “I mean it. I want to see Jazz’s next crop of foals. I want to go riding with you in the fields. I want to continue what Edwin started, and most of all, I want to share it with you. I love you, Jacy Duwards. I love you with all my heart and all the power within me.” Jacy swallowed hard. “I love you, Te Mulligan. I always have and I always will.”
Looking down at Jacy’s head pillowed against his chest, Te couldn’t stop the tear from rolling down his cheek. For years he’d wanted this, and finally he’d returned to StarMyst and claimed the woman he loved.I promise you, Edwin, you’ll be proud of me. From beyond the veil, Te knew Edwin saw everything that had happened and smiled. About the Author
Mary Winter began writing when she was 16, using it as an excuse to skip gym class. She currently lives in Iowa with her pets and dreams of writing full-time. Ghost Touch was her first published novel, and her advice to anyone is: “Persistence pays off. Don't ever give up on your dreams!”
Mary welcomes mail from readers. You can write to her c/o Ellora’s Cave Publishing at 1056 Home Ave., Akron OH 44310. Also by Mary Winter
Ghost Touch Once Upon a Prince anthology Pleasure Quest Snowbound
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